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School defends Welsh-medium homework policy



Better for kids?: Welsh-medium schools

Better for kids?: Welsh-medium schools

PRIMARY school children, whose first language is English, and who attend Welsh-medium schools are less likely to be top performers in core subjects. The figures were obtained by the BBC Wales show, released after a Freedom of Information request and were taken from a comparison of 25,000 pupils. The research is based on looking at how well 11 year olds are doing in English, Maths and Science, as well as first language Welsh in Welsh schools. The information covered 87% of children in Welsh-medium schools and 78% of pupils from English-medium schools.

Three groups of children were compared:

• Pupils in English-medium schools

• Pupils in Welsh-medium schools from Welsh-speaking homes

• Those in Welsh-medium schools from English-speaking homes. Better news was that, overall, when English is taken out of the equation, Primary school children from Englishspeaking homes who go to Welshmedium schools are less likely to underachieve than pupils in Englishmedium schools. Dr Mirain Rhys, research associate at Wales Institute of Social & Economic Research, is an expert on the issue and told The Herald: “Many of the concerns raised by English-speaking parents of pupils in Welsh medium schools were about children being able to complete their homework and having support from their parents. It’s an area which needs more research. When they don’t speak Welsh themselves it’s quite a worry. I know the Welsh Government and the Welsh Language Board used to have a helpline to helping pupils and parents – it’s initiatives like that that can help.”

Gwennol Ellis, head of Ysgol Bro Cinmeirch, Denbighshire (a welsh medium school), said: “We invest heavily in staffing. Through singing and oral work they become fluent in a year. The work sent home is to reinforce class work, and notes go home in English. Children are able to get on with their own homework. The aim is to get them to speak Welsh as if they were first language speakers. They are encouraged to speak Welsh with each other” Carla Bartlett, head of Welsh at Ysgol Gyfun Cymer, Rhondda, where 99% of pupils were from English speaking homes, also commented on the issue of homework being sent home in Welsh, telling The Herald: “I came from a background where my parents didn’t speak Welsh. I understand the parents can’t help with the language side, so homework is set appropriately. At the end of the day, the homework is for the children and not the parents.”

This newspaper was keen to find out how a local Welsh-medium school, Ysgol Glen Cleddau in Haverfordwest, managed pupils from English speaking backgrounds, which is 95% of their full register. Speaking exclusively with The Herald was head teacher, Mr Aled Davies who explained: “All subjects (other than English) are taught through the medium of Welsh, although aspects of subjects in Key Stage 2 (KS2) might be completed through the medium of English; extended pieces of writing in history ( e.g a letter or some narrative), the occasional science experiment, some problem solving in maths. Pupils are able to switch from one language to the other with ease which is what bilingualism is all about. By the end of KS2 they are able achieve good standards in both languages”. Mr Davies commented on the issue of homework in Welsh: “Homework would usually include; spelling lists, some maths (which would mainly be number work where either language could be used), reading in both languages, and work in log books (the Log Book includes little projects which would involve research in books or on the internet and parents would be able to assist and the recording might be through the medium of Welsh or English). Obviously we’d encourage parents to become involved in their children’s learning and we’d ensure that there was enough English medium homework available to enable them to do so”. He went on to discuss pupils’ access to English language skills acquisition, saying: “Pupils achieve high standards in English by the end of their time in this school. English is the mother tongue of most of our pupils, and they get ample time to develop their English oral skills outside school; at home, in sports clubs, with friends and relations.” “These skills would be honed in English language lessons at school; discussions, debates, dialogues, drama work etc. Of course they’re allowed to use conversational English (in and around school), but obviously they’re encouraged to speak Welsh. It is vitally important that pupils speak correctly in both languages. Their English and Welsh oral, reading and writing skills are developed side by side in school, and we encourage excellence in both languages. That is the essence of bilingualism.”

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Teacher’s gruelling challenge to help visually impaired child



TEACHER Sion Jenkins is running 100 laps around a famous Pembrokeshire landmark to raise money to help a visually impaired child in his class.

He is aiming to raise £2,000 on crowd funder platform Go Fund Me by doing laps of Carew Castle and Mill in just 24 hours, about one hundred miles in total.

Sion said: “I decided that I wanted to raise money to help purchase a trike/adapted bike to help a visually impaired child in my class.

“Due to his sight, he isn’t able to ride a bike – and is desperate to gain some independence/confidence and ride a bike like every other child.

“On the back of a challenge set by school, to complete the ‘100 challenge’ as a tribute to Captain Sir Tom Moore, I decided to tie the two together and have a go at completing this gruelling challenge.

“100 laps of Carew Castle and Mill will total just under 100 miles – in less than 24 hours.”

If you would like to contribute to this epic challenge this is the link:

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Schools partnership promotes the benefits of outdoor learning



OUTDOOR learning across the county has received a welcome boost over the past 12 months as a result of additional funding secured by the Pembrokeshire Outdoor Schools (PODS) project, which has covered the cost of a Co-ordinator working directly with schools.

Thanks to financial backing from the People’s Postcode Local Trust and Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Trust, the PODS Co-ordinator has been able to help with the delivery of high quality, curriculum-linked learning experiences in school grounds and local outdoor spaces.

Part of the Co-ordinator’s role is also to bring together local and national organisations, including Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority’s Discovery team, teachers and head teachers. Pooling their diverse knowledge and expertise, the partnership seeks to share good practice and promote the benefits of taking lessons outdoors.

Pembrokeshire Outdoor Schools Co-ordinator Bryony Rees said: “Last summer, the Welsh Government recognised the importance of outdoor learning in the post-lockdown return to school. We have been working hard to support this by giving children and teachers increased opportunities to take their learning outdoors.

“We have already engaged with a number of schools across Pembrokeshire and produced some live webinars. Supporting resources for these can be found on HWB. This has made it possible to reach out to even more schools with practical information, inspiration and advice on delivering outdoor learning programmes.

“Several schools have taken the opportunity to develop their school grounds to support outdoor learning and more recently, Neyland Community School has introduced outdoor lessons every Friday.”

During the most recent lockdown, work has continued online and the PODS website has been developed to provide teachers with some learning resources. Outdoor learning ideas and inspiration for teachers and parents are also shared on the PODS Facebook page (Pembrokeshire Outdoor Schools) and on Twitter @PembsOutdoorSch.

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Education announcement welcomed by Pembrokeshire County Council



THE LOCAL AUTHORITY has said that it welcomes the Welsh Government’s announcement today (Friday, 29th January) that schools will be the first to reopen when Wales’ current lockdown restrictions are lifted.

First Minister Mark Drakeford has announced that the ‘alert level four’ restrictions will remain in Wales for three more weeks but following that period, there would be a ‘phased and flexible back-to-school approach if coronavirus cases continue to fall’.

He said primary school children would be the first to return, if the public health situation continues to improve, and that students studying vocational qualifications would also be among those prioritised for the phased return to colleges.

Mr Drakeford said: “We’ve seen a really welcome fall in cases of the virus all over Wales, but they are still too high and the NHS continues to be under intense pressure.

“We need to keep the lockdown restrictions in place for a little while longer to help us bring rates of the virus down further. If we can do this, we will create the headroom we need to get children back to school after half term – starting with the youngest at primary schools.

“We will work with teachers, colleges, local authorities to plan for the safe return of children to school over the next couple of weeks and keep parents updated.”

Pembrokeshire’s Director of Education, Steven Richards-Downes, will be meeting virtually with Welsh Government ministers today together with other Education Directors.

Mr Richards-Downes said: “We welcome the Welsh Government’s statement that schools will be the first to reopen, whenever that may be.

“We will continue to work directly with unions, headteachers, governing bodies and other Council services to ensure that schools are Covid-safe when they are re-opened.

“Distance learning will continue for now and parents should contact their schools directly if they have any queries regarding this.”

He added: “Any parent experiencing difficulties with digital exclusion should contact their school directly.

Free school meals payments will continue to be paid to families who have applied for them, as planned. The next payments will be made on Thursday, 4th February.

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