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Controversial school plans for Haverfordwest approved

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County Hall

PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL has voted in favour of building a new 11-16 school in Haverfordwest.

In a vote taken at the Extraordinary Council meeting on Thursday, February 25, the proposals were passed by 28 votes to 22.

Council Leader Jamie Adams said the council was in a ‘last chance saloon’ and that time was against them to deliver a new school for Haverfordwest.

He added: “I struggle to believe that amalgamation will create better results.”

Cllr Mike Edwards said: “I cannot understand how we are looking for an 11- 19 school in some areas. This is so unfair to the children of Haverfordwest.”

The leader responded: “What would be different to what we currently have? The two schools are performing below par. What would change if we put the two schools together and suddenly expect results to improve? It is not clear what would deliver that improvement.”

Cllr David Lloyd said: “There have been 30 years of neglect, it is time to change, this is now the time. I am of the conviction that what we have is an amazingly exciting project. This is too amazing an opportunity to pass up.”

Speaking for the first time on the matter, Cllr Peter Stock talked about the need to create a state of the art 11-19 school that was fit for the 21st century and making sure our children has got the best possible education for the future.

Cllr David Howlett said: “I don’t react well to being threatened. Choice is very important in all public services.”

He also highlighted the letter from the Welsh Government’s Deputy Minister for Education which indicated a preference.

Cllr Howlett added: “What is the point of consultation when we are given a steer like this. There is no point in going to consultation when we have a steer that this is the preferred option and I don’t know why we are here.”

Cllr Jonathan Nutting highlighted that the council had made a decision to amalgamate schools in Angle to try and improve results and questioned the leaders’ comments.

Cllr Reg Owens said there had been a ‘great deal of scaremongering’ from the Cabinet member for Education Susan Perkins and from the leader.

Cllr Ken Rowlands suggested that the parents were putting ideas into the children’s heads and that they would express a view that wasn’t theirs.

Responding to that comment, Cllr Jacob Williams said that Cllr Rowlands had insulted the intelligence of the children.

He added: “I have never been more strongly of the opinion that Haverfordwest is in danger of losing 21st century funding entirely. We are in a last chance saloon but look at the time that has been wasted.

“Whether or not this project goes ahead, it is not the Trust’s doing that we are in this position.”

Cllr Stan Hudson highlighted that 72% of people were in favour of an 11-19 schools and of the 4000 letters that were received, that represented 2800 in favour.

He said: “Did we listen? No, we ignored them and a recommendation for an 11-16 school has been advanced. Who are the faceless people that put these ideas forward?”

Cllr Mike Evans challenged the Haverfordwest members who had not done so to speak up on the matter and added that the whole plan has been a mess from the beginning.

Cllr Mike John said he felt his back was against the wall because of the timescales and that he was minded to go with the proposals.

Cllr Mike Stoddart said that school standards were delivered by effective leadership and teaching and also called out the current and former Cabinet Members for Education for their mediocrity in their role.

Cllr Steve Yelland, a governor for Tasker Millward School, said that he was a firm believer in choice and although he didn’t want to lose funding he could not support the proposals.

A recorded vote was called for with 28 voting in favour and 22 voting against.

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Education

Delight as foundation phase learners return to class

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PEMBROKESHIRE Headteachers have reported very positive returns to school for Foundation Phase Learners.

All Foundation Phase Learners returned to schools on Monday, March 1st and attendance has been reported at almost 90% since.

The Council’s Director for Education, Steven Richards-Downes, said: “A wide range of council services have worked together to ensure that Foundation Phase pupils have been able to return
safely to school.

“I am particularly grateful to all school staff and families for ensure that learning is now available for our youngest learners face to face.”

Headteachers remarked how schools have filled with smiles and laughter following the safe and phased return of Foundation Phase learners.

Cora O’Brien, Headteacher at Waldo Williams School in Haverfordwest emphasised how quickly learners have settled back in to a routine.

“It has been an absolute joy to hear their laughter in the playground and to observe their love of learning face to face once again. I thank everybody in the Waldo Williams School
community for working so hard to ensure that the transition went smoothly.”

Vicky Hart-Griffiths, Headteacher of Ysgol Hafan y Mor in Tenby, said: “It has been wonderful to welcome all our Foundation Phase learners back to school. They are thriving, being amongst
friends and back to a school routine.  

“All the pupils have spoken about how happy they are to have returned and it’s an absolute pleasure to welcome them back and we can’t wait until we have all our pupils back in school.

“The school feels alive again and there’s a positive buzz and laughter once again echoing throughout the school.”

Gareth Lewis, Headteacher at Broad Haven CP School said children had returned “with real enthusiasm, and have been very keen to meet up with their friends.”

Mr Lewis added: “Our parents have been very supportive and positive about the return, and those with older children are very much looking forward to a wider return to schooling.”

Mr Richards-Downes said plans were now turning to more learners returning to schools in the near future.

“We are looking to the next phases of the re-opening of schools on the 15th of March as long as the government guidelines allow.”

Further details will be released in due course.

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Pembrokeshire County Council: This week’s Leader’s coronavirus update

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL Leader, Councillor David Simpson, has provided a further coronavirus update for Friday, 5th March as follows:

‘Welcome everyone to my weekly update.

“It is with rather a heavy heart that I tell you that it’s almost 12 months since my first statement on the coronavirus pandemic.

“On 9th March 2020, I addressed our Cabinet meeting with the following words:

“Further to the news yesterday that two people in Pembrokeshire had tested as positive for the Covid 19 virus, I am sure you will join me in wishing them both a speedy and full recovery.

“I can reassure you that our services will continue as usual, and all our employees can continue to attend to their work, appointments, schools and services as they normally would.

“We should all help protect ourselves and our communities by following Public Health Wales advice, particularly around washing hands and using a tissue for symptoms associated with cold and flu and then safely disposing of it.

“I am grateful to the co-operation and hard work of all of our staff and we will provide further updates and information when we have them.

“In the meantime I can confirm that detailed planning arrangements, both internally, with partner agencies and through the Dyfed Powys Local Resilience Forum, are well underway to ensure that the Council and Pembrokeshire are as well placed as possible for whatever challenges we may face. Thank you.”

“I am sure you will join me while I take a moment now to remember all those people in Pembrokeshire and further afield, who, very sadly, passed away since I made that announcement.

“I continue to be incredibly grateful, as I’m sure you are, to everyone who is helping to beat this pandemic, working so very hard now for over a year.

“We are fortunate now to be in a position where the vaccine programme is protecting older members of our community and starting to roll out among one of the biggest groups – the over 65s and those with underlying health conditions.

“This time next week (12th March) the Welsh Government will have notified us of their plans for the next three weeks.

“In the meantime, we remain in Alert Level 4 and the stay at home message continues to be more important than ever as we reach the threshold of better times.

“I wish you all a good weekend and thank you once again to the vast majority of wonderful Pembrokeshire residents who are doing the right thing and waiting patiently at home for restrictions to lift.

“We do really appreciate your efforts and determination to help bring this pandemic to an end.”

 

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Sergeant Hillier ‘died doing the job he loved’, says his heartbroken father

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THE ARMY SERGEANT who died after being injured in a live firing exercise, has been named locally.

The incident occurred at Castlemartin Training Area, and led to the death of Sgt Gavin Hillier, who was in the Welsh Guards.

In a post on social media, his father wrote: “Absolutely devastated to be writing this post, probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

“At 3.45am this morning I received a phone call that will forever change my life. My eldest son Gavin Mark Hillier was in a fatal accident yesterday in the army (the job he loved).

“Sleep tight & rest in peace son. I’m so proud of you. Goodnight and god bless, love your heartbroken dad.”

An Army spokesperson said: “It is with great sadness we can confirm the death of a soldier on March 4.

“Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this tragic time.

“The circumstances surrounding this death are being investigated and it would be inappropriate to comment any further.”

It is understood that Sergeant Hillier, who served as part of the Welsh Guards’ motor transport platoon, was due to be deployed to Iraq and had previously been awarded a Long Service and Good Conduct medal by Prince Charles, the regiment’s Colonel in Chief, in 2019.

The tragic incident is the latest in a number of accidents at Castlemartin.

In 2017, The Herald reported that two soldiers died in a tank explosion, which a coroner ruled was due to a design flaw.

The following year, an Army captain was jailed in July 2018 after a 21-year-old soldier was killed by a stray bullet during an exercise at the range in 2012.

An investigation has been launched into the death of a soldier at Castlemartin RAC Range following a military exercise.

Police were called to the site at just before 10.45pm on March 4.

Sadly, a man was pronounced dead shortly after. Our thoughts are with his family, who have been informed of the incident and are being supported by specialist officers.

An investigation is underway led by Dyfed-Powys Police. Officers are liaising with the Health and Safety Executive and MoD.

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