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Councillors given new school plan

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screen-shot-2016-10-24-at-12-22-55PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL (PCC) met with members of Estyn this week (Oct 11) for a confidential seminar on the future of secondary school education provision in Pembrokeshire.

Just months after councillors voted against the proposed plans to reorganise Pembrokeshire’s secondary school structure in May this year, plans for a new sixth form provision in the county have surfaced once again.

A major aspect of the newly proposed plans include an 11-19 school to be sited in Haverfordwest – this is in addition to the 3-16 Welsh medium school which will be sited at Withybush, Haverfordwest.

The specific site of the new secondary school is still unknown; there is several in contention, including the site of Tasker Milward, Sir Thomas Picton, or a new site entirely. Also discussed as a possibility was a split site; however, this is now increasingly unlikely.

The new school will feature sixth form provision with ‘delivery to be in line with any future arrangements for Pembrokeshire’.

Three smaller 11-19 schools to be sited in Milford Haven, Greenhill and Pembroke also feature in the newly proposed plans. The current school of Pembroke had been hoping for a new vocational centre as an off-shoot of Pembrokeshire College; however, decisions taken by PCC in July have likely brought such plans to a close.

Presenting at the seminar, Director for Children and Schools Kate Evans-Hughes also stated the need for a ‘revised federation model’ for secondary school provision in Pembrokeshire.

Reiterating this point, and largely proposing a new set of guidelines regarding sixth form provision, was Frank Ciccotti of the Pembrokeshire Association of Secondary Headteachers (PASH).

In what seemed to suggest a consolidation of post-16 education in the county, PASH said: “The larger the school, the more viable, allowing greater investment in A level teaching.”

PASH also stated, in its presentation, that ‘no sixth form can survive alone and offer the full range of subjects’, and furthermore suggested that there would be ‘significant benefits from a school of 500+ in sixth form, as regards the ability to offer more subjects and deliver surpluses’.

With reference to the financial viability of the current model, it was suggested that subjects currently require at least 15 students to achieve viability.

Taking only AS level into account, in the north of the county, Ysgol Bro Gwaun currently has no subjects which fill this quota. Ysgol Dewi Sant has four (out of 11 subjects); English Literature, Chemistry, Maths and Religious Studies.

Institutions in Haverfordwest fare slightly better, with Pembrokeshire College achieving the 15 students mark in 13 out of 15 subjects offered, while Sir Thomas Picton currently meets the target in 12 out of 19 subjects. Tasker Milward, however, only achieves the target in three subjects; Chemistry, Biology and Psychology.

The south of the county appears in a similar situation to the north, with Milford Haven, Greenhill and Pembroke collectively offering 11 subjects which have 15 students or more – out of a collective subject count of 56.

With the figures to hand, Mr Ciccotti suggested ‘there is limited strategic planning of what is taught where’ and, as such, went on to echo the words of Kate Evans-Hughes in calling for a ‘federation model’ and a ‘duty to collaborate’.

Justifying the need for a federation model, Mr Ciccotti said that the current situation means there is ‘no consistency of subjects offered across the county’, with subjects often based on ‘historic legacy’. He also added that the best teachers may not be available in each school. This has resulted in duplication of subjects and resources being stretched, and students being forced to ‘travel to get their choice, or select subjects based on logistics’, Mr Campion added.

Also expressing concern over financial sustainability, Mr Campion went on to list further justifications for a federation model. These included insufficient investment for existing facilities and technology, as well as professional development of staff. He also added that resources are diverted away from 11-16 teaching in order to support A level teaching, which is ‘not fair or appropriate’.

Mr Ciccotti has previously called on PCC in the past, repeatedly questioning the sustainability of the current secondary provision model.

Mr Ciccotti also made reference to the need for greater ‘access to technology’, suggesting that the way in which students learn is changing: “No longer are libraries the way students study.” He added that a rural community such as Pembrokeshire requires teaching methods that allow for remote learning.

In the closing stages of his presentation, speaking in regard to some form of consolidation across the county, Mr Ciccotti expressed how ‘on a combined basis, 30 subjects are viable; however, even more could be offered’.

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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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