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Education

Small and rural schools receive £2.5m funding

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Small and rural schools face unique challenges: Ellen ap Gwynn

PUPILS across Wales are set to benefit from a new £2.5 million Welsh Government small and rural schools grant, Cabinet Secretary for Education Kirsty Williams has announced.

Local authorities have been applying for the funding after the Education Secretary Kirsty Williams revealed the support package in November last year to encourage innovation and support greater school to school working.

This includes using digital technology to combat the issue of professional isolation, providing administrative support in schools where the head teacher has significant teaching commitment, supporting collaboration and federation of schools, and where opportunities exist and there is local demand, using school facilities for community purposes.

Amongst the local authorities to receive funding are Anglesey, which will receive £138,000 to federate some of its schools, and Pembrokeshire, which has been awarded £158,000 to fund a Small School Innovation Project for a network of 15 small and rural schools.

Kirsty Williams said: “Small and rural schools play an important role in our national mission to raise standards and extend opportunities for all our young people.

“We are taking action and providing new funding to help small and rural schools deal with the unique challenges they face, such as small pupil numbers and issues in recruiting head teachers and staff.

“This financial support will benefit pupils, teachers, and the wider community. I want to see rural schools working more formally together and across the country, forming federations and looking into the possibility of sharing buildings with other services to ensure school buildings remain viable.”

WLGA Spokesperson for Education, Councillor Debbie Wilcox (Newport) said: “This funding is great news for small and rural schools. As a former teacher of many years myself, I know how having the best possible learning environment can enhance education and overall experiences. Local education authorities have been working hard to ensure schools are responding to modern challenges and are fully-equipped to provide the best education environment for teachers, pupils and staff, and this investment will help to continue that important work.”

WLGA Deputy Spokesperson for Education, Councillor Ellen ap Gwynn (Ceredigion) said: “Small and rural schools face unique challenges, especially in terms of recruitment and smaller pupil numbers. But they’re more than just schools in the communities that they serve. They are important assets to the community as school buildings and resources are widely used for an array of community purposes. This funding will contribute to ensure that learners and communities alike can continue to reap the benefits of these schools, and also to strengthen the support for Welsh language education provision in our rural communities.”

The Education Secretary also announced plans to consult on strengthening the School Organisation Code in respect of a presumption against the closure of rural schools. For the first time ever there will be a designation of rural schools for that purpose. A 14 week consultation ended on September 30 and responses are currently being analysed.

Education

Exam success celebrated with Learning Pembrokeshire

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ADULT learners celebrated their exam success with Learning Pembrokeshire at its annual awards ceremony recently.

The event, organised by members of the Learning Pembrokeshire Adult Community Learning team was kindly hosted by Pembrokeshire College, co-members of the adult learning partnership.

Learners who attended had gained accreditation in Digital Skills, Maths, English and English as a Speaker of Other Language. Hardworking tutors from the Essential Skills, ESOL and Springboard teams were very happy to take the opportunity to present certificates to their hardworking learners and celebrate their progress on their lifelong learning journey.

As well as staff and learners, the event was attended by Stephen Richards-Downes, Director of Education and Erica Williams from the Strategic Migration Partnership at the Welsh Local Government Association. Master of Ceremonies for the morning was Tomos Hopkins from Welsh for Adults and their Welsh choir was kind enough to add their voice to the event.

The range of qualifications attained included Agored Cymru Units and Awards, Essential Skills Wales Level 1 and level 2, BCS ICDL, GCSE and Life in the UK.

Special mention was given to the achievements of young people from Futureworks’ programmes around the county.

A warm welcome extended to our newest cohort of ESOL learners from Afghanistan, who are just beginning their learning journey with Learning Pembrokeshire.

A range of work created by learners in other non-accredited classes such as Sewing, Stained Glass, and Art was also displayed.

If you are interested in finding out more about free Essential Skills and ESOL classes, please call the Freephone 0808 100 3302.

To find out more about the wide range other classes including GCSE, Health and Well-being classes, Languages and General Interest contact your local Community Learning Centre, visit the Learning Pembrokeshire page on the Council’s website or Facebook. Or you can call Central Services on 01437 770130.

Captions: Learners are presented with their awards by Learning Pembrokeshire

The annual awards ceremony was held for adult learners at Pembrokeshire College

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Education

Primary schools enjoy a taste of opera at three special performances

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PEMBROKESHIRE MUSIC SERVICE brought the ABC of Opera to Haverfordwest for school children to enjoy a special live performance recently.

ABC of Opera, founded by renowned opera singer Mark Llewelyn Evans, performed The Crazy Classicals and the Curse at three shows on 9th and 10th July.

Almost 1,000 primary school pupils delighted in the fusion of pantomime and opera where the evil Queen of the Night, escaping from Mozart’s Opera the Magic Flute, tries to banish music for ever. Featuring a host of classical composers and Trevor the Trunk, they work together with the children to stop her.

The cast comprised of seven professional opera singers, with the orchestra being made up of staff from Pembrokeshire Music Service, senior pupils from County music ensembles and invited guests.

Head of Pembrokeshire Music Service Philippa Roberts: “Pembrokeshire Music Service is delighted to partner with ABC Opera to bring an exceptional live music experience to our students, giving pupils a fantastic introduction to Opera in a fun and engaging environment.

“This initiative, made possible thanks to the generous support of the National Music Service Wales, saw our staff and pupils performing side by side in the orchestra along with professional vocalists.”

ABC of Opera aims to deliver invaluable life lessons to children and young people through a lively exploration of the lives and music of the great composers, building character, celebrating difference and encouraging creativity. “Any Body Can with ABC.”

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Education

Ysgol Harri Tudur bans mobile phones starting September 2024

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STARTING September 2024, pupils at Ysgol Harri Tudur in Pembroke will no longer be allowed to bring mobile phones to school. This decision follows a consultation with parents, guardians, and carers that concluded on July 1.

The consultation process began on June 26, when the school sent out a letter to parents and carers, inviting their opinions on the matter. The letter highlighted growing concerns about the negative impact of mobile phones on students’ education, safeguarding, mental health, and well-being. It noted, “There is increasing evidence of the negative impact that mobile phones have at school on learners’ education, safeguarding, mental health, and well-being. Covid has certainly made the situation worse, with the reduction in face-to-face relationships.”

Previously, the school operated an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ policy, requiring students to turn off their phones and leave them in their bags. However, enforcing this policy proved to be challenging. The letter explained, “Alerts from social media platforms, emails, texts, and calls during the school day create an environment which is very difficult for learners to resist checking and responding to. Mobile phones allow learners to play music, games, and take photographs and video clips. The latter places learners at risk of cyber bullying.”

The issue sparked a lively debate on a local Facebook group. Some contributors raised concerns about students with medical conditions who need their phones for glucose monitoring, medicine reminders, or well-being journals. One user pointed out, “It’s difficult for people with a medical condition, who need to have their phone with them.”

On the other hand, many welcomed the ban, hoping it would reduce dependency on devices, decrease cyber-bullying, lessen peer pressure to own the latest models, and encourage students to engage more with each other. One parent commented, “Plenty of other schools already implement this policy – and it works.”

Another parent emphasised the importance of allowing pupils who are being bullied in other ways to contact home.

Ysgol Bro Gwaun in Fishguard has already implemented similar policies with reported success. Haverfordwest High is also considering a mobile-free approach.

Additionally, Ysgol Penrhyn Dewi in St David’s, Pembrokeshire, has seen significant improvements since implementing a similar policy. Pupils now hand in their phones at the start of the school day, which has led to better attendance, behaviour, and learning. The school’s police liaison officer reported a 75% reduction in phone-related issues, and both exclusions and bullying incidents have decreased dramatically.

For emergencies, the Pembroke school advises parents to contact Reception or email [email protected]. If learners need to contact home urgently, they are encouraged to speak to their Pastoral Leader or any senior member of staff.

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