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Ancient Connections – Pembrokeshire and Wexford stories to be retold by school children through animation



Ancient Connections – a three-year arts, heritage and tourism project linking North
Pembrokeshire and North Wexford is delighted to celebrate the start of a cross-border
schools project which began in March 2020 and is expected to continue until Spring 2021.
The project will bring three schools together in the ambitious creation of a short animation
film telling the stories of connection between these two regions. The participating schools
are Ysgol Penrhyn Dewi in St Davids, Pembrokeshire, Scoil Naomh Maodhog Ferns and St
Edan’s School, both in Ferns, County Wexford. In March, the project kicked off with a group
of 19 pupils aged 12-13 plus staff traveling from St Davids to Ferns to meet and get to know
their peers in the Ferns schools. The group have been learning about their own heritage
stories, as well as the stories that link these two regions through working with Fishguard
based storyteller Deb Winter. In Ferns, the group performed these stories and in turn
listened to their Irish counterparts, who had been coached by storyteller Lorraine O’Dwyer.
Cilla Bramley, Head of Expressive Arts at Ysgol Penrhyn Dewi said:

I just wanted to send a HUGE thank you from all at Ysgol Penrhyn Dewi for the amazing visit
we had to Ireland. The pupils and I were so 'blown away' by the incredibly warm Irish
welcome and every aspect of our visit was perfect! The arrival at Scoil Maodhog was moving
and our pupils are now texting, snap chatting/what's apping etc. and looking forward to the
return visit. All the excursions were fabulous and informative and when I asked pupils what
their favourite aspect of the trip was, not one of them could decide as there were just too
many things to pick from.

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the project will now continue through online and digital
means, until September 2020 when they will begin work with Cardiff based animation
studio Winding Snake to creatively retell these stories through different animation
techniques, culminating in a short film that will be screened in venues and online in 2021.
Amy Morris, Director of Winding Snake says:

"The team at Winding Snake are thrilled to be working with the schools involved as part
of this exciting and historic project.  We can't wait to get stuck in and start making! The
young people taking part will work with us to create animation, learn musical composition,
make foley and sound effects, participate in script writing and storytelling sessions, and will
work with professional actors to learn acting and performance skills. With lots and lots of
arts and craft thrown into the mix too, it's going to be a wonderful project." 
A short documentary film about the project will also be created by filmmaker Terence White
based in Wexford.

Community and academic research led by Angharad Wynne and Abarta Heritage has
unearthed some fascinating stories that link these two ancient Celtic lands. From the deep
friendship between St David and St Aidan, founder of Ferns Monastery, to strategic
marriages between powerful Irish Kings and the daughters of Norman knights in the
Mediaeval period, to human entanglement with mysterious and mythical sea creatures as
well as inclement weather causing shipwrecks on unforgiving coasts.

The Animating schools project forms one aspect of the wider Ancient Connections project,
with the aim of motivating both communities to rediscover their shared heritage; to be
mentors for one another; sharing knowledge, experience and skills to create a stronger
sense of identity and place that will continue to flourish in years to come. The stories that
emerge from the project will also be employed to create ways to attract visitors to North
Pembrokeshire and Wexford outside of school and summer holidays.

Ancient Connections is led by Pembrokeshire County Council, together with partners
Wexford County Council, Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority and Visit Wexford
funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Ireland Wales co-
operation programme


Research reveals nearly half of children in Wales had additional learning needs



A NEW study has highlighted the prevalence of additional learning needs, formerly known as special educational needs, among under 16-year-olds in Wales. The findings come with a policy briefing, calling for a robust review of processes used to recognise such issues and more inclusive learning support for all children nationally.

The research and policy reports, led by the University of Bristol and funded by the Nuffield Foundation, found nearly half (47.9%) of children born in 2002/2003 were identified with some form of additional learning needs (ALN) at some point during their schooling. This was shown to have the biggest impact on academic achievement across all Key Stages of their education.

Lead author Dr Cathryn Knight, Senior Lecturer in Psychology of Education at the University of Bristol, said: “Our findings clearly challenge the notion that learning needs only affect a minority of learners. Key common factors increasing the likelihood of being identified with SEN also emerged, emphasising the importance of recognising the child’s environment and understanding their individual situation to effectively support their learning needs.”

Researchers from the University’s School of Education and Swansea University analysed data from more than 200,000 children in Wales, born between 2002 and 2009, to understand the levels of SEN and its impact on academic achievement.

Findings revealed that the earlier the additional needs emerged and were recognised, and the longer their education was spent with these known needs, the less likely they were to meet nationally expected levels of attainment.

Dr Knight said: “Our research suggests the former SEN system in Wales was unable to effectively support students to mitigate the negative impact of SEN on their grades. This underscores the substantial toll of SEN on academic achievement. To improve academic attainment levels in Wales, it is crucial to prioritise effective support for this very large group of learners.”

Learners having free school meals (FSM) throughout their education were found to be four times more likely to be identified with SEN compared to those not in receipt of free meals. Those born in the most deprived neighbourhoods were shown to be even more likely (4.6 times) to be identified with SEN.

The study also showed boys were much (5.5 times) more likely to be identified with SEN than girls. Children with higher school attendance had a lower likelihood of SEN identification and learners born in the summer, so younger in their year group, were three times more likely to be identified with SEN than those born in the autumn.

Dr Knight said: “This raises concerns about the effectiveness of SEN identification processes, particularly given the unexpectedly high number of learners identified with SEN. It suggests a potential issue of over- or under-identification of certain children.”

The main policy recommendations in the report were to prioritise inclusive educational initiatives that recognise and support all children. The substantial impact of SEN on children’s grades, raises questions about how children with learning needs can be supported to show progression within the education system. Therefore, consideration of more inclusive assessment practices is recommended. The report also calls for current methods used to identify learning need to be rigorously reviewed, with a new focus on ensuring accuracy, fairness, and inclusivity.

The research mirrors similar national findings. Evidence from the Education Policy Institute in England also found a high level (40.7%) of SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disability) identification. Other research, published in the British Educational Research Journal, has also shown that children with SEND in England are also far less likely to meet expected learning standards than their peers at Key Stage 1.

Dr Knight said: “We also need longer-term evidence within Wales and across the UK in order to develop a fuller understanding of the challenges. This includes possible systematic issues with how learning needs are recognised and their subsequent impact on attainment.”

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School children focus on Pembrokeshire’s renewable energy future



FENTON COMMUNITY PRIMARY SCHOOL welcomed renewable energy experts to help Year 5 and 6 learners broaden their knowledge as part of their Marine Energy Project.

During the summer term Blue Gem Wind, Pembrokeshire Coastal Forum and the Darwin Experience have discussed Pembrokeshire’s importance in the renewable energy sector and low carbon technologies with the school children.

Learners designed and built models of different anchorage structures for offshore turbines, and learnt from the Darwin Centre about the different marine organisms that might colonise them.

They pitched their design ideas, with a combination of class designs being built and deployed at the Marine Energy Test Area (META) in Milford Haven by Pembrokeshire Coastal Forum.

The visits have inspired many new ideas and possibilities for the future of the learners.

Summer Marshall (Year 6) explained: “It was a great opportunity for our designs to be actually made into something for a real-life purpose.”
“If it wasn’t for this project I wouldn’t have learned about the importance of marine habitats and how these are linked to our future,” added TJ Hill (Year 6)
“It is really important because a lot of future jobs will be based around renewable energy and technology,” said Milly Badger (Year 6).
“From having Blue Gem Wind, META and Darwin visit, it’s made me think about a job in renewable energy,” added Oscar Davies (Year 6).

Acting Executive Headteacher Gareth Thomas said: “The project has enabled development of careers and work-related experiences with our learners. Direct industry engagement has been crucial to motivate our learners to think about the future jobs in Pembrokeshire and the life they may lead here.”

Year 5 and 6 teachers Leah Hackett, Matthew Vaughan and Mike Lowde agreed that many of their pupils could work in the renewable industry in future.

“Hopefully, after this, we have a group of enthusiastic pupils who already have a keen understanding of the benefits of renewable energy and the place it holds in Pembrokeshire and the wider world,” they added.

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Pupils delight in ice cream treat from Pembrokeshire’s number one van



CHILDREN at Ysgol Caer Elen in Haverfordwest were treated to a delightful surprise on Tuesday when they were all given the opportunity to enjoy ice cream, generously provided by Mr McGeown and his family.

The delicious ice cream, a highlight of the school’s summer celebrations, was not just a treat for the pupils but also a testament to the McGeown family’s commitment to supporting educational projects. The funds raised by the family have been donated to the school, aimed at enhancing various school initiatives.

The joyous event was made even more special by the efforts of volunteers Martin, Sian, Amirah, Jack, and Alyannah, who served the ice cream. Their contribution ensured that the occasion was filled with a wonderful and happy atmosphere.

The school extends its heartfelt thanks to Mr McGeown and his family for their generosity and support. Their donation will play a crucial role in the continued development and success of school projects, benefiting all pupils.

“We are incredibly grateful to Mr McGeown and his family for their kindness and support,” said Mr Dafydd Hughes, the headteacher of Ysgol Caer Elen. “The ice cream treat brought immense joy to the children and added to the spirit of our summer celebrations.”

Ysgol Caer Elen, a pioneering Welsh-medium school catering to students from ages 3 to 16, prides itself on its vibrant community and commitment to high-quality education in Pembrokeshire. The school’s ethos centres on creating a caring and inclusive environment where every pupil is encouraged to achieve their best and develop their skills for the 21st century

The community looks forward to seeing the positive impact of the McGeown family’s contribution, as the school continues to thrive with the support of dedicated and caring individuals.

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