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Education

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

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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

Education

Welsh students promised more help with living costs by Welsh Government

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THE WELSH GOVERNMENT says it will increase student maintenance support by 9.4% for the 2023/24 academic year, subject to regulations being made.

The average full-time Welsh student can claim £10,710 in maintenance grants and loans, which will rise to £11,720 thanks to this increase.

This will apply to full-time and part-time higher education students from Wales, who began a course on or after 1 August 2018.

Living costs support is rising in line with the National Living Wage, which is unique to Wales. In contrast, the UK Government has announced a 2.8% increase for students ordinarily resident in England.

The Welsh Government continues to provide the most progressive student finance system in the UK. Welsh undergraduate students have less to repay on average than their English peers as they can access our generous living costs package of grants and loans.

The highest level of grant support is given to those students most in need. A substantial part-time student support package is available, giving students from all backgrounds the chance to study part-time.

The Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles said:

“Living costs should never be a barrier to studying at university. This increase in support will ensure that students from all backgrounds are able to access higher education.

“Despite continuing budget pressures, I have ensured that the value of support is increased accordingly at this time of exceptional cost-of-living pressures.”

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Education

Redevelopment of Portfield School moves towards next stage

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THE NEXT stage in improving facilities for pupils at Portfield School will be decided by Pembrokeshire County Council Cabinet’s first meeting of 2023.

The submission of the Outline Business Case (OBC) for plans to improve the condition of school buildings and increase capacity at the school for children and young people with complex needs is recommended for approval by senior Councillors on Monday, 9th January.

The OBC for Portfield School was considered by the Sustainable Communities for Learning Strategic Programme Board in December and the current estimated cost of the project is £30,307,000 including cost of achieving Net Zero Carbon.

Pembrokeshire County Council’s contribution towards the project is £6,651,293 as a result of a 75 per cent Welsh Government intervention rate on all special school related projects.

Cabinet will note that a reduction in the overall 21st Century School Band B Programme capital envelope results in a £3million funding shortfall that will potentially be mitigated by design efficiencies, value engineering, reinstated Welsh Government funding or prudential borrowing.

Cabinet will meet at 10am and the meeting will be webcast.

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Education

Sex Education campaigners fail in legal challenge to Welsh Government

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THIS WEEK (Dec 22), the High Court rejected an application to allow parents to withdraw children from the Welsh Government’s Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) curriculum.

The Court considered five claimants’ assertions that the RSE code overrode parents’ right to withdraw children from lessons that include RSE elements. The parents appeared under the campaign group Public Child Protection (Wales).

Each claim failed on each of the four grounds argued before the Court.

Reaching her decision, Mrs Justice Steyn said: “Teaching should be neutral from a religious perspective, but it is not required to be value-neutral.”

She ruled there was no common law right for parents to withdraw children from lessons, as the right to withdraw existed only under the previous statute the Welsh Curriculum replaced.

Campaigners claim they wish to preserve parents’ roles in educating their children about relationships and sexuality. However, the real issue for the campaigners is LGBTQ+ education, the only element of RSE referenced in the headline of a press release issued by PCP after the ruling. The headline repeats an untrue claim about the age at which such education would begin.

Groups with other agendas have latched onto the controversy and published bizarre, obscene, and exaggerated claims about what RSE teaching will contain.

Examining what the Welsh Curriculum’s RSE guidance contains shows those claims are baseless.
Despite malicious and publicity-seeking interventions regarding RSE, some parents undoubtedly feel their sensitivities have been marginalised and disregarded in pursuit of social and political agendas to which they take exception.

Moreover, the case highlighted the Welsh Government’s ability to listen only to views it finds congenial.

Paul Diamond, the standing counsel for the Christian Legal Centre, represented the campaigners.

The Christian Legal Centre’s intervention in high-profile cases involving religion and parental rights has attracted heavy criticism from some judges and lawyers for allegedly preying on vulnerable parents and “casting a fog over the facts and drilling into our deepest and most primal fears” while “pushing their own agendas”.

The misinformation around the Curriculum came in for direct criticism by Council for the Welsh Government, Jonathan Moffett KC.

Taking aim at how campaigners have framed their arguments, Mr Moffett said: “Hyperbolic rhetoric, which has been a feature of the claimants’ case throughout, is unhelpful.”

Mr Moffett said the claimants had failed to identify “what allegedly unlawful teaching” the new Curriculum would adopt and instead “resort to broad assertions”. He continued: “The claimants have not pointed to any passages in the code or the guidance that authorise or positively approve teaching that advocates or promotes any particular identity or sexual lifestyle over another, or that encourage children to self-identify in a particular way.”

Jeremy Miles, Wales’s Minister for Education, said: “I welcome the Court’s decision which found in favour of the Welsh Ministers on all grounds.
“We have been clear that RSE is intended to keep children safe and to promote respect and healthy relationships. Now more than ever, our children need our help in protecting them from harmful content and people online.
“RSE should provide young people with confidence to say no to bullies, to call out harassment, and to understand that families come in all shapes and sizes. Parents can expect the teaching their children receive to be appropriate for their children’s age and maturity: this is a legal requirement.”
Vivienne Laing, from NSPCC Cymru/Wales, said: “We welcome the decision made in the judicial review so that the rollout of mandatory teaching of Relationships and Sexuality Education in Welsh schools can continue.”

Kimberley Isherwood of PCP Wales: Says she will fight on (Image: FIle)

Undaunted by the scale of the campaigners’ defeat, a spokesperson for PCP (Wales), Kim Isherwood, claimed: “The evidence we provided to the Court referenced and highlighted concerning levels of betrayal, deceit and false claims made by the Welsh Government, but it appears as though the Judge agrees with them – not only do we parents not have rights, but they were never there, to begin with.

“The team is preparing the appeal; the higher the Court, the louder the message.

“This is not a loss – this is another level of exposure.”

For the Full response from the Welsh Government: CLICK HERE

The Jeremy Vine show explains why parents in Wales were taking legal action against the Welsh Government:

A video explaining why many were opposed to compulsory RSE lessons in Wales made by The Christian Institute:

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