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Covid-19: Pressure grows on local authorities to end the school term early

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PRESSURE is increasing on local authorities to end the school term early.

The Herald understands that both Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire County Councils are considering ending the school term on Monday.

If those counties close their schools, it is almost inevitable that Pembrokeshire will follow suit.

The Cabinet Member for Education, Guy Woodham, has remained adamant that Pembrokeshire will hold the line to December 18. However, faced with neighbouring councils shutting schools, logistical and staffing pressures could compel Pembrokeshire to follow suit.

Both the National Education Union and the National Association of Head Teachers have intervened in the issue. The unions have express concerns about their members’ safety and wellbeing, and that of their families.

After a positive test, a teacher in contact with a student must self-isolate pending the outcome of their own test’s result.

A teacher required to self-isolate at any point after December 11 previously faced being in precautionary measures until Christmas Day or beyond.

As things stand, some school heads face the theoretical prospect of running a Test Trace Protect procedure on Christmas Day.

In what might prove a significant move, on Tuesday (December 8) the Welsh Government reduced the period of self-isolation from fourteen to ten days.

The rising number of cases in schools and a new Welsh Government assessment has given the unions’ concerns greater impetus.

On Tuesday (December 8), David Evans, Wales Secretary of the NEU said: “Whole year groups are being told to isolate. The virus is spreading in schools, and our priority must be keeping both learners and staff as safe as possible.”

The following day, the Welsh Government’s Technical Advisory Group on Covid (TAG) published new guidance.

The TAG report said: “The best way to protect older family members is not to expose them to potential infection, no matter how well-intended the reason for contact.

“Pre-isolation may be a helpful consideration for families with children before visiting older relatives.”

The National Association of Head Teachers responded by writing to Wales’ Education Minister, Kirsty Williams.

The letter picked up on the TAG advice regarding pre-isolation.

It said: “[T]he advice on pre-isolating of families with children, in our view cuts across the government’s current position on keeping schools open. It once again risks mixed messages causing utter confusion.

“If this report is advising families to pre-isolate to protect any extended family members that they are planning to see over Christmas, surely the opportunity to do so must be supported by the government.

“Parents will undoubtedly vote with their feet, and children will be kept at home. That choice will not be afforded to school staff if school leaders are not supported in closing school sites.”

The letter continued: “NAHT Cymru urges you to review your position in light of the new advice and look, at a national level.”

It proposes a transition to blended/distance learning for the final week of term (December 14-18) in line with the TAG report advice.

NAHT says: “This week would see the closure of school sites and should be used for isolation and reducing social contacts, with a clear ‘stay at home’ message for all age groups

“This move would allow children, staff and families the opportunity to adhere to the pre-isolation advice.”

We approached Cllr Guy Woodham with our information about early closure plans in Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion.

He responded: “The position remains under constant review and further meetings are happening today (Thursday, December 10) which may, hopefully, provide an agreed way forward.

“While I remain of the view that 18 December is an appropriate last day of term, this is not an entrenched position, and I will continue to listen to others while remaining focused on delivering what is in the best interests of Pembrokeshire learners during these unprecedented and extremely challenging times.”

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Port boss: Pembroke Dock development full permission an ‘important step’

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THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE of the Port of Milford Haven has welcomed a decision of “non-intervention” by the Welsh Government over plans to re-vamp Pembroke Dock’s historic port facilities.

The redevelopment scheme, approved by Pembrokeshire County Council’s Planning Committee in May, will see some areas such as a dock covered with sand and “infilled”.

Plans also include the demolishing of some buildings, erection of buildings and ancillary works.
Despite planning being granted at council level, full authorisation to go ahead with the development was not to be issued until the Welsh Government made its decision regards the matter.

More about the planning application can be read here: https://www.herald.wales/west-wales/pembrokeshire/major-marine-project-causes-concern-about-visual-impact-and-heritage-loss/

Now that the Welsh Government has decided not to interfere with Pembrokeshire County Council’s grant of planning permission, the Port’s boss, Andy Jones, expressed his delight, saying: “This marks an important step forward in the development of Wales’ clean energy centre at Pembroke Dock.

“It will provide sustainable opportunities for the many people who rely on the activity along the Milford Haven Waterway for employment.

CEO: Port Authority’s Andy Jones (Pic MHPA)

“Pembroke Dock Marine will unlock new opportunities for young people to enter the maritime, renewable and engineering sectors, build resilience within Pembrokeshire’s business community, and make a positive contribution to our natural environment as we transition to a low carbon energy generation.”

Tim James, head of commercial and energy at the Port of Milford Haven called the project a “once in a generation opportunity to improve Pembrokeshire’s economy for years to come”.

Objectors had complained that the plans were too large and would damage the historic dockyard, as well as having a visual impact on the dock.

The was opposition from local heritage campaigners, with complaints over the size of two huge proposed hangars which the project’s critics said would impact adversely the landscape.

The economic benefits of the £60 million marine energy “far outweigh” any impact on the historic environment, a report earlier this year to council planners said.

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Medical evacuation from LPG tanker off St Ann’s Head

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ANGLE Lifeboat was launched on service at 12:59pm on Thursday afternoon (Jun 10) to assist in a medical evacuation from a LPG tanker 13 miles SSW off St Ann’s Head.

The coastguard helicopter from Newquay in Cornwall was also on route. With the poor visibility due to fog, Angle all-weather lifeboat was to stand by the vessel to provide an alternative route for evacuation if needed.

After a choppy route in the poor visibility the RNLI volunteers arrived on scene at 2:07pm.

At the time of their arrival, the paramedic from the coastguard helicopter was aboard the vessel preparing the casualty to be winched to the helicopter.

In less than ten minutes the casualty was winched up to the helicopter and flown to hospital, at which point the lifeboat and crews were stood down and headed back to the station.

After rehousing shortly after 3:30pm the lifeboat was washed fuelled and made ready for service shortly after.

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Milford Haven child sex offender Colin Sharpe jailed for 10 years

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A MILFORD HAVEN child abuser sat crying in court as details of his four-year long abuse of a schoolgirl were read out.

Colin Sharpe’s teenage victim says she is now “plagued by nightmares” that he will return and abuse her again, Swansea Crown Court heard.

Sharpe, 40, of Howarth Close was told by Judge Paul Thomas QC at Swansea Crown Court that “Your only concern was your own selfish sexual pleasure.”

The court heard that after the matter was reported to police and officers began a search for tSharpe. He was found in his vehicle in a car park at St Ann’s Head.

The court was told that police used their car to block Sharpe’s exist from the car park but he “sped off” across the grass towards the cliff edge before crashing into a fence.

The defendant abandoned his vehicle and made off on foot to the clifftop. A standoff then developed during which police brought in a specialist negotiator to talk him down.

After a lengthy negotiation Sharpe was arrested.

Passing sentence, the judge told Sharpe: “You had no concern for the psychological damage you did.”

He added: “But it is to your credit that you immediately admitted what you had done; this had saved his victim the further ordeal of giving evidence in a trial.

Judge Paul Thomas jailed Sharpe for 10 years and imposed an indefinite order requiring him to sign the sexual offences register on release.

Sharpe will now be subject to an indefinite sexual harm prevention order and an indefinite restraining order when he is released.

As The Herald previously reported, Sharpe, who has been on remand since March, admitted one charge of sexual assault and five of sexual activity with a child, all between July 2017 and March 2021.

Police were informed about the sexual abuse by a third party, who discovered what he had done, and he was arrested and questioned early last year.

Earlier, Ian Wright, counsel for the CPS said that Sharpe used “emotional blackmail to frighten the girl into staying silent”.

He added “Matters seem to have come to a head on March 12 this year after Sharpe had once again sexually abused his victim.”

Dean Pulling, defending, said that when the police interviewed Sharpe he gave ‘guilty pleas and admissions’ at the earliest opportunity.

Excerpts from a personal victim statement highlighting the ongoing ordeal of Sharpe’s teenage victim were also read out in court.

“I am having nightmares,” the statement reads.

“I have nightmares of him coming back from prison and starting to do worse. My life has been greatly affected.”

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