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Education

Council leaders to allow schools to move to distance learning

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COUNCIL leaders in Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion are allowing schools across the region to move to distance learning in the run-up to Christmas.

It follows a meeting between the Association of Directors of Education and Welsh Local Government Association representatives with the Education Minister Kirsty Williams this afternoon (Thursday, December 10) in which she announced that all secondary schools and colleges move to online learning from Monday, December 14 as part of a ‘national effort to reduce transmission of coronavirus’.

However, due to rapidly increasing coronavirus cases within the Hywel Dda footprint area, all three councils have decided on a regional approach.

Carmarthenshire council is allowing all primary and special schools the choice to move to distance learning or remain open from Tuesday, December 15.

However, in Ceredigion all primary and special schools will move to distance learning from Tuesday, December 15.

In Pembrokeshire, all primaries will move to distance learning from Tuesday, December 15.

Council leaders are concerned the situation will only get worse in the coming week if no action is taken and have made the decision in the best interest of staff, pupils and their families.

The rising number of cases in the community is having a significant effect on staff and pupils having to self-isolate, leading to major staffing issues within schools as well as putting considerable pressure on the Test Trace Protect teams.

All local authorities are working closely with headteachers and Chairs of Governors to ensure this has as little impact as possible on children’s learning.

Families with children eligible for free school meals will receive payment to cover the days they are learning from home.

Carmarthenshire County Council Leader Cllr Emlyn Dole said: “We are extremely concerned about how quickly the virus is spreading in our communities, and unfortunately this is having a significant impact on our schools.

“We have already seen some schools having to close, not because coronavirus is circulating there but because so many staff are having to self-isolate.

“Our schools have worked hard to provide a safe environment; the problem is not in our schools but in the community, where people are mixing with each other causing the virus to spread easily.

“This hasn’t been an easy decision, but we want to make sure pupils and staff can enjoy Christmas with their families. I cannot emphasise enough though how important it is that pupils stay at home and carry on with the work set by their teachers and do not mix with other households, otherwise all this will be for nothing, and the virus will continue to spread exponentially.”

Ceredigion County Council Leader Cllr Ellen ap Gwynn said “We all recognise the hard work of school staff during the year and in meeting the challenges that the coronavirus has brought, whilst at the same time continuing to deliver high quality teaching, face to face or remotely. We also recognise that our pupils have had to adapt to the new ways of working.

“However, now is the time to ensure the health and safety of our pupils and staff in the lead up to Christmas and closing schools for face to face teaching will enable families to limit contact with people they do not live with leading up to Christmas. The risk of catching coronavirus is reduced when we limit how much contact we have with others – these days will give families that opportunity so that they can see loved ones over the festive period.”

Pembrokeshire County Council Leader Cllr David Simpson said: “This has been a difficult decision to take but one that we hope parents and carers can understand.

“Coronavirus is spreading across our communities and we see the impact every day with increasing numbers of classes and year groups having to self-isolate.

“It is important to emphasise that this is not an extended Christmas holiday. Pupils should not be mixing with other households – just like adults should not be mixing with other households.

“It’s up to all of us to do our bit to fight coronavirus.”

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Education

Teacher’s gruelling challenge to help visually impaired child

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TEACHER Sion Jenkins is running 100 laps around a famous Pembrokeshire landmark to raise money to help a visually impaired child in his class.

He is aiming to raise £2,000 on crowd funder platform Go Fund Me by doing laps of Carew Castle and Mill in just 24 hours, about one hundred miles in total.

Sion said: “I decided that I wanted to raise money to help purchase a trike/adapted bike to help a visually impaired child in my class.

“Due to his sight, he isn’t able to ride a bike – and is desperate to gain some independence/confidence and ride a bike like every other child.

“On the back of a challenge set by school, to complete the ‘100 challenge’ as a tribute to Captain Sir Tom Moore, I decided to tie the two together and have a go at completing this gruelling challenge.

“100 laps of Carew Castle and Mill will total just under 100 miles – in less than 24 hours.”

If you would like to contribute to this epic challenge this is the link:

https://uk.gofundme.com/f/carew-mill-100-laps-in-24-hours?

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Education

Schools partnership promotes the benefits of outdoor learning

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OUTDOOR learning across the county has received a welcome boost over the past 12 months as a result of additional funding secured by the Pembrokeshire Outdoor Schools (PODS) project, which has covered the cost of a Co-ordinator working directly with schools.

Thanks to financial backing from the People’s Postcode Local Trust and Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Trust, the PODS Co-ordinator has been able to help with the delivery of high quality, curriculum-linked learning experiences in school grounds and local outdoor spaces.

Part of the Co-ordinator’s role is also to bring together local and national organisations, including Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority’s Discovery team, teachers and head teachers. Pooling their diverse knowledge and expertise, the partnership seeks to share good practice and promote the benefits of taking lessons outdoors.

Pembrokeshire Outdoor Schools Co-ordinator Bryony Rees said: “Last summer, the Welsh Government recognised the importance of outdoor learning in the post-lockdown return to school. We have been working hard to support this by giving children and teachers increased opportunities to take their learning outdoors.

“We have already engaged with a number of schools across Pembrokeshire and produced some live webinars. Supporting resources for these can be found on HWB. This has made it possible to reach out to even more schools with practical information, inspiration and advice on delivering outdoor learning programmes.

“Several schools have taken the opportunity to develop their school grounds to support outdoor learning and more recently, Neyland Community School has introduced outdoor lessons every Friday.”

During the most recent lockdown, work has continued online and the PODS website has been developed to provide teachers with some learning resources. Outdoor learning ideas and inspiration for teachers and parents are also shared on the PODS Facebook page (Pembrokeshire Outdoor Schools) and on Twitter @PembsOutdoorSch.

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Education

Education announcement welcomed by Pembrokeshire County Council

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THE LOCAL AUTHORITY has said that it welcomes the Welsh Government’s announcement today (Friday, 29th January) that schools will be the first to reopen when Wales’ current lockdown restrictions are lifted.

First Minister Mark Drakeford has announced that the ‘alert level four’ restrictions will remain in Wales for three more weeks but following that period, there would be a ‘phased and flexible back-to-school approach if coronavirus cases continue to fall’.

He said primary school children would be the first to return, if the public health situation continues to improve, and that students studying vocational qualifications would also be among those prioritised for the phased return to colleges.

Mr Drakeford said: “We’ve seen a really welcome fall in cases of the virus all over Wales, but they are still too high and the NHS continues to be under intense pressure.

“We need to keep the lockdown restrictions in place for a little while longer to help us bring rates of the virus down further. If we can do this, we will create the headroom we need to get children back to school after half term – starting with the youngest at primary schools.

“We will work with teachers, colleges, local authorities to plan for the safe return of children to school over the next couple of weeks and keep parents updated.”

Pembrokeshire’s Director of Education, Steven Richards-Downes, will be meeting virtually with Welsh Government ministers today together with other Education Directors.

Mr Richards-Downes said: “We welcome the Welsh Government’s statement that schools will be the first to reopen, whenever that may be.

“We will continue to work directly with unions, headteachers, governing bodies and other Council services to ensure that schools are Covid-safe when they are re-opened.

“Distance learning will continue for now and parents should contact their schools directly if they have any queries regarding this.”

He added: “Any parent experiencing difficulties with digital exclusion should contact their school directly.

Free school meals payments will continue to be paid to families who have applied for them, as planned. The next payments will be made on Thursday, 4th February.

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