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Education

Senedd approves Wales’ National Curriculum

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MEMBERS of the Senedd voted to pass the National Curriculum Bill’s final text, meaning the Curriculum for Wales will now be introduced in 2022. Throughout the debate on its final stage, which took place on Tuesday (March 9), opposition members praised Wales’ Education Minister, Kirsty Williams. Members from all sides saluted her patience and diligence in guiding a significant piece of legislation onto the statute book. Even members who disagreed with the Bill’s content and opposed its passage highlighted the Minister’s personal contribution and commitment to creating Wales’ first national Curriculum. A NATIONAL MISSION The Bill was the subject of intensive scrutiny and broad consultation. Speaking in the Senedd, Mrs Williams said the Bill’s passage was ’a national mission’. “It would have been simpler to cook up plans in Cathays Park in a back office and issue a ‘take it or leave it’ offer,” the Education Minister said. She continued: “But our combined efforts with teachers, academics, parents, and many organisations here and abroad is worth so much more because of that ‘national mission’ spirit.” Kirsty Williams paid a personal tribute to Labour MS Lynn Neagle, Chair of the Children’s and Young Persons’ Committee. Under Lynn Neagle’s leadership, the Committee rigorously scrutinised the Bill and made a series of recommendations in its text. Of the Labour backbencher, Kirsty Williams said: “I conclude by thanking Lynne Neagle for her tough, astute, tenacious, sometimes bloody-mindedness in her approach to this legislation. I mean that as a compliment, Lynne. “As I said earlier, the results of the committee’s work have made this a better Bill.” She had similarly warm words for her Conservative opposite number, Suzy Davies. Mrs Williams acknowledged: “She has worked incredibly hard on this Bill, and I know that she’s been fully committed to the scrutiny process. As I said in opening my comments today, I think we have a better Bill due to the CYPE committee’s efforts. I have gone to great lengths to try and respond positively to the cross-party report that the Committee published to try and meet those aspirations.” Like Mrs Williams, Suzy Davies steps down as an MS in May. She was unable to attend the debate. CURRICULUM CONTROVERSY Despite the Minister’s warm words, the new Curriculum’s journey to the statute book has not been without controversy. Activists railed against the Curriculum’s Religion Values and Ethics element and its focus on Welsh language teaching’s importance to all of Wales’ pupils. The inclusion of Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) in the Curriculum provoked vituperative responses from a small group of parents. They opposed children receiving what they’ve claimed will be inappropriately explicit sexual education. Senior Policy Researcher for NSPCC Cymru/Wales, Dr Sarah Witcombe-Hayes says: “The strength of support for mandatory relationships and sexuality education to be included in the new Curriculum for Wales by leading child protection experts and charities highlights what a game-changer this is. “The changes are long overdue, but in passing this Bill Senedd members are helping to protect children and young people from abuse – making sure every child and young person in Wales can access high quality RSE that is relevant, sensitive and appropriate to their own capacities and needs. “It will help all learners understand their rights to safe, healthy and fulfilling relationships throughout their lives, and schools must now be supported and fully resourced to deliver inclusive and high quality RSE from September 2022.” Regarding Welsh Language teaching and RSE, those with genuine concerns had those worries preyed upon to grandstanding political effect by fringe political movements, such as Ukip and Abolish the Assembly (sic.) Speaking for the latter group, Gareth Bennett said: “The downgrading of English teaching in the interest of immersion in Welsh is a sinister development. It will surely disadvantage Welsh schoolchildren who are not from a background of speaking Welsh at home.” Dr Felix Aubel, a noted controversialist, said: “UKIP would divert millions of pounds by abolishing the legal requirement to forcibly impose the Welsh language on people.” Like Abolish, UKIP will campaign on a platform of abolishing Welsh parliamentary democracy. Those organisations’ concerns on Welsh language education ignore the fact Welsh is the national language of Wales. Every credible educational study underlines how children benefit from bilingual education. HISTORY TEACHING CONCERNS PLAID On Tuesday, further and concerted criticism of the new Curriculum came from Plaid Cymru. Perturbed by the absence of Welsh history’s teaching, Plaid’s Sian Gwenllian announced the party would vote against the Bill in its final stage. Plaid’s Shadow Education Minister said that, although her party supported the Bill’s direction of travel: “Plaid Cymru argued for the inclusion of two other mandatory elements that could also contribute towards creating that social, far-reaching transformation that we want to see, namely the history of Wales in all of its diversity, including black and people of colour history, and environmental education, including climate change.
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Education

MHS Big Picture on tour

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DID you know that being creative can reduce stress, anxiety and help reduce symptoms of depression? 

Milford Haven School Art Club does, and that is why they want to invite our community to join them in creating a Big Picture together for World Mental Health Day.

Charities and organisations such as 2Wish, Samaritans and Liss Listens will be teaming up with Milford Haven School to help paint our Big Picture. 

Our Big Picture will go on to be donated to the community and be displayed in Milford Haven to spread joy and positivity.

Join them on Friday, October 14 between 10am and 2pm at Pill Social Centre. No experience is needed, everyone is welcome and all equipment and refreshments will be provided on the day.

They can’t wait to see you all

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Education

Beach Wheelchair scheme boosted by Bournemouth University students’ animation

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PEMBROKESHIRE Coast National Park Authority’s Outdoor Mobility Project is being promoted online thanks to an animation produced by students for Bournemouth University students.

The animation, which has been created for BFX, the UK’s largest computer game and animation festival, features the type of specially designed beach wheelchairs that are available to hire at various locations around the Pembrokeshire Coast.

The Park Authority’s Pembrokeshire Outdoor Mobility Project also includes mobility scooters and all-terrain wheelchairs, which are available at inland locations including Carew Castle, Castell Henllys Iron Age Village and Oriel y Parc Gallery and Visitor Centre in St Davids.

National Park Authority Health and Well-being Policy Officer, Hannah Buck said: “We were absolutely delighted to be chosen to be part of the competition and blown away by the quality of work and attention to detail shown by the students.

“The students have been brilliant to work with and really understood our brief and we are and are delighted with the finished animation, which will help spread the word about the range of equipment available to hire around the National Park.

The animation titled ‘A Day at the Seaside’ sees an elderly mother and her son looking at old photographs of a family holiday to Pembrokeshire in 1982.

The mother indicates her use of a walking stick would make a return trip impossible, but the son appears with a beach wheelchair and the two are able to enjoy a day on the beach just like they had done 40 years previously.

The animation competition winners will be announced during the BFX Festival in November.

The team behind the animation are Janet He, Koey Leung, Malachi Dempsey-Clark, Maria Bartucca and Soraya Assadian, with music by Jess Ward.

To find out more about the BFX Festival competition visit www.bfxfestival.com/competitions.

To watch the video, find out more about the beach wheelchairs and to find out how to pre-book, please visit www.pembrokeshirecoast.wales/beachwheelchairs.

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Education

New free school meals policy launched at Ysgol Bro Preseli in Crymych

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A NATIONAL scheme to roll out free school meals to the youngest learners in primary schools in Wales has been launched today (Wednesday, 7 September) by First Minister Mark Drakeford and Sian Gwenllian MS at Ysgol Bro Preseli in Crymych.

In Pembrokeshire, the rollout will include learners in:

full time nursery

• reception

• and years 1 and 2 pupils in primary schools

Known as the Universal Primary Free School Meals, the policy is part of the Co-operation Agreement between the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru.

The agreement will see free school meals extended to ALL primary school learners over the next three years.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “No child should go hungry. Families throughout Wales are under huge pressure because of the cost-of-living crisis and we are doing everything we can to support them.

“Extending free school meals to all primary schools is one of a number of measures we are taking to support families through this difficult time.

“I’m really pleased to see how our schools have embraced this and the speed at which they and our public services have worked together to begin providing free school meals.

“We know younger children are more likely to be living in relative income poverty, which is why the youngest of our learners will be the first to benefit.”

Cllr Guy Woodham, Cabinet Member for Education and the Welsh Language, said Pembrokeshire County Council were delighted to support the policy.

“Families are facing difficult times with the increasing everyday costs of living, so free, nutritious school meals for our youngest learners are great news,” he said. “No child should come to school hungry or be hungry during the day.

“We’d like to encourage parents of children in full-time nursery, reception and years 1 and 2 in primary schools to take advantage of this fantastic scheme from Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru.”

Ysgol Bro Preseli Headteacher Mrs Rhonwen Morris said: “As a school we aim to provide all learners with the same opportunity to thrive. We nurture learners from a young age; academically, socially and physically.

“We welcome such a progressive scheme ensuring that learners are provided with a nutritious balanced diet that will support all aspects of their education, progress and wellbeing.

“We look forward to seeing this scheme being extend to all primary school learners over the next three years thus ensuring equity for all in primary education.”

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