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Education

Union calls for ‘immediate action’ to keep schools open in January

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A TEACHERS’ union is calling on the Welsh Government to “take urgent action” to reduce the potential risk of further disruption to education as a result of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

The surge of Covid cases in Wales, driven by the spread of the Omicron variant, is expected to cause significant staff absence issues when schools return next week.

Some schools need to start planning for pupils to return to online learning, Wales’ first minister said last week.

Mark Drakeford said teacher and staff illness will mean some pupils returning to home learning, but decisions would be made by individual councils, rather than the Welsh government.

The NASUWT union said its members “desperately want to be able to provide face-to-face teaching for all children and young people in the next academic term without further problems caused by the pandemic.”

While NAHT Cymru Director Laura Doel said: “The availability of staff is the biggest threat to education in January. Without the workforce fit and well, learners cannot go back to the classroom.”

NAHT Cymru Director: Laura Doel (Pic: BBC Wales)

The Welsh Conservatives want the government in Wales to “follow in the footsteps” of their English counterparts and invite “an army of ex-teachers to return to classrooms” in a bid to ease any potential pressure.

Dr Patrick Roach, NASUWT General Secretary, said teachers have been “on the frontline throughout the pandemic to support pupils and students and provide them with the best education possible.”

“However, the rising number of cases of the Omicron variant could cause significant disruption in the next academic term with many teachers being forced to self-isolate.

“The Welsh Government must take immediate action to ensure that schools can continue to operate safely and provide high quality education.

“This is particularly important to protect disadvantaged and vulnerable children and young people who have often been affected most by the pandemic.”

The NASUWT is urging the Welsh Government to reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission by providing government-funded air cleaning units to every school and college that needs these devices.

They are also calling on the Welsh Government to support household close contacts to self-isolate to reduce the risk of transmission and wider disruption within schools.

The union wants the government to commit to providing schools with more resources to enable on-site Covid testing.

The NASUWT has also called for improved financial support for schools and colleges to help with the cost of supply staff to cover for Covid-related absence.

Neil Butler, NASUWT National Official for Wales, said: “Teachers, pupils and students, and parents will be concerned about the potential risk of further disruption to schools caused by the Omicron variant.

“The Welsh Government must do everything it can to prevent schools from experiencing significant staffing problems next term and further damage to the education of children and young people.”
Staff availability, biggest threat to education.
NAHT Cymru Director Laura Doel said: “The availability of staff is the biggest threat to education in January.”

“Without the workforce fit and well, learners cannot go back to the classroom.”

“If LFTs for close contacts need to be taken for 7 days there must be a supply available for schools.”

“If track and trace are supposed to support the system we must ensure they have the capacity to do so and if parents are to understand what is required of them, there must be clear communication.”

“All of these elements need to be up and running next week to ensure the return to school is the success we want it to be.”

“The pressure on TTP system is an ongoing concern and therefore we maintain that classes should be designated as contact groups for testing purposes to bring consistency across all Local Authority areas and relieve the added pressure to trace close contacts, particularly in primary schools which is extremely difficult.”

“Given that staff availability has been a key area of concerns for months, NAHT Cymru believes prioritising the workforce for booster vaccinations was an opportunity missed.”

“It is too early to tell whether the new measures announced will be enough to keep schools open in January but we welcome the reintroduction of staggered session times and the planning days that will help schools manage their local situations.”

“Remote learning will remain a last resort, with staff absence and risk levels being the determining factors, but be assured that school leaders remain committed to doing all they can to support their learners and their families.”

The Welsh Conservative shadow education minister Laura Anne Jones MS said those who are recently retired, or trained as a teacher and moved career, should be asked to consider whether they can find even a day a week for the spring term to help protect face-to-face education.

She said: “Teachers have gone above and beyond throughout the pandemic, doing an inspirational job to support their pupils and communities in the face of adversity.”

“However, the disruption to school life and extended periods at home mean pupils’ education has inevitably suffered, particularly for those from disadvantaged backgrounds.”

“With cases of Omicron increasing across the country we must make sure schools and colleges have the teachers available to remain open for face-to-face education.”

“We have to be prepared for the new term ahead, otherwise our children will again feel the brunt. A ‘call to arms’ such as we’ve seen from Nadhim Zahawi and the Conservatives is a great idea and one we should replicate in Wales.”

“I hope the Labour Government gets such a scheme up and running so we can increase support in the classroom and minimise disruption to our children’s education.”

Education

Born to be Wild! Pembrokeshire College student visit Folly Farm

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Level 3 learners with Zoo Curator Tim Morphew.

LEVEL 3 Animal Management students have been preparing for their year ahead, where they will be based at the popular Folly Farm Adventure Park and Zoo and working alongside the park’s infamous Zookeepers.

The idyllic park based in the heart of Pembrokeshire is a popular day out with families both locally and nationally. The park has been operating for over thirty years and originally started as a dairy farm and then developed its zoo status in 2002. 

The park currently houses over 200 different species of animal and is a member of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria and the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Learners feeding the giraffes

The parks Zoo Curator, Tim Morphew kindly showed the students around on a private tour of the grounds and provided an exclusive behind the scenes peek of the park’s daily operations and animal exhibits.

Tim discussed with the learners the importance of animal conservation and how this will play a vital role in the students’ work experience in September and discussed how they will work closely with the wild cats who are due to arrive in the coming weeks.

“The relationship between the college and Folly Farm works so well as it gives the students an opportunity to learn how to care for a huge range of exotic animals that perhaps students elsewhere don’t get the chance to do. It’s clear to see from their faces that they love getting so close to giraffes, rhinos and all the other zoo animals, and hopefully we are inspiring the next generation of zookeepers and conservationists!” said Tim.

Learners meeting camel calf Cletus

The behind-the-scenes tour continued with meeting the penguins and feeding the giraffes via the keepers own private feeding and health check platform.

Students were provided the opportunity to meet baby camel Cletus who, like many other species at the park, are accompanied with a tale to tell. Cletus grabbed the hearts of the students with his friendly and curious personality and provided an opportunity for lots of cwtches.

Animal Care learner Lizzy said, “I am really enjoying the course, because the lecturers are really supportive and enthusiastic. The hands-on practical experience is the most enjoyable part for me and very useful for gaining experience of working with a large range of animals. 

In September we will be ​working alongside the keepers and gaining knowledge and understanding of how a zoo works. I am really looking forward to this part of the course and having real industry experience will help with my future endeavours.

“I would highly recommend the Level 3 Animal Care Course at the College, it helps prepare you for a life of working with animals, both practically and theoretically. We learn with lecturers who come from a wide variety of backgrounds which involved working with animals and now we get to work with real zookeepers too.

Learners feeding the giraffes

“After this course I would like to go on to do a degree in Animal Welfare and Ethics. This will hopefully enable me to find a career as an Animal Behaviourist or Zookeeper.”

The Colleges’ Level 3 Animal Management course allows the students to be based at Folly Farm where they will study and work hands-on in the park with a variety of species under the supervision of the Zookeepers. 

Their work experience involves cleaning out exhibits, being involved in animal conservation, feeding, grooming and health checks. Currently these students are the only work experience candidates onsite at Folly Farm opening many doors to the world of domestic and exotic animal care.

Animal Care Lecturer Kim said, “Our Level 3 Animal Management learners have the unique opportunity of not just having a classroom out at Folly Farm, which overlooks the Rhino enclosure, but also the incredible experience of working with the Zookeepers. This is an amazing chance to build on skills and passion, which, alongside Level 3, can open many doors to working in the industry. 

“The Level 3 course provides the perfect stepping stone to university or straight out into the workplace, no matter what the route of choice, be it veterinary, conservation, animal keeping or anything else!”

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Education

Port sponsors summer sailing programme for Pembrokeshire pupils

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PUPILS from three Pembrokeshire primary schools have been learning to sail following sponsorship from the Port of Milford Haven.

The Pembrokeshire Performance Sailing Academy (PPSA), based at Llanion Cove in Pembroke Dock, has been supported by the Port to deliver a six week programme to thirty-two students from St Florence School, Gelliswick School and Narberth School.

The children worked towards gaining their RYA Youth Sailing Scheme Stage 1 certificates, with six returning students from St Florence working towards their Stage 4 certificates in crewed dinghies.

This is the second year the Port has supported the PPSA to deliver water-based training to schools in the county following a successful programme in 2021 which saw twenty-four students gain qualifications and new-found confidence.

Richard Owens, Chief Instructor from the PPSA, said “Once again, it’s been fabulous to be able to introduce children from Pembrokeshire to the skills and fun that sailing can bring. The pupils have developed a host of skills, including building confidence, decision making, communication and independence whilst in a healthy, clean and exciting environment. They have skills that will stand them in good stead as they move forward. We hope to see them return in the future or continue sailing in local sailing clubs and on the race circuit, or just having fun in sailboats.”

Community Engagement Officer at the Port, Hollie Phillips, commented “It’s been great to see so many school pupils enjoying the water and learning important skills that will help them to stay safe when they go afloat. We’re always keen to encourage young people to access the Milford Haven Waterway so this is a fantastic introduction to what’s on offer on their doorstep.”

Photo: Brian Macfarlane and Hollie Phillips from the Port of Milford Haven with the team from the PPSA and pupils from Gelliswick, St Florence and Narberth schools who all received sailing certificates.

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Education

Children at Ysgol Caer Elen, Haverfordwest receive enterprise education programme

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Left to right: Natasha Morris (Progression Step 2 Leader Y1-3, Ysgol Caer Elen), Kayleigh Ball (VINCI Social Value Co-Ordinator), Spencer Thomas (VINCI Construction Manager), Samantha Morris (Assistant Head Teacher, Ysgol Caer Elen) with pupils of Ysgol Caer Elen, Haverfordwest.

CHILDREN at Ysgol Caer Elen in Haverfordwest have embarked on an enterprise education programme provided to the school by VINCI Building, the UK construction division of VINCI Construction, which is delivering upgrades and infrastructure works at Withybush General Hospital under the joint venture IHP, an alliance between VINCI Construction UK and Sir Robert McAlpine.

VINCI Building has partnered with 2B Enterprising to provide the children with an innovative enterprise skills programme called The Bumbles of Honeywood. This programme is exclusively focussed on primary education and is delivered in collaboration with commercial business partners through the 2B Enterprising Corporate Engagement Partner programme. 

To date, this unique model has partnered 70 businesses with 170 schools across the country educating over 10,000 children.

The aim is to help children develop enterprise skills from an early age and to boost awareness of the careers available in construction. 

As well as supplying the package, VINCI Building’s team have visited the school to talk about their work and have arranged for pupils to visit VINCI Building at work.

The Bumbles of Honeywood programme has been developed by entrepreneurial business leaders and experienced educators with extensive input from teachers. Cultivating entrepreneurship and enterprise skills from a young age shows huge value in equipping pupils for their future lives and careers. 

Lesson plans have been created to ensure teachers can map the learning to their curriculum – not only hitting entrepreneurial skills criteria but supporting other areas of learning such as Oracy, Literacy, Numeracy and Modern and Foreign Languages.

The programme is built around a series of beautifully illustrated books and interactive extension activities that explore the enterprising nature of honeybees and other characters to help children develop skills such as resilience, problem solving, leadership, communication, and teamwork.

Russell Flowers, regional director for VINCI Building, said: “This is an exciting programme that raises awareness about careers and supports the communities we work in. We want to encourage more young people, in particular more young women, to consider careers in construction, and this programme will help us to achieve that. 

“Our teams really enjoy their visits to the schools and are impressed by the children’s energy and enthusiasm. This is a great investment in our future generations.”

Natasha Morris, Progression Step 2 Leader, Years 1-3 at Ysgol Caer Elen said: “We’re delighted to be able to welcome VINCI Building and The Bumbles of Honeywood into our school. The Bumbles of Honeywood programme provides a set of engaging stories and activities that the children enjoy. They have engaged well in this project and have had an opportunity to meet people from VINCI Building and found out more about their work in the local area.”

Jayne Brewer, 2B Enterprising CEO, said: “We’re delighted to be partnering with VINCI Building to bring The Bumbles of Honeywood into five more schools. Enterprise education is increasingly being recognised as a key requirement, and something that should start from a young age. 

“Our Corporate Engagement Partners play a vital part in this, helping to inspire and educate pupils by giving them real life examples of enterprise in action. As well as helping the pupils gain valuable life skills, VINCI Building are introducing them to the wide array of job opportunities that exist in construction and raising awareness of the exciting building projects happening in their area.”

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