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Education

Have your say on proposals to increase the number of places at Portfield School

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL is consulting on a proposal to increase the number of places available at Portfield School in Haverfordwest, as part of the Council’s 21st Century Schools Programme (Sustainable Communities for Learning).

Portfield School provides education for pupils between three and 19 years of age who have statements of special educational needs.

It caters for pupils with a range of special educational needs, including severe learning difficulties, profound and multiple learning difficulties and autistic spectrum disorder, as well as various genetic disorders, physical and sensory impairments.

The school serves the whole of Pembrokeshire with some pupils coming from neighbouring local authorities. At present there are 168 pupils on the roll.

Steven Richards-Downes, Director of Education, said the Council places a great deal of importance on educating the most vulnerable learners in their local communities, so that they can access local services close to their home.

He said: “It is not just the increase in the number of learners that require specialist provision that are causing admission pressures, it is also the increase in the complexities of their needs which require additional staffing.

“Based on information from health visitors and demand in early years for specialist pre-school placements, it is predicted that the number of pupils with complex needs will continue to grow over the next five to ten years.”

It is therefore proposed to undertake the following improvements:

  1. To extend the existing Portfield upper school building in order to accommodate lower school pupils
  • To utilise an adjacent building on the site, known as the ‘H Block’, for use by Portfield School as a post 16 centre. This will also be used as community space;
  • An addition to an adjacent building, known as Holly House, in order to provide additional and full-time residential care places for Portfield School learners. This will increase the provision from a 6 bed unit to 9 beds. It is envisaged that this additional capacity will allow greater synergy with Portfield School, and will allow some learners to be accommodated on site.

You can give your views gives on the proposal at

https://haveyoursay.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/ or please email educationconsultations@pembrokeshire.gov.uk to request hard copy and accessible versions of the documents.

Cllr Guy Woodham, Cabinet Member for Education and Lifelong Learning, urged all those interested in the future development of Portfield School to take part in the consultation.

“It’s really important that we hear from as many people as possible in this consultation, so please do participate and let us know your views ahead of the deadline,” he said. 

The consultation runs until Friday 29th April 2022.

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Education

Handling of Manorbier School fire aftermath an ‘absolute disgrace’

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SENIOR members of Pembrokeshire County Council should apologise to staff at Manorbier School for not visiting following last year’s fire, a committee has heard.

Manorbier Church in Wales VC School and its adjoining school house was severely damaged by a fire on October 11, which broke out in the school roof space.

Pupils and staff were successfully evacuated with no injuries.

At Monday’s (Feb 6) Schools Learning and Scrutiny Committee, Cabinet Member for Education Guy Woodham said repairs and the insurance position – partly the responsibility of the council and partly the Diocese of St Davids – were being progressed as “a matter of urgency”.

County councillor for the ward Cllr Phil Kidney raised concerns about a lack of any senior members of the council visiting the school and the plight of the neighbours, who he felt had not been properly supported.

“The couple were 12 months away from retirement; they went to work that morning and due to a fire in a council-run building they lost everything,” he said.

“It’s too important to be embarrassed, it reflects very, very badly on the council. I don’t think they’ve been treated fairly; I hope the diocese can come to the rescue here and help them out.”

Cllr Kidney continued: “Make no bones about it, this could’ve been headline news on the six o’clock news, it really could’ve been.

“The response from the council – if I’m brutally honest – has been very poor; that’s the first time I’ve heard anything from the Cabinet member for education today, we’ve not seen him, the children have not seen him, the chief executive has not been down.

“We’ve had a lot of correspondence from Senedd member Sam Kurtz and MP Simon Hart has been on the phone but to date we haven’t had anyone from the council, nobody thought to come to Manorbier.

“The headmistress and staff down there feel totally undervalued, totally unsupported.”

He added: “If this was a school in Haverfordwest or Tenby there would’ve been suits everywhere, you wouldn’t be able to move.”

Cllr Rhys Jordan said to Cllr Kidney: “I think it’s an absolute disgrace that the cabinet member has only got hold of you knowing this is coming to this committee,” adding on record: “Either himself or the leader [Cllr David Simpson] should write a letter of apology.”

John Cecil, of the diocese, had earlier said the insurance claim was being dealt with by the proper department, adding: “I can assure you it is being dealt with appropriately.”

The local authority’s Chair of Scrutiny for Schools and Learning, Cllr Huw Murphy called to see the School for himself in early January and as a result had the matter added to the agenda for the Scrutiny meeting.

“As chair of PCC Schools and Learning Scrutiny the children, parents and staff at Manorbier School have my utmost sympathy and it’s disappointing that the Cabinet Leader on Education has not yet visited the scene to see for himself the severity of the devastation,” he said following the meeting.

“I implore that both PCC and the Church of Wales instigate repairs as soon as possible,” added Cllr Murphy.

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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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