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Education

WG trebles funding for teacher support

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WALES’s Minister for Education, Jeremy Miles, has announced that funding for mental health and well-being support for school staff will be trebled in the next financial year.


The spending on support for school staff will increase from £350,000 in 2021-22 to £1.25 million in 2022-23. The Welsh Government plans to increase this funding year-on-year to over £3 million by 2024-25.


The increased funding is part of the Welsh Government’s ‘whole School approach’, with total funding for schools, for pupils and staff, increasing to £12.2 million in the next financial year. The funding will be more than double the level compared to the start of the pandemic, from £5 million in 2020-21.
The Welsh Government’s whole-school approach aims to support the emotional and mental wellbeing of learners and staff in schools.


The funding will aim to tackle waiting lists, increase support for younger children and provide more training for support staff in schools, including on the impact of Covid19.


New funding will also be targeted towards well-being support for learners in Pupil Referral Units, with £1.45 million announced over the next three years.


Jeremy Miles said: “Covid-19 has presented new challenges for schools and learners, as we all adjusted to changes to the way we live our lives. The pandemic has emphasised the need for us to build resilience, by strengthening and widening the support net for learners and staff.


“As well as continuing to provide support for children and young people, the next phase of funding aims to boost support for school staff in particular, by trebling the support next year.


“We have invested in increasing support during the pandemic, but I am clear that this is not a one-off, short-term measure – I want to build up the support year-on-year, to make it easier for staff and learners to access the support they need, when they need it.”


The Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing, Lynne Neagle, said: “The last two years have had a tremendous impact on everyone in Wales, including teachers and other school staff.


“It is vital to recognise that by supporting their emotional and mental wellbeing, we can help our young people reach their full potential.  This is why we convened the Joint Ministerial Task and Finish Group on a whole-system approach to wellbeing in 2018 and why it will continue to drive delivery and improve provision in this area.


“It is fantastic we have been able to treble investment in emotional, mental health and well-being support to help everyone in the education system.


“This funding will ensure more people can access the support they need, reducing the number of those feeling overwhelmed or unsure of where they can seek help and advice.”


David Evans, Wales Secretary for the National Education Union Cymru, said: “Pressure on the education workforce has never been higher, with Covid-19 still having an impact in our schools.


“In an NEU Cymru survey last year, 80 per cent of respondents said that work had an impact on their mental health, with 60 per cent saying work had made their mental health worse since the pandemic.
“Our members tell us there is a significant lack of support measures in place for workers experiencing poor mental health. Workload is the single most important factor in terms of pressure.


“Alongside tackling workload, this extra money should mean that schools are able to identify and support staff with their wellbeing.


“We’re asking schools and local authorities to work with union representatives and use this opportunity to audit the wellbeing of the education workforce in every workplace. This money should help them make sure the findings of such an audit can be acted upon, and make a difference to staff.


“NEU has our own mental health charter which we are asking every workplace in Wales to adopt and puts the wellbeing of staff at the heart of the school.”

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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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