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Education

Welsh Relationships and Sexuality Education Code: Parental choice vs children’s education

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A GROUP calling itself Public Child Protection Wales is fundraising for a legal challenge to the Welsh Government’s Relationships and Sexuality Education Code.
The Code passed the Senedd as part of the Curriculum for Wales.
The group claims to have raised £13,000 of the £100,000 it says it needs to bring the case.
It has already acquired the services of a barrister, Paul Diamond.

PCP Wales: Barrister Paul Diamond to take on Welsh Government (Pic Herald archive)

CODE ENDS PARENTAL CHOICE

The Code makes Relationships and Sexuality Education compulsory and ends a parent’s right to exclude their children from such lessons.
Public Child Protection Wales says it is for parents to decide the appropriateness of Relationships and Sexuality Education for their children and not for the state to intervene in their right to keep their children either ignorant or enlightened on the subject.
While PCP Wales claims to be a non-party political group, its cause has been taken up by extremist and fringe right-wing organisations who have tried to jump on the bandwagon to publicise their political agendas.
PCP Wales says its aims are “to promote a high standard of Safeguarding and raise awareness of exploitation and abuse of children. We will challenge policies that fail to safeguard and fight for additional investment in Children and young people’s services.”
Its intervention in Relationship and Sexuality Education extends “safeguarding” to include a final parental say over whether a child receives that education from their parents or teachers.

PEMBROKESHIRE AND PCPW

A case against Paul Dowson, county councillor for the Pembroke Dock Central Ward, relating to PCPW’s campaign goes before the Adjudication Panel for Wales later this year.
Councillor Dowson published a Facebook post stating that 0-3-year-olds “will” be taught about masturbation and that the new RSE curriculum “includes teaching 13-year-old boys and girls about anal sex”.
That is untrue, and the Ombudsman described the first of those allegations as particularly “outrageous and unpleasant”.
In an email to a fellow councillor, Councillor Dowson said RSE lesson plans teach 3-year-olds about masturbation and 11-year-olds and upwards about bondage, anal sex, and facial ejaculation.
Those untrue statements do not originate with Paul Dowson. They derive from misinformation peddled by individuals trying to outrage the public and incite opposition to the new Code.
The Ombudsman concluded: “I have seen no evidence that Councillor Dowson has evidence as to the content of the RSE curriculum or its lesson plans over and above that which is publicly available from Welsh Government.”
As a result, the Ombudsman concluded Paul Dowson’s posts were disinformation and alleged they brought his office as councillor into disrepute.
Paul Dowson rejects the allegations and criticisms, which form one part of a disciplinary case to be heard later this year.

CODE CONTENT UNPUBLISHED

While that might appear irrelevant to the campaign headed by PCP Wales, it goes towards the continuing miasma of disinformation, misinformation, and alarmism published on its Facebook page.
While RSE is taught in many countries in one form or another, teaching methods vary. In short: “For Wales, do not see “England”.
Moreover, as the lesson plans and Code content remain – as yet – unpublished, any information about alleged lesson plans and the course content is speculation at best and spurious at worst.
Therefore, the key issue cannot be what the course will teach – or even what campaigners imagine it will teach.
Instead, the core of any legal action against the Welsh Government must be on either “religious exemption” – the position before the new Curriculum became law – or an infringement on a parental choice about what their children are taught.
The religious exemption would be an arguable point only after the Welsh Government issues its guidance on the Code and lessons’ content. There is no engagement of any potential religious right to refuse until then.

PARENTAL CHOICE AND THE RIGHT TO LEARN

So, the case must centre on the question of parental choice.
PCP Wales is clear that’s their main objection – apart from scare stories about what the Welsh RSE Code might mandate.
They say: “[W]e must fight the legislation which mandates this over parental rights, preventing the parent carer from acting in the child’s best interest and be the judge as to what is age appropriate. It is time the adults shouldered the responsibility of sex education in the form of appropriate Safeguarding.”
PCP Wales trusts neither the Welsh Government, local authorities, maintained schools, headteachers, teachers, nor school governors to act appropriately or to gauge what is age-appropriate for a child. They assert parental autonomy and parental choice as the determining factor in what children learn in school.
Carried to absurd lengths, that train of argument would give parents control of everything taught in schools, or at least an ideological say over what their children learn about literature, history, or science.

LEGAL SERVICES OR SUPPORT

PCP Wales has instructed the independent barrister Paul Diamond to fight their case.
According to his website, Paul Diamond is “the leading barrister on the law of religious liberty, including matters of both ethical and social conscience.
“He combines his considerable strength in the field of religious liberty with his knowledge of public and European law. Paul is a specialist in European Human Rights law, EU law and certain aspects of public law.
“He has served as Standing Counsel to the Christian Legal Centre, a sister organisation of Christian Concern as well as the Keep Sunday Special Campaign.”
On its website, the Christian Legal Centre says: “We’re here to safeguard the freedom of Christians to live and speak for Jesus Christ, and to provide legal support for those taking a stand for Jesus and the truth that flows from him.”
The Christian Legal Centre is not a regulated legal practice and has no standing to instruct a barrister to act on behalf of clients.
Its interventions in public interest cases have been the subject of strong judicial criticism, which it rejects.
CLC’s interventions in cases are not meritless.
Freedom of religion and speech underpin civil society. However, the law is secular, created by legislatures, and subject to judicial interpretation.
However, to show the Welsh Government acted in such a way as to either infringe a protected right, whether relying on statutory breach or legal precedent, PCP Wales will have to demonstrate a real loss of a real existing right protected by real law.

THE WELSH GOVERNMENT RESPONDS

A spokesperson said: “It is disappointing that this group continues to promote incorrect and misleading claims about Relationships and Sexuality Education in Wales’s new curriculum.
“Topics like online safety, consent, and sexual health are all included in the Code, but at developmentally appropriate stages so learners aren’t exposed to things that aren’t appropriate to their age and development.
“At a younger age, for example, children will be taught about treating each other with kindness and empathy.
“As children grow older, they will gain an understanding of topics such as online safety, consent, and sexual health – all of which will be handled in a sensitive way.
“These reforms have been welcomed by a number of respected organisations including the NSPCC, the Children’s Commissioner’s Office, and Welsh Women’s Aid.”

Education

Phoebe-Lily shines in Royal Opera House design challenge

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PEMBROKESHIRE COLLEGE says it is proud to announce that Phoebe-Lily, a Graphics & Illustration student, has been awarded a ‘Commended’ judgment for her outstanding set design entry to the Royal Opera House Design Challenge. Phoebe’s entry was based on the production of ‘Barber of Seville’ and showcased remarkable creativity and skill.

Phoebe-Lily Williams was among ten Further Education students commended by the judges for their exceptional contributions.

The Royal Opera House Design Challenge provides a platform for young talents across the UK to demonstrate their creative abilities in set design. Phoebe’s commendation reflects her commitment to excellence and innovation in her field.

Upon receiving the commendation, Phoebe expressed her gratitude for the support she received from her tutors at Pembrokeshire College. She remarked, “I was more illustrative, and my tutors were very supportive. I want to go on to study set design and production, so Lou showed me the design challenge and said it would be okay to do that instead of a packaging brief.”

Phoebe chose Pembrokeshire College for its tailored modules that aligned with her career aspirations. She found the course to be conducive to developing the skills necessary for her desired path. “I enjoyed the process as it felt very liberating and positive, knowing that my tutors were encouraging and supportive of my career and study goals,” she added.

The Royal Opera House has invited the twenty winning, highly commended, and commended students, including Phoebe, to attend an awards ceremony on June 4, 2024. This event will provide them with an opportunity to interact with professionals in the field and gain insights into the day-to-day workings of the Royal Opera House.

Additionally, the public will have the chance to view the winning, highly commended, and commended works at an exhibition in the Linbury Foyer at the Royal Opera House from May 27 to June 10, 2024.

Amy McGann, Head of National Schools Programmes at the Royal Opera House, commended the participants for their creativity and expressed excitement about providing professional feedback to students from various educational settings. She stated, “The level of creativity from the young people across the country in this year’s Design Challenge has been high. As well as celebrating the Winners, Highly Commended, and Commended, we are looking forward to delivering professional feedback to students from an ever-widening set of participating educational settings.”

Phoebe-Lily Williams and her fellow commandeers represent the future of set design and production, and their achievements are a testament to their talent and hard work.

To find out more about the creative courses available at the College please visit www.pembrokeshire.ac.uk

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Education

Pembrokeshire schools achieve milestone for careers award

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32 schools in Wales have successfully completed the first stage of the new Careers Wales Quality Award, including Pembrokeshire Learning Centre.

The award supports schools and settings with learners aged 3-16 with the development of purposeful and relevant careers and work-related experiences (CWRE) across the curriculum.

The schools are taking part in the pilot of the new award and are working closely with dedicated curriculum coordinators from Careers Wales to develop a CWRE model that works best for the individual school and its pupils.

This stage forms the first of three stages, each with a different focus. Titled leadership, it forms the basis for the required ongoing development of pupils’ careers learning. 

WALES NEWS SERVICE

Jeremy Miles, Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Energy & Welsh Language, said: “Well done to all the schools taking part for their commitment to their pupil’s future career and work-related opportunities.

“It’s so important for children and young people to learn about the different pathways available to them to ease the transition from education to successful employment, and each school’s work-related experiences action plan will support this continuous development.

“We want to do everything we can to help our children and young people achieve their full potential. By developing work related experiences across the curriculum our schools can support their learners to go on to play their full part in our economy and society.”

As part of the leadership stage, the schools have worked closely with Careers Wales to create an action plan, a vision and strategy for CWRE, and have planned for the regular monitoring and review of this activity.

This stage has also seen the school identify the roles needed to facilitate effective development of CWRE and commit to allocate sufficient resources.

Jo Thomas, Teacher in Charge at Pembrokeshire Learning Centre, said: “The award has helped us enormously and has enabled us to develop best practice within the Pembrokeshire Learning Centre. We now have a robust policy in place, with clear aims as to the breadth of Careers Education.

“By doing the Quality Award, we are beginning to embed CWRE into our curriculum in a way that it incorporates all pupils.”

Nikki Lawrence, chief executive at Careers Wales, said: “A huge congratulations to all the schools who have completed the leadership stage of the Careers Wales Quality Award.

“Each school’s commitment to the award illustrates their ongoing dedication to provide their pupils with high quality careers and work-related experiences.

“Quality careers support equips young people with the vital skills, knowledge and resources to succeed, as well as benefitting the local community and economy in Wales with a capable, confident and motivated future workforce.

“We look forward to progressing through the award process alongside the participating schools. Together, we will achieve our shared objective to empower pupils with the ability to make informed decisions about their futures and take steps towards success.”

Following a successful pilot, the award has been designed to be launched nationally across Wales.

For more information on the award, visit the Careers Wales Quality Award pilot webpage.

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Education

Exciting visit to France for Pembrokeshire school pupils

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LAST week, 60 children and 16 teaching staff visited the Bassin d’Arcachon in France as part of a Taith funded project. 

The children, representing Pennar Community School, Neyland Community School, Prendergast Community School, Ysgol Penrhyn Dewi and Haverfordwest High School, engaged in a week of activities with French school children. 

They visited lessons, took part in dancing, art, maths and playground games, all with the aim of developing modern foreign language skills, exploring cultural similarities and differences as well as having an overarching theme of sustainability in schools and caring for the environment. 

The children explored the Dune de Pilat, the largest natural sand dune in Europe, and Biscarosse beach where they undertook beach and environmental studies.

The town of Neyland has had a twinning connection with the town of Sanguinet for more than ten years and this trip allowed these friendships to develop further and pave the way for a return visit by up to 20 French children next year.

The group was hosted by the twinning committee and the mayor at a reception in the town hall where the children had the opportunity to sample local dishes.

The children and staff were excellent ambassadors for their schools and for Pembrokeshire, laying the foundations for future collaborations.

Taith is Wales’ international learning exchange programme, with taith being Welsh for journey.

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