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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.”

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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Education

Sex Education campaigners fail in legal challenge to Welsh Government

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THIS WEEK (Dec 22), the High Court rejected an application to allow parents to withdraw children from the Welsh Government’s Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) curriculum.

The Court considered five claimants’ assertions that the RSE code overrode parents’ right to withdraw children from lessons that include RSE elements. The parents appeared under the campaign group Public Child Protection (Wales).

Each claim failed on each of the four grounds argued before the Court.

Reaching her decision, Mrs Justice Steyn said: “Teaching should be neutral from a religious perspective, but it is not required to be value-neutral.”

She ruled there was no common law right for parents to withdraw children from lessons, as the right to withdraw existed only under the previous statute the Welsh Curriculum replaced.

Campaigners claim they wish to preserve parents’ roles in educating their children about relationships and sexuality. However, the real issue for the campaigners is LGBTQ+ education, the only element of RSE referenced in the headline of a press release issued by PCP after the ruling. The headline repeats an untrue claim about the age at which such education would begin.

Groups with other agendas have latched onto the controversy and published bizarre, obscene, and exaggerated claims about what RSE teaching will contain.

Examining what the Welsh Curriculum’s RSE guidance contains shows those claims are baseless.
Despite malicious and publicity-seeking interventions regarding RSE, some parents undoubtedly feel their sensitivities have been marginalised and disregarded in pursuit of social and political agendas to which they take exception.

Moreover, the case highlighted the Welsh Government’s ability to listen only to views it finds congenial.

Paul Diamond, the standing counsel for the Christian Legal Centre, represented the campaigners.

The Christian Legal Centre’s intervention in high-profile cases involving religion and parental rights has attracted heavy criticism from some judges and lawyers for allegedly preying on vulnerable parents and “casting a fog over the facts and drilling into our deepest and most primal fears” while “pushing their own agendas”.

The misinformation around the Curriculum came in for direct criticism by Council for the Welsh Government, Jonathan Moffett KC.

Taking aim at how campaigners have framed their arguments, Mr Moffett said: “Hyperbolic rhetoric, which has been a feature of the claimants’ case throughout, is unhelpful.”

Mr Moffett said the claimants had failed to identify “what allegedly unlawful teaching” the new Curriculum would adopt and instead “resort to broad assertions”. He continued: “The claimants have not pointed to any passages in the code or the guidance that authorise or positively approve teaching that advocates or promotes any particular identity or sexual lifestyle over another, or that encourage children to self-identify in a particular way.”

Jeremy Miles, Wales’s Minister for Education, said: “I welcome the Court’s decision which found in favour of the Welsh Ministers on all grounds.
“We have been clear that RSE is intended to keep children safe and to promote respect and healthy relationships. Now more than ever, our children need our help in protecting them from harmful content and people online.
“RSE should provide young people with confidence to say no to bullies, to call out harassment, and to understand that families come in all shapes and sizes. Parents can expect the teaching their children receive to be appropriate for their children’s age and maturity: this is a legal requirement.”
Vivienne Laing, from NSPCC Cymru/Wales, said: “We welcome the decision made in the judicial review so that the rollout of mandatory teaching of Relationships and Sexuality Education in Welsh schools can continue.”

Kimberley Isherwood of PCP Wales: Says she will fight on (Image: FIle)

Undaunted by the scale of the campaigners’ defeat, a spokesperson for PCP (Wales), Kim Isherwood, claimed: “The evidence we provided to the Court referenced and highlighted concerning levels of betrayal, deceit and false claims made by the Welsh Government, but it appears as though the Judge agrees with them – not only do we parents not have rights, but they were never there, to begin with.

“The team is preparing the appeal; the higher the Court, the louder the message.

“This is not a loss – this is another level of exposure.”

For the Full response from the Welsh Government: CLICK HERE

The Jeremy Vine show explains why parents in Wales were taking legal action against the Welsh Government:

A video explaining why many were opposed to compulsory RSE lessons in Wales made by The Christian Institute:

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