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Education

Pembrokeshire parents reassured amid concerns about school concrete

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AS more than 100 schools in England grapple with the closure of classrooms or the introduction of safety measures due to concerns over the structural integrity of their buildings, Pembrokeshire council has extended reassurances to parents.

This crisis stems from the discovery of Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) in several key facilities, prompting concerns over potential structural hazards. Withybush Hospital in Haverfordwest made headlines recently when it declared a “major incident” after RAAC was discovered on its premises. A “limited part” of Bronglais Hospital in Aberystwyth was also found to have RAAC.

In a related development, the UK Government took action last week, instructing many schools and colleges near the border to either fully or partially close their buildings due to the presence of concrete that could pose sudden collapse risks. RAAC, a building material in use from the 1950s to the mid-1990s, came under scrutiny following the collapse of a concrete beam over the summer, prompting this drastic response.

The issue of infrastructure falls under devolved powers, and the Welsh Government has announced its intention to assess the extent of the problem within the country.

Pembrokeshire County Council has offered a glimmer of hope for parents, confirming that all schools in the region will open as scheduled after the summer holidays. They stated that “no specific issues” have been identified in the authority’s buildings.

A council spokesperson addressed the situation, saying, “Parents and guardians will be aware of media reports in England regarding concerns about Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete in schools. Pembrokeshire County Council can confirm that at this time there are no specific issues highlighted across the council’s buildings. All schools will re-open as planned after the summer holidays, and staff are looking forward to welcoming pupils back. The authority will continue working closely with the Welsh Government on this matter.”

In contrast to England’s response, the Welsh Government has opted for a different approach since the 1960s, focusing on a comprehensive school and further education building program aimed at mitigating the risks associated with aging structures.

A Welsh Government spokesperson elaborated, “Earlier this year, we commissioned a condition survey of all state-funded schools and colleges, which will identify any structures suspected of containing Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete.

Local authorities and further education institutions have not reported to us any instances of RAAC being present within schools or colleges. We will continue to work closely with the WLGA (Welsh Local Government Association) and local authorities on this issue and will provide an update once the survey has been completed.”

Education

Unveiling Caitlin Flood-Molyneux: Master of paint and mixed media

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CAITLIN FLOOD-MOLYNEUX, a visionary contemporary Welsh artist and former Pembrokeshire College student, has emerged as a beacon of artistic expression with her unique fusion of paint and mixed media collage. Her distinctive artistic journey has led her through various educational and creative landscapes, culminating in a body of work that navigates the intricacies of emotion, memory, and hardship through the lens of pop culture imagery.

Caitlin’s artistic flare began at Pembrokeshire College, where she embarked on the Graphic Design Diploma before challenging herself further with the Foundation Diploma where she discovered the potential of her own practice before setting her sights on a deeper exploration of Art and Design at Cardiff Metropolitan University. It was during her university years that her horizons expanded exponentially, as she spent a year in Norway as part of her coursework.

Central to Caitlin’s artistic practice is her exploration of the connection between pop culture imagery and the intricate tapestry of human emotion and memory. Drawing inspiration from the revolutionary styles of DADA and early Pop Art, Caitlin found imagery with abstract painterly forms, crafting a distinctive visual language that captures the essence of her narrative. Historical imagery, an integral element of her work, serves as a vessel for the memories she aims to convey. Her artistic expression strikes a harmonious balance between deeply personal experiences and universal themes, inviting viewers to embark on a personal voyage of connection and reflection.

Caitlin Flood-Molyneux’s exceptional talent has developed to international recognition. Her work has graced platforms such as a gallery in New York and the distinguished Saatchi Art Fair and Christie’s Auction House in London, where her pieces were showcased alongside renowned figures like Banksy and Andy Warhol. Caitlin’s collaboration with artist Lynette Reed during her residency in Italy stands as a testament to her collaborative spirit.

One of the most significant intersections of her journey was her meeting with Lynette Reed at a London art show. This connection sowed the seeds of creativity and collaboration, and they are now working on a show together.

Reflecting on her artistic evolution, Caitlin fondly recalls her time at College as the turning point in her artistic passion. “My best years were spent at College as that’s where I found my love for art and pursuing a dream career. College felt like a family, and the lecturers were so supportive, I could not recommend them enough.” she shares.

Cath Brooks, Curriculum Area Manager at Pembrokeshire College said: “Caitlin is a beautiful, generous, creative soul, we are very proud to observe and celebrate her phenomenal artistic achievements so far. Caitlin always possessed a determination and persistence to explore, investigate and inform herself through creative practice. Caitlin honed a very open attitude to grab opportunity and establish a strong positive work ethic, a true role model for anyone.”

Caitlin Flood-Molyneux’s artistic voyage continues to captivate and inspire, inviting audiences to explore the intersection of art, emotion, and memory. As her work resonates with both personal and universal narratives, she cements her place as a luminary in the contemporary art world.

For more information, about the creative courses offered at Pembrokeshire College please visit: www.pembrokeshire.ac.uk

Follow Caitlin Flood-Molyneux’s artistic journey @floodmolyneuxart

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Education

People encouraged to help shape the future of educational resources in Wales

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PEOPLE from across Wales are being urged to have their say and help shape the commissioning of the nation’s educational resources.

Earlier this year the Welsh Government established Adnodd, a new body to co-ordinate and oversee the provision and commissioning of bilingual education resources to support the Curriculum for Wales and its qualifications.

Adnodd’s vision is for learners and practitioners to have access to relevant, high quality and innovative resources, in Welsh and English, which enrich learning and teaching and help every learner succeed.

Historically, education resources have been available from a vast array of organisations and companies, but up until now this provision has not been co-ordinated. There has also been no fairness in the provision and availability of both Welsh and English with difficultly to ensure the quality of these resources.

As part of establishing its commissioning process Adnodd is calling on a wide range of people from practitioners and learners, through to parents, carers and those working in the industry to share their thoughts and help shape the future work of the body through completing a short online survey.

Speaking of the importance of people engaging with the survey, Interim Chair of Adnodd, Owain Gethin Davies said, “We are currently gathering the views of those with an interest in our work through online surveys.

“Whether you are a practitioner in Wales, a parent or carer, a creative content company or an organisation that produces educational resources, we value your thoughts and now is your chance to have your say and influence our future work and help improve our children’s education.”

Parents, carers and learners who complete the online surveys will be entered into a prize draw for a £100 book token, redeemable at a range of retailers and independent bookshops across Wales. Meanwhile, teaching practitioners will also be entered into a prize draw to win a £100 book token for use in connection with their teaching work.

A link to the online surveys can be found here: https://educationwales.blog.gov.wales/2023/07/19/complete-the-adnodd-survey-and-help-shape-the-future-of-educational-resources-in-wales/

Or

bit.ly/3ODCTuB

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Education

Clarity on lightweight concrete in Welsh school buildings needed

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AS CONCERNS grow regarding the presence of Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) in schools and colleges across Wales, the National Education Union (NEU) Cymru has called for clarity, transparency, and urgent action to address potential safety risks posed by this building material.

The issue revolves around the use of RAAC, a lightweight form of concrete, in school and college buildings constructed or modified between the 1950s and the mid-1990s. Whilst the material itself has raised concerns due to its structural vulnerabilities, the government’s approach to managing it has evolved significantly.

The Welsh Government has stated that local authorities and Further Education Institutions have yet to report any instances of RAAC being present within schools or colleges. A comprehensive survey of all state-funded educational institutions has been commissioned to identify structures suspected of containing RAAC, according to a Welsh Government spokesperson.

However, despite the lack of reported issues, NEU Cymru has taken a proactive stance to ensure the safety of its members, learners, parents, and communities. The union has reached out to all Local Authorities in Wales and sent a letter to Jeremy Miles, the Minister for Education and Welsh Language, seeking detailed information about the use of RAAC in schools and colleges. David Evans, the Secretary of NEU Cymru, emphasised the need for urgency in addressing this matter to ensure the safety of all stakeholders involved.

A communications officer from Pembrokeshire County Council acknowledged the concerns but stated that, at present, there are no specific issues highlighted at an organisational level related to RAAC within the region. The safety and well-being of students and staff remain a top priority for the council.

The government’s official advice on the matter outlines the shift in approach concerning RAAC management. Recent cases of RAAC-related structural issues have led to a reevaluation of building safety, prompting education settings to vacate spaces containing RAAC unless adequate mitigations are in place. The government is working to minimise disruption to education while ensuring the safety of all individuals involved.

RAAC, while historically used in school construction, has raised concerns due to its susceptibility to structural weaknesses. The change in management approach reflects the government’s commitment to prioritise the safety of students and staff. Responsible bodies are urged to complete a questionnaire to assess the presence of RAAC and take necessary actions to mitigate potential risks.

As NEU Cymru continues to seek clarity and safety measures, Welsh schools and colleges must stay informed about RAAC’s implications. The priority remains ensuring that students can return to their educational environments safely, while addressing any potential risks posed by the presence of RAAC. Parents, students, and education professionals are encouraged to stay informed through official channels and take proactive measures to ensure a secure learning environment.

Commenting, Welsh Conservative Shadow Education Minister, Laura Anne Jones MS said: “Unstable concrete is likely present in our Welsh schools.

“Given that the UK Conservative Government were looking into this last year and took firm but decisive action yesterday, it is now clear that the Labour Government here in Wales are behind the curve.

“With school starting back in just 3 days, I am urging the Labour Government to work round the clock to make absolutely certain that schools are safe for our children and that no pupils are put at risk.”

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