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Welsh Government consults on school year changes

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THE WELSH GOVERNMENT opened a consultation about changing the school calendar on Tuesday, November 21.
The Welsh Government wants to spread breaks more evenly throughout the school year, including a 2-week half-term autumn break.
The current school calendar means that the autumn term is longer than others. Research suggests this term is tiring and challenging for learners and staff, as more teaching is squeezed into this term than any other.

CHANGES COULD BENEFIT DISADVANTAGED

The number of days of school holidays and teaching days will not change.
Some pupils, especially those from financially disadvantaged backgrounds and those with Additional Learning Needs (ALN), find it difficult to return to learning after long summer breaks.
Because the summer break is long, the autumn term has to be devoted to going over things rather than advancing learning. Teachers also report more behavioural and well-being issues after the summer break.
Under the new proposal, a week would be taken from the start of the summer break and added to the October break so that staff and learners get more time to rest during the long autumn term.
Teachers and pupils will still get 13 weeks of break, but some will be moved so they happen when they provide the most benefit.
These changes would be made from September 2025, meaning schools would get a two-week break in October 2025 and a five-week summer break in 2026.

TEACHERS AND TORIES EXPRESS DOUBTS

Teachers oppose changes to an academic calendar based on the pre-industrial revolution teaching pattern of Oxford University.
Emma Forrest, NEU Assistant General Secretary Regions, Wales, and Legal Strategy, said: “NEU is disappointed that the Welsh Government has chosen this time to propose changes to the pattern of the school year.
“It’s a really difficult time in education. The education workforce has seen significant periods of change to implement the new curriculum and significant additional learning needs and Reform.
“The Welsh Government must provide a clear rationale for Reform.
“Any changes need to be evidence-based and ensure the workforce’s well-being.
“Any changes must also show how they would benefit children and young people’s learning.
“NEU Cymru will be consulting with our members over the proposals.”
Welsh Conservative Shadow Education Minister Laura Anne Jones MS said: “There are many issues with Labour’s plans to reform the school year, with the biggest impact potentially being felt by pupils, teachers and parents. As well as an already struggling tourism sector.
“The Labour Government must learn the lesson from their disastrous 20mph consultation and listen to parents and teachers before they move forward with any plans.
“Although we support reforming the school day, Reform to both the day and the holiday cannot take place without compelling hard evidence on why it is needed and the positive difference it would make to pupils and teachers. This must not be based on perception or opinion.”

FURTHER CHANGES PLANNED

The consultation will also explore additional changes that could be taken forward in the future, but not from 2025.
These changes include the option of moving a second week from the summer break and adding it to the Whitsun break. This would help make terms similar lengths and the summer term more consistent, making it easier for pupils to learn and teachers to plan.
In this case, GCSE and A Level results days could happen in the same week. This will be explored over the coming years in the same timeframe as the rollout of our Made-for-Wales qualifications.
The proposal would also make the spring term easier to plan for. The two-week break in the spring always coincides with Easter, which moves around.
Keeping the spring break at a constant midpoint and separating it from Easter would make the term more consistent. Easter Monday and Good Friday public holidays would still apply. Teaching time for these days would be made up elsewhere in the year.

LONG SUMMER BREAK BAD FOR FAMILIES

Looking at different school term dates is part of the Co-Operation Agreement with Plaid Cymru.
Jeremy Miles, the Minister for Education and the Welsh Language, said: “The long summer break can be a real strain. Families struggle to find childcare over the six weeks, and others struggle with the additional costs long summers bring. We also know our most disadvantaged learners suffer the most ‘learning loss’ from a long summer.
“There are plenty of examples of local authorities across the UK changing their school calendar to suit local needs.
“We want to make sure education works best for pupils, teachers, and families. We’re looking for people’s views on these changes and what it would mean for them.”
Designated Member Sian Gwenllian said: “The current school calendar was designed long ago, under very different circumstances. We suggest changes that could work better for everyone, but most importantly for pupils of all ages.”

PARENTS WELCOME CONSULTATION

Jason Elsom, the Chief Executive of PTA organisation Parentkind, responded: “Our recent poll of 6,800 parents in Wales revealed that most parents support a move to spread school holidays more evenly across the year, with 72% of lower-income families in favour.
“It is fair to say that the current concentration of school holidays in the summer months results in inflated childcare and family holiday costs, compounding the challenges faced during the cost-of-living crisis.
“Most importantly, this impacts the life experiences and chances of the most vulnerable of children.
“We are pleased to see this consultation by the Welsh Government.”

Community

Police launch urgent search for missing 16-year-old in west Wales

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POLICE are actively searching for a missing 16-year-old boy, known only as Kobi, who has not been seen since last week. The teenager has connections across various towns in west Wales, including Llandeilo, Carmarthen, and Cardigan.

Kobi, described as tall with shaved black hair featuring a purple tint, was last spotted in Llanelli. Authorities have urged the public to remain vigilant and report any sightings of the boy immediately.

A spokesperson for Dyfed-Powys Police issued a public appeal, stating: “Can you help find Kobi, who has been reported missing? Kobi is 16 years old, and described as tall with shaved black hair which has a purple tint.”

Anyone with information on Kobi’s whereabouts is encouraged to contact Dyfed-Powys Police without delay, as concerns for his welfare continue to grow.

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Community

Feedback wanted on regional transport vision

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VIEWS are wanted on the future of transport in South West Wales.

Covering Carmarthenshire, Neath Port Talbot, Pembrokeshire and Swansea, a case for change that’s been developed for a regional transport plan is now open for public feedback until Monday August 26.

The case for change shows how the plan is essential to support the ongoing economic development of the region, while recognising its diverse communities and varying transport needs.

Aims of the plan include improving walking and cycling routes to local services, as well as achieving a shift away from private car usage to more sustainable forms of transport. Affordability will be at the centre of the plan to ensure access to transport is available to all.

Comments on the case for change will help inform a draft regional transport plan that will also be consulted on when it’s ready for feedback.  

Swansea Bay and West Wales Metro plans for an integrated bus and rail network will continue to be developed alongside the regional transport plan’s delivery in future. 

The rail metro elements are projected to add over a million journeys to the rail network, helping move more people out of cars and onto public transport than any other scheme in Wales.
Cllr Rob Stewart, Swansea Council Leader and Chairman of the Corporate Joint Committee (CJC) for South West Wales, said: “Adding to an outstanding tourism offer, South West Wales is undergoing a time of unprecedented investment, thanks to developments like the Celtic Freeport and £1.3bn Swansea Bay City Deal.
“These schemes – in combination with many others – will help create thousands of jobs for local people and attract even more investment to South West Wales in future, but we’ve also identified that our current transport network needs significant improvement to keep pace with these developments, while also better meeting the needs of local people in all the region’s communities – both urban and rural.
“The case for change – which also highlights the importance of affordability, climate change considerations and low-carbon transport – is intended as a guide to help inform the emerging regional transport plan.”
Cllr Darren Price, Carmarthenshire Council’s Leader and Chairman of the CJC’s transport sub-group, said: “The transport network is at the heart or our region. It takes us to work, education, healthcare and leisure and social activities both throughout South West Wales and further afield.
“It affects everyone, which is why we’re opening up our case for change for the regional transport plan for public feedback.
“With the population of the region also expected to increase in the coming decades, we need a transport system that accommodates existing and future developments in a way that supports sustainable travel choices, economic activity and social inclusion across the region.”
Head to www.cjcsouthwest.wales/consultation for more information and the opportunity to give feedback.
Email [email protected] if you have any queries.
Paper copies of the feedback form and consultation materials are available at:
Carmarthenshire: Ammanford Customer Services Hwb on Quay Street, Carmarthen Customer Services Hwb on St Catherine’s Walk or Llanelli Customer Services Hwb on Stepney Street.
Neath Port Talbot: Neath Civic Centre, Port Talbot Civic Centre or The Quays on Brunel Way in Baglan Energy Park.
Pembrokeshire: County Hall in Haverfordwest.
Swansea: The Civic Centre on Oystermouth Road.

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Community

Freshwater West named The Times newspaper Beach of the Year

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FRESHWATER WEST has been named Wales’s Beach of the Year, according to the annual best beaches guide by The Times and Sunday Times. The comprehensive guide, now in its 16th edition, lists the top 50 beaches in the UK and will be available in print on 21st July.

Chris Haslam, the award-winning chief travel writer for The Times and Sunday Times, described Freshwater West as “a wilderness of dunes, sand and rocks that draws surfers from across the world to ride its winter waves.” Haslam has personally inspected all 50 beaches on the list over the past eight weeks.

The guide evaluates the stunning beauty of the UK coastline using a meticulous 11-point checklist. This includes water quality, cleanliness, accessibility, parking facilities, lifeguard presence, hygiene standards at restrooms and showers, and dog-friendliness. For 2024, only beaches rated as “excellent” for water quality by national environment agencies have been included, and the guide exclusively covers mainland beaches.

Here are the best beaches in Wales according to the guide:

  • Wales’s Beach of the Year: Freshwater West, Pembrokeshire
  • Llanddwyn, Anglesey
  • Porth Iago, Gwynedd
  • Penbryn, Ceredigion
  • Mwnt, Ceredigion
  • Manorbier, Pembrokeshire
  • Pendine Sands, Pembrokeshire
  • Mewslade, Vale of Glamorgan
  • Oxwich, Vale of Glamorgan
  • Monknash, Vale of Glamorgan

Chris Haslam reflected on his travels, saying, “My Jack Russell, Dave T Dog, and I have journeyed 5,583 miles and explored 543 beaches. The 50 beaches that made our list are graced with outstanding natural beauty, superb infrastructure, and a clear sense of pride from those who live, work, and play there. I’m still in awe of the beauty of the UK coast. From Kynance to Caithness, and Brancaster to Benone, the beaches of Great Britain and Northern Ireland are the most magnificent on earth.”

For more details, visit The Times and Sunday Times Best UK Beaches.

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