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Education

School banding system to change

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New Era: Schools to be colour coded.

New Era: Schools to be colour coded.

THE SCHOOL banding system for Wales is to change, following a recent announcement from the Welsh Assembly Government. A new colour coded system will replace the old number graded system in both secondary and primary schools. The system will now, according to Labour Ministers, use a wider range of data over three years, rather than just the one that is used at present.

From January 2015 schools will be rated from green (best rating), to yellow, amber and red (lowest rating). Those categorised as red will need ‘significant improvement’. School banding was launched in December 2011, with secondary schools grouped into one of five bands, and has been criticised by teaching unions who believed the system to be a failure, with the ATL union going so far as to accuse it of being ‘bonkers’. The new system will use exam results in key subjects, and will also include attendance levels, as well as self- evaluation.

Initially the top 25% of schools will be in the green zone, but if all schools do well they could, in theory, all move up to that section. Education Minister Huw Lewis said the aim was to ‘improve on the current banding system’, but denied it had failed. Plaid Cymru education spokesman Simon Thomas welcomed the new system, saying it was: “A step in the right direction for higher standards, but there is still a need for improvement in measuring and raising education standards. Plaid Cymru always warned that banding did not provide a whole view of a school’s performance.

We believe that pitting schools against each other is destructive and should not happen. I am glad that the Welsh Government has now seen sense and scrapped the system of banding. We have always called for support for under – performing schools and hope that the new system will provide this support”. NAS/UWT Wales Organiser, Rex Phillips, said of the proposed changes: “The new system at least has the merit of allowing all schools to go ‘green.’

However, the Welsh Government continues to miss the point that what’s needed is investment in the school workforce, not back-room bystanders”. Whilst NUT Cymru secretary, David Evans commented: “School banding had lost all credibility and it had clearly run its course. The Education Minister should be commended for recognising that and for putting in place a new model.” However, in 2012, the then Labour Education Minister, Leighton Andrews, defending the current banding system, had said he thought parents wanted consistency and that banding had enabled local authorities, head teachers, parents and pupils to focus on the consistency of leadership in their schools, citing the system ‘a great success’ and saying the system was there to ‘serve the interests of learners’ and that he was ‘pleased that the school improvement programme was starting to deliver for learners’. 

Angela Burns, Shadow Education Secretary and AM, said: “I welcome this long-awaited u-turn on a badly drawn up policy, which was fairly universally condemned by teaching unions, was confusing and failed to provide any clear information to parents on school performance and incensed hard working Head Teachers because it produced such arbitrary results. Labour’s banding policy was poorly planned and simply thrust upon the education sector in the face of universal opposition. Whilst I welcome Labour’s light bulb moment that they need to listen to teachers and parents and engage with them in developing school performance data I do hope these new rankings will not, like the previous banding policy, give schools a perverse incentive to recruit more pupils who qualify for free school meals at the expense of driving up standards. What parents want to see in robust school data is achievement in academia and key skills as well as evidence of which school will draw the best out of their particular child in order to help them succeed in the adult world.”

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Education

Multi-million build Pembrokeshire school continues at pace

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MORGAN SINDALL CONSTRUCTION and Pembrokeshire County Council have celebrated reaching the halfway stage of delivering Haverfordwest’s £48.7m landmark new Haverfordwest High VC School building.

The milestone was marked with a ‘topping-out’ ceremony, where the client team were invited to witness for themselves the dramatic progress that has been made on the former Sir Thomas Picton School site.

This key stage also represents a continuing commitment to transforming Pembrokeshire schools into high quality 21st Century school environments. The strong partnership working between the authority and Welsh Government is providing learners with the very best facilities.

The new school building will accommodate 1500 pupils aged 11-16 and 250 sixth form pupils. It will open in September 2022.

Demolition of the former school started in January 2020, with all involved with the project working hard to ensure construction began in November 2020.

The client team were invited to a ‘topping out ceremony’ at the school, which is held once the building structure is complete. The ceremony includes the placing of an evergreen tree on top of the building for good luck.

Morgan Sindall Construction are now at the halfway point and on track to have the school ready during summer 2022.

As part of the project, Morgan Sindall Construction are also building new sports facilities including an eight-court sports hall, a full-size floodlit 3G pitch and two multi-use games areas. The existing athletics track, all-weather pitch and grass pitches will also be retained.

It will not just be those that attend the new-build high school and sixth form that benefit from the new sports facilities – all will be available for the local community to use outside of school hours.

Robert Williams, area director of Morgan Sindall Construction, said: “We’re delighted to reach this major milestone at Haverfordwest High VC School and see this project really taking shape. Being at this stage of the project, despite all the challenges we have faced with the pandemic and supply chain, is testament to the hard work and dedication of everyone involved.

“The new school will provide first-class educational and sports facilities for both current and future generations of pupils to enjoy, as well as the surrounding community who will have access outside of school hours.

“We look forward to continuing our close working relationship with Pembrokeshire County Council and the Welsh Government as they continue their important work with the 21st Century Schools and Colleges Programme.”

Cllr Guy Woodham, Cabinet Member for Education and Lifelong Learning at Pembrokeshire County Council, praised the progress on site, and said. “I continue to be impressed with the huge efforts everyone has made to keep this project on time despite the many challenges that have had to be faced and overcome. My heartfelt thanks go to all involved and I very much look forward to this fantastic new school opening in September next year.”

The construction of Haverfordwest High VC School is now at the halfway stage.

Jane Harries, Headteacher at Haverfordwest High VC School, said: “The school are delighted with the progress achieved by the team despite the challenges posed by COVID. To be able to keep the programme on time and on budget is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the team from Pembrokeshire County Council, Morgan Sindall and all the contractors involved.

“The Headteacher, Governors and staff are particularly grateful for the opportunity to be regularly consulted on aspects of the design and build process for the new school which will undoubtedly be an outstanding educational provision for the pupils from Haverfordwest and its catchment area.”

County Councillor Alison Tudor, local member for Prendergast, said there was a great deal of anticipation for the new school, which would make a big difference to the future of education in Haverfordwest.

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Education

First Class Honours for Pembrokeshire woman

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A WOMAN from Pembrokeshire will graduate from her university studies next week with a First Class Honours degree.

Genevieve Robertshaw Maidment is among those to have completed their degree at the University of Worcester, achieving First Class Honours in her studies in Screenwriting with Film Production.

The 24-year-old, of Narberth, said: “I honestly can’t believe that I managed to complete my time here with a First. It’s been such a crazy few years, and I’m so proud that I finally succeeded in getting myself to this point after years of thinking I would never even make it to University, let alone achieve a First Class Degree! But I will say that I’ve been so incredibly lucky to have had such caring and supportive lecturers and the most fabulous course-mates, and I just hope I’ve done them proud, because I couldn’t have managed it without them.”

Genevieve’s long-term plans are not yet fixed, but, in the short term, she is looking to relocate to Bristol, which she says is a creative and media-centric city where she can take opportunities that arise. “Ideally, I’d love to break into the creative industry one day, either as a writer or by working in Location (for film or TV), but at the moment I’m just content to take things a step at a time as I embark upon this new chapter of my life,” she said. “Whilst I now have a lot of re-evaluating and figuring out to do, completing my degree has given me a renewed faith and confidence in myself, and will hopefully help to open doors for me in the Future.”

She is one of around 3,000 graduands who will graduate from the University in the historic Worcester Cathedral next week.

Genevieve, who attended Ysgol Dyffryn Taf, in Whitland, (Whitland school) and Coleg Sir Gar (Carmarthenshire College), in Llanelli, was initially attracted to Worcester due to the content of the course. “But when I arrived on campus for one of the Open Days, I just instantly felt at home, and subsequently couldn’t imagine wanting to be anywhere else,” she added. “This feeling of belonging was further intensified when I then met some of my prospective lecturers. They were so lovely and engaging, and really made me certain that this was somewhere I – a then rather terrified and under confident 21-year-old – might flourish.”

Having taken up her studies, Genevieve found continuing them when the pandemic hit in March 2020 challenging. She said: “It was such a concerning time for multiple reasons, but with regards to my degree, I felt very supported by my lecturers, and it was absolutely clear that the University was trying ever so hard to make things work for us under very restricting and unpredictable conditions.”

Her final year was, she acknowledged, overshadowed by the pandemic, but she added: “Despite all of the fear, uncertainty, and concern for ourselves and our loved ones, we continued to do our very best, and found enjoyment where we could – facing the year with a resilience that most of us probably never knew we had. So for that we should take courage for the future, because no matter what the outcome was, we did it!”

For Genevieve, one of the things that kept her going throughout this time was Loco Show Co. – the musical theatre society at the University. In her final year she was elected as its Director, giving her the chance to write and direct a pantomime, though due to Covid restrictions it was performed online instead.

The University’s Deputy Vice Chancellor and Provost, Professor Sarah Greer, said: “The class of 2021 showed remarkable resilience and determination in the face of some unprecedented challenges during their studies, due to very difficult external circumstances. They have all done so well in earning a degree from Worcester, through their hard work, perseverance and dedication. This should stand them in good stead as they move into their chosen careers. Our students who earned a First Class Honours should feel particularly proud of themselves – it is an outstanding achievement. Many congratulations to them and I wish them all the very best in their future careers. I would also like to thank our outstanding staff at the University, who went above and beyond to ensure that our students reached their full potential.”

For information on courses at University of Worcester visit www.worcester.ac.uk or for application enquiries telephone 01905 855111 or email admissions@worc.ac.uk

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Education

We Swim Wild brings micro plastic research to the Pembrokeshire Coast

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THE PILOT session of Pobl Dwr was filmed for an upcoming episode of ITV’s Coast and Country series with Sean Fletcher and pupils from Castle School in Haverfordwest explored marine and environmental issues affecting the waterways in Wales. 

A pupil from Castle School said “I found 22 pieces of microplastics in one cup of sea water”.

Created by the Wales non profit We Swim Wild, Pobl Dwr has made children aware of the microplastic pollution crisis, while giving them a chance to explore the beautiful coastline and deepen their connection with the ocean environment. 

We Swim Wild aims to educate and empower the younger generation on environmental action and micro plastic pollution.

A pupil from Castle School described their experience as “the biggest eye opener ever”.

The project gives pupils an opportunity to learn about the marine life on our coasts through an immersive snorkeling programme, wellbeing activities such as breathwork and meditation, citizen science microplastic analysis that actually feeds into We Swim Wilds national microplastic database with Bangor University.

We Swim Wild founder Laura Owen Sanderson says “ We have been highlighting the issue of microplastics for the last few years, through adventure activism campaigns and U.K wide citizen science projects to map for microplastics. 

The education programme gives young people the opportunity to experience the magic of wild waters safely, equips them with the skills and tools to analyse water for silent contaminates and the opportunity to see the scale of the problem in real time”. 

The project in Pembrokeshire is in collaboration with The Big Retreat Community, the non profit arm of The Big Retreat Festival in Pembrokeshire, one of the top adventure and wellbeing festivals in the UK. 

Festival founder Amber Lort-Phillips says “Wellbeing in nature is at the heart of everything we do. As a result of the pandemic, we know that young peoples’ mental health has suffered significantly. We want to give them the skills to improve their own mental and physical health whilst learning how to protect the planet for generations to come, and there is no better place to do it than in our home, the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.”

“Plastic can commonly be found in our water, soil and air,” explains Laura. “Crucially, we now know it is in our bodies as we breathe in, eat and drink plastic particles every day. As plastic production grows, so does our exposure. There is growing concern that it may be harming our health.”

Laura adds  “We know that the presence of microplastic and nano plastic in our bodies can’t break down and is associated with chronic disease and pressure on our immune systems, such as arthritis, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The truth is there is currently not enough money invested in Plastic research and its impact on our health. Our citizen science campaigns and education programme go some way towards mapping current UK levels for this emergent contaminate”.

We Swims Wild’s ultimate goal is to get the UK government to start testing regularly for microplastic levels as an emergent contaminate and to put greater restrictions on plastic production and its use. 

A group of MP’s including MP Mike Penning has also called on the chancellor to commit to a £15 million fund to examine the potential health impacts of plastic.

The Pembrokeshire project has been sponsored by the National Lottery community fund. We Swim Wild will be bringing this programme to coastal communities across Wales over the coming months. 

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