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Education Minister announces ‘back to school’ plans for September

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Decision backed with £29 million to recruit, recover and raise standards

The Education Minister, Kirsty Williams, has today confirmed that all pupils will be able to return to school in September.

“plan to open in September with 100% of pupils physically present on school sites, subject to a continuing, steady decline in the presence of COVID-19 in the community.”

The Minister announced that:
 Schools will return to full capacity, with only limited social distancing within contact groups.
 At full operations, a contact group should consist of around 30 children.
Some direct or indirect mixing between children in different contact groups will also be unavoidable, such as on transport, receiving specialist teaching or due to staffing constraints.
 Social distancing for adults should remain in line with regulations and
guidance.
 Schools will be required to minimise the risk of transmission by taking other mitigating measures using the hierarchy of risk controls.
 Every school should continue to be “Covid Protected” – having carried out
risk assessments and mitigated them with a combination of controls such
as hand and surface hygiene, one-way systems and so forth.
 If early warning information shows a local incident or outbreak then nearby schools should implement appropriate restriction measures.
 Each school will be provided with a supply of home testing kits.
The Minister confirmed that the autumn term will start on 1 st  September and schools that can accommodate all pupils from the start of the term should do so.

The Minister outlined plans just hours after confirming the Welsh Government would make £29m available to ‘recruit, recover and raise standards’ in Welsh schools in response to the impact still felt from the pandemic.

Commenting on the additional funding announced, the Minister added: “We will recruit, recover and continue to raise standards.”

It is thought that there will be around 800 newly qualified teachers in September and around 800 supply staff currently working within Wales.

“With this funding, we will recruit the equivalent of 600 extra teachers and 300 teaching assistants throughout the next school year.

“We will target extra support at Years 11, 12 and 13, as well as disadvantaged and vulnerable learners of all ages.

“The support package, provided at a school level, could include extra coaching support, personalised learning programmes and additional time and resources for exam year pupils.

“We must never lower our expectations for any of our young people, no matter their background.

“Together, we will continue to raise standards for all, reduce the attainment gap and ensure we have a system that is a source of pride and public confidence.”

Councillor Ian Roberts, WLGA Spokesperson for Education, said: “Since schools closed at the start of the crisis, many children and young people have felt anxious about loss of learning and not being able to see their friends.

The Minister’s plan today will enable schools to safely reopen classrooms from September. Local authorities will work closely with their schools to make sure that necessary arrangements are in place to abide by Welsh Government guidance.

“Our schools have been hit by severe disruption during this pandemic, and we welcome the £29m pledged by the Minister for targeted support to minimise the effects of the past few months on pupils. We will continue to work together in partnership the safest and best possible learning experiences for our children and young people, especially in such challenging circumstances.”

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Op Waverley – illegal waste sites in the Amman Valley

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In response to a rise in the level of fly tipping offences and illegal waste sites cropping up across the Amman Valley area, where waste is being illegally dumped, and information from a Natural Resources Wales led investigation into a site in the Garnant area, Dyfed-Powys Police recently ran an operation to tackle the issue. A partnership response was required, therefore the multi-agency ‘Op Waverley’ was initiated and carried out in the Garnant, Gwaun Cae Gurwen, Brynamman and Rhosamman areas.

Carmarthenshire and Neath Port Talbot County Councils raised concerns in respect of the significant rise in sites that are not permitted or regulated operating in the Amman Valley. As they are unregulated, there are no controls in place as to the type and volume of waste being dumped. Inevitably, this illegal waste is subsequently burnt to reduce its volume and get rid of it, and Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service are regularly called out to deal with these fires.  This year alone fire crews from Mid and West Wales have attended 329 deliberate refuse fires. In fact they have responded to approximately 19 incidents at one location alone in the area this year.

The majority of these incidents that the fire service responded to were reported by residents living in and around the area, who were affected by noxious smoke entering their homes and impacting upon their quality of life and health. These illegal waste sites and resultant burning also have an adverse impact on the local environment in these communities.

The operation therefore aimed to target, stop and take enforcement action against illegal waste carriers operating in the area. Ammanford Neighbourhood Policing Team and Response officers, Carmarthenshire Roads Policing officers, and South Wales Police officers set up three road check sites close to the county boundaries, where they stopped and checked any vehicle suspected to be carrying waste. This was in order to disrupt and deter illegal waste carriers heading to these sites. Carmarthenshire County Council and Neath Port Talbot County Council waste enforcement teams, along with the Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service Arson Reduction Team were also present to support the action. The local authority waste enforcement teams provided drivers with advice around waste carrier licences.

As a result of this roadside operation, 45 vehicles were stopped and checked, and a number of advisory warnings were issued to carriers for minor breaches of the waste carrier legislation. The Roads Policing Unit also issued a number of Traffic Offence Reports for construction and use offences relating to the condition of the vehicles. 

Richie Vaughan-Williams, Arson Reduction Manager at Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service said: “Waste crime continues to pose a real challenge to Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service.  Every year we attend hundreds of refuse fires and we are seeing a very clear and obvious link between deliberate refuse fires, fly tipping and the operation of illegal waste sites.  Waste crime has a real adverse impact upon our communities, environment and quality of life for those affected by these illegal activities and every time we attend one of these fires it can impact upon our response in attending other life threatening emergencies. Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service is determined to reduce deliberate fires and keep our communities safe.  We can only do so effectively by working collaboratively with our partners.  This operation was a great success and we are looking forward to repeating similar operations across our service area.”

David Morgan, senior waste regulation officer, for Natural Resources Wales, added:

“Natural Resources Wales takes its regulating waste sites across Wales very seriously, to maintain the safety of residents and our environment. We can not do this alone and working closely with police is integral to making sure laws around the disposal and treatment of waste are upheld.

“Before this police-led operation, we provided advice on the legalities of the handling and treating of waste. We’re now working with Dyfed-Powys Police to assess further reports of illegal waste activities.

“We have carried out an investigation at one particular site in the Garnant area looking at the types of waste that were routinely being brought into the site for disposal. The outcome of this investigation is pending.”

For further information and guidance on disposing of waste safely, legally and responsibly, visit the Fly Tipping Action Wales website: https://flytippingactionwales.org/en/advice/duty-of-care   

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Restrictions on Ammanford man jailed for sexual touching

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John David James, aged 67, from the Llandybie area, was recently jailed after urinating on the wall of a dental surgery and breaching a community protection notice (in June 2020).

He was released from that stint in prison on July 22, but within a matter of hours was arrested for sexually touching a member of public while drunk.

He pleaded guilty to the offence and was sent back to prison for 12 weeks. He will be required to register as a sex offender upon his release.

On July 24, the court granted a Criminal Behaviour Order (CBO) on James in readiness for his release from prison. If he breaches any of the following restrictions he can be arrested and placed before the next available court:

•            Drink alcohol or be drunk in any public place in England or Wales.                                                                                                                                     

•            Act in an anti-social manner, that is to say, manner that causes or is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to any member of the general public; behaviour such as and not limited to shouting, swearing or using abusive, insulting or threatening words/language.

•            Entering the curtilage of llandybie parish church or go within 5 metres of the church and the church grounds save to pass and repass without stopping.

PCSO Ian Morgan, of Ammanford’s neighbourhood policing team, said:

“James is a persistent offender in the Ammanford area, and as a result of previous behaviour had been made the subject of a community protection notice (in August 2019).

“We’ve received numerous complaints from the residents and visitors of Llandybie about his behaviour, and the ball has now been firmly placed in his court – if he does not listen to what the court are asking, he can be arrested and put back in front of them.

“I hope this resolves his bad behaviour and reassures the community that we will not tolerate these actions in our area.

“This is the second criminal behaviour our team have successfully applied in a matter of days. Let this be a warning to anyone intent on unacceptable behaviour in our communities, it will not be tolerated.

“We have a structure in place that allows us to deal with antisocial behaviour appropriately, and if you won’t work with us, we will use all of the tools we have.”

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Assurances from Welsh Government on new Llanelli school

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Education Minister, Kirsty Williams has given an assurance that the money for the new Ysgol Dewi Sant is still available from the Welsh Government, despite the delay in the completion of the project.

 In a letter to Helen Mary Jones MS the Minister states: “I can confirm that the in-principle funding via the 21st Century Schools Education Programme does remain in place.”

 Plaid Cymru Shadow Economy, Transport and Tackling Poverty Minister Helen Mary Jones Mid and West MS commented: “I’m pleased to get assurances from the Education Minister about the funding of a brand new school for the pupils of Ysgol Dewi Sant, despite the scuppering of the first preference for the site of the school. The children were already overcrowded at the existing site before Coronavirus so social distancing is going to be very difficult in September. I’m glad the Minister has noted these concerns.

 “It is good that the Minister acknowledges the key role of Plaid Cymru led Carmarthenshire Council in delivering this project for the people of Llanelli. The council has already invested over £93M since April 2015 in improving and building new schools across the county, it is only right that Llanelli town centre get a fair share. I hope politicians of all political colours including the Welsh Government can work together to turn this vision into reality”

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