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Home-educated children to be registered

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'An invisible child': Seabridge case leads to registration

THE WELSH G​OVERNMENT is to create a statutory register for home-schooled children. The announcement by Cabinet Secretary Kirsty Williams follows a review of the safeguarding of home-schooled children in light of the Dylan Seabridge case.

Dylan Seabridge died in 2011 of what was diagnosed as scurvy during a post-mortem examination. To all intents and purposes, Dylan had been invisible to social and education services in Pembrokeshire until concerns about the wellbeing of him and his siblings were raised following an industrial tribunal hearing regarding his mother’s employment in a Ceredigion school.

Dylan’s parents denied Pembrokeshire Social Services the chance to assess the wellbeing of Dylan or his siblings and, due to the way the law is drafted, there was no way of compelling his parents to give access.

Dylan Seabridge had no direct contact with agencies such as doctors, nurses and teachers from the age of 13 months, a Child Practice Review later found. His death resulted in a wide-ranging review and, in 2016, its author Gladys Rhodes White said current legislation was in ‘stark contrast’ to the Welsh Government’s commitment to the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child.

There are wide ranges of reasons why families choose to home school their children: distance or access to local school, religious or cultural beliefs, or philosophical or ideological views. Guidelines for home schooling vary depending on where you live in the world. Home-schooled children in Scotland have to be registered whilst there is only a requirement to de-register in other parts of the UK.

Responding to a question from Simon Thomas AM, Cabinet Secretary for Education, Kirsty Williams, said: “I am committed to ensuring all children in Wales receive a suitable education, are safeguarded, and have the opportunity to benefit from universal services.

“I have accepted, in principle, the recommendation by the Children’s Commissioner for Wales for a statutory register for home-educated children and will be working with the commissioner to take this forward.

“To help support local authorities identify home-educated children in their area I will be challenging current ways of working to ensure we maximise opportunities for further strengthening collaborative approaches to protect the rights of these children to receive an education and to be safe.”

An NSPCC Cymru / Wales spokesman said: “We have long supported a compulsory register for children who are educated at home and it’s encouraging to see the steps being taken by the Welsh Government to make this a reality.

“Every family has a right to educate their child as they choose and home learning alone is not a risk factor for abuse or neglect. But home educated children are at increased risk of becoming invisible to authorities and it is absolutely vital that councils are able to identify those children in their area and ensure they receive the education, safeguarding and support they need.

“We know that parents want a safe learning environment for their children. A register would help to ensure this is the case for every single home educated child in Wales.”

Former Children’s Commissioner for Wales, Keith Towler, is to lead the task and finish group.

A Welsh Government spokesman said: “We have listened carefully to concerns about safeguarding children who are educated at home and have accepted, in principle, the recommendation of the Children’s Commissioner for Wales for a statutory register for home-educated children.

“We are currently exploring the options available and will continue to liaise closely with the Children’s Commissioner as we progress this work.”

Speaking before Christmas, Cllr John Davies, Chair of Pembrokeshire County Council’s Education Scrutiny Committee, said: “This is a serious issue. We have seen here in Pembrokeshire, first hand, where the system doesn’t always accommodate for the well-being of an individual that is home-educated.

“The trend is telling us there are now more people electing for home education, a 52% increase between 2013-16. Therefore there is more of a reason to reflect on the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny have quite rightly referred to the need, one that would not infringe on the rights of individuals, to have a one-a-year visible contact with a child. This is about sharing the responsibility that everyone has towards children and young people.”

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Education

Secondary schools and colleges in Wales will move to online learning from Monday

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SECONDARY schools and colleges in Wales will move to online learning from Monday, December 14 as part of a ‘national effort to reduce transmission of coronavirus’ Education Minister Kirsty Williams confirmed today.

The Minister made it clear that, thanks to the efforts of education staff across the country, schools and colleges are safe and secure environments, with almost half of all Welsh schools having had zero covid cases since September.

However, it is also recognised that education settings being open can contribute to wider social mixing outside the school and college environment.

By making this decision, the Minister felt it was important to make a ‘clear, national direction’ to take pressure off individual schools, colleges, local authorities, parents and carers.

The Minister said her decision followed expert advice from Wales’s Chief Medical Officer showing that the public health situation in Wales was deteriorating.

The latest TTP data shows that rates of Covid-19 have further increased across Wales and have now exceeded 370/100k with a test positivity of 17%.

The R rate in Wales has increased to 1.27 with a doubling time of just 11.7 days.

Education Minister Kirsty Williams said: “Every day, we are seeing more and more people admitted to hospital with coronavirus symptoms.

“The virus is putting our health service under significant and sustained pressure and it is important we all make a contribution to reduce its transmission.

“In his advice to me today, the CMO recommends that a move to online learning should be implemented for secondary school pupils as soon as is practicable.

“I can therefore confirm that a move to online learning should be implemented for secondary school pupils and college students from Monday next week.

“We recognise, as we did during the firebreak, that it is more difficult for primary and special school age children to undertake self-directed learning.

“That is why we are encouraging primary and special schools to continue to stay open.

“Having spoken to local education leaders, I am confident that schools and colleges have online learning provision in place.

“This will also be important in ensuring that students are at home during this time, learning and staying safe.

“Critically, and this is very important, children should be at home.

“This is not an early Christmas holiday, please do everything you can to minimise your contact with others.”

“The education family in Wales has pulled together so many times this year to make a real difference to the course of this virus and ultimately to save lives and I know we can do the same again.

“Together we will keep Wales safe.”

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Education

Welsh charities shortlisted for educational awards

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TWO Welsh charities are among those competing for prize funds of up to £5,000 as part of this year’s ScottishPower Foundation Awards, which celebrate benevolent work in local communities throughout the country.

Bangor University Reaching Wider North and Mid Wales Partnership has been shortlisted for its ‘Bright Sparks’ project which inspires school pupils across Wales to take an interest in STEM subjects and ultimately seek a career using the skills they pick up, as well as for its work to develop educational home-schooling packs enable young people to continue learning during lockdown.

Size of Wales, a climate change charity, has been shortlisted for its work to inspire the next generation to take more care of the planet and learn about the ways in which to tackle the climate emergency through its MockCOP programme.

In total, 14 charities from across the UK make up the shortlist of recipients of this year’s ScottishPower Foundation funding, which saw £1.2m awarded to 21 charities across England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The annual awards, which are now in their seventh year, are an opportunity for projects to apply for additional funding with each category winner receiving £5,000 and the runners up awarded £2,500. 

Due to social distancing restrictions, the winners will be announced on ScottishPower’s Twitter channel – @ScottishPower – over the course of Awards Day at the beginning of December.

Nominated projects are judged in four categories: the Innovation Award, the Education Award and the Community Engagement Award, as well as the Charity Champion Award, which gives special recognition to the outstanding contribution made by an exceptional employee or volunteer who exemplifies what their organisation stands for. 

This year’s judging panel is made up of a host of experts from ScottishPower, the third sector, education and communications including Arthur McIvor, Senior Client Manager for Energy & Utility Skills; Juliet Simpson, Founder and CEO of Stripe Communications; Sheila Duncan, Human Resources Director for ScottishPower; and Melanie Hill, Executive Officer and Trustee of the ScottishPower Foundation.


Melanie said:
 “2020 has undoubtedly been an incredibly challenging period for many of the organisations that we work with. However – in the face of adversity – each and every charity on our awards shortlist has continued to support, educate and inspire those who rely on them, using the Foundation funding to make a real difference. We’re very proud to build on this and further recognise their achievements through the ScottishPower Foundation Awards.

“All our shortlisted finalists are fantastic examples of the amazing charitable work that goes on across the country every day, with people devoting themselves to others, pushing the boundaries for change and transforming lives in the process. I wish everyone on the shortlist the very best of luck for Awards Day and encourage everyone to follow our Twitter channel where we will be announcing the winners on 1st December.”

The ScottishPower Foundation was established in 2013 to make a significant and lasting contribution to society, enhancing the lives of people living in communities throughout the UK. It provides funding to help support the advancement of education, environmental protection, arts and culture and citizenship. It also supports charities who aim to provide relief from poverty, disability, or other disadvantages.

The charities across Wales shortlisted are:

Bangor University (Reaching Wider North and Mid Wales Partnership)

Bangor University (Reaching Wider North and Mid Wales Partnership) works alongside primary and secondary school pupils as well as adults with no formal qualifications to increase higher education participation among lower socio-economic groups.

Size of Wales

Size of Wales is a climate change charity with the aim of conserving an area of tropical rainforest twice the size of Wales. The organisation encourages the people of Wales to help tackle climate change by taking simple positive action, working with schools and businesses to raise funds for forests and raising awareness of the importance of forests in tackling climate change.

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Education

Tir Coed build outdoor classroom for Cross Hands Primary

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The local charity Tir Coed teamed up with Cross Hands Primary School to design and install a locally grown woodland shelter to enable primary school pupils to benefit from outdoor lessons-even when
the rain pours!

Last year Cross Hands Primary School received funding from Carmarthenshire is Kind for their intergenerational project. The project brought the schoolchildren together with older people in the community. Through intergenerational activities, everyone involved increases social connectedness, reduces social isolation, learns from one another and has a great time!

Before the lockdown, Tir Coed was contracted to lead a group mainly made up of parents from the school on a shelter-building course. The attendees would gain knowledge and skills and the children and the older people would be able to use the shelter, a third generation now included in this
fantastic project. The plans, however, had to change due to restrictions and in an effort to have it ready for the children when they returned to school, three intrepid Activity Leaders braved the wet August weather to build the beautiful shelter .

Studies have shown that being in the outdoors significantly reduces the risk of spreading the Corona Virus. With this addition to their already impressive outdoor area, it is hoped that more learning can
take place outside the classroom. Deputy Head, Emma Walters said, “It looks amazing! I am very impressed with the shelter and I cannot thank Tir Coed enough for organising this. Additional covered space in the outdoors will mean that we can take more learning into our lovely nature
area.”

If you would like to find out more about the work of Tir Coed or have a project you would like our help with you can contact Nancy, the Carmarthenshire Coordinator: carms@tircoed.org.uk

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