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Llangennech School plan sent to Executive

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Dual Stream a superficial choice: Sioned Elin, CIG

A MEETING of the Education Scrutiny Committee on Monday (May 23) has recommended that a proposal for the change in language status of Llangennech School should proceed for consideration by the County Council’s Executive Board.

Llangennech’s existing schools are designated as ‘dual stream’.

In dual stream schools, a designation determined by the Welsh Government, two types of provision exist sideby- side. Parents/pupils opt either for the mainly Welsh-medium or mainly English-medium provision.

Under the Council’s proposals, Llangennech’s existing schools would amalgamate into a single 3-11 Welsh- Medium School.

The former is in accordance with the creation of single 3-11 schools in localities where two schools exist and where a single head teacher is in charge of both schools. In Welsh-Medium education (WME), Welsh is the main teaching medium at Key Stage 2, with at least 70% of the teaching through the medium of Welsh.

English is introduced formally as a subject at Key Stage 2 and is taught through the medium of English, and English may occasionally be used for some aspects of some subjects.

Some people in Llangennech are vehemently opposed to the proposals.

‘NO CONSIDERATION’

Following the meeting, spokesperson for the parents Michaela Beddows told the Herald: “They didn’t really answer our questions until Councillor Jeff Edmunds said he wasn’t happy the vote went ahead until the questions were answered. Two other councillors said they were not happy either.

“The three councillors abstained from voting. Director of Education Rob Sully briefly answered the questions. He said that special needs children won’t be affected by the change. They put the vote forward and it was carried. It is going to the Executive Board, possibly in June.”

However, an alternative view was put by another attendee at the same meeting.

“The rules (on asking questions) are pretty inflexible, as you know, but the objectors received better treatment than people asking questions of full council. Somehow, I doubt that they will see it that way.

“Rob Sully was on top of his brief, and the people who asked questions were told that they would receive full written responses to their questions, some of which contained a lot of detail.

Asked about what the group intended to do now that the proposal had moved forward Michaela Beddows said: “We will now have the opportunity to put in more proformas. Whatever argument we have put forward they are dismissing. They are not taking individual children into account.

“What Rob Sully said was that no child is going to be turned away from the school and that every child can go to the school. There is no consideration given to any English speaking child whatsoever.”

SURPLUS PLACES CLAIMED

The group, who say they are not opposed to children learning Welsh claim that surplus capacity exists at other Welsh Medium Schools and that such a surplus means that the Council’s proposals are not aligned with the Welsh Government’s School re-organisation code.

Michaela alleged: “They have built two brand new Welsh primary schools with surplus places. One in Furnace and one in Brynsierfel.

She continued: “121 children in Llangennech School are not living in the village. 96 have to go out of the village to go to school. 15 of those are attending other welsh medium schools. 81 are attending alternative English schools. They say there is a lack of people wanting English education yet 81 children have to go out of the village to get their education.”

Michaela disputes a claim by the County Council that no child seeking an English medium education has been turned away from the existing school: “We have proof that they have. One mum went to tribunal. She won her case. The school were lying about the capacity there.”

Asked whether the Llangennech County and Community Councillors were listening to families she said that they were not and that issue was councillors’ firm personal belief in the primacy of the Welsh language.

The Herald asked Michaela if the board of governors had listened to their views. She said, “The Board of Governors are not listening. We put a letter of complaint in and asked for the resignation of the chair of the board of governors Tim Davies. He believes that English and Welsh cannot be taught alongside one another.”

CYMDEITHAS RESPOND

In a letter to the Chair of the Committee, Sioned Elin, Chair of Cymdeithas in the area said:

“Retaining separate Welsh and English streams gives parents superficially an idea of choice. However, in reality, registering pupils in the English stream will deprive them of choices later on in life.

“It is recognised by everyone in the field – including the First Minister – that the idea of “second language Welsh” has been a failure and, consequently, only the pupils in the Welsh stream develop skills to work in both languages, and have real choices.

“Pupils in the English-medium stream are deprived educationally. There is a gradual process to rectify the situation through the county so that schools are on a continuum towards Welsh-medium education which ensures proficiency in both languages.”

Speaking after the meeting, Sioned Elin said: “It is the Council’s intention for more schools to offer more Welsh medium education, so Llangennech School could lead the way.

“It was a scrutiny committee that met today, their decision will go before the Executive Committee who will have the final say, but we are hopeful that they will come to the same conclusion; and that the followup process gets under-way as soon as possible.”

‘BONKERS PROCESS’

Others’ views were less stridently expressed: “A couple of the questioners were a bit aggressive in tone, and one of them tried to challenge Councillor Gwyn Hopkins’ declaration of interest. Cllr Hopkins had been granted permission to speak and vote, and one parent said he thought this was against the rules. There was clearly no love lost and Gwyn Hopkins looked pretty upset.

“After that initial excitement, things quietened down, Cllr Eirwyn Williams thanked them repeatedly for taking time to come, and carefully avoided confrontation while keeping firm control.”

However, criticism was levelled at the way the statutory code – set by the Welsh Government – operates: “What is unfair to everyone concerned – children, parents, staff and governors – is the bonkers process which has to be followed. If someone wanted to create a process which prolongs agony and ensures that permanent scars are left, this would be it.”

LABOUR CRITICISED

Further criticism was levelled at Labour’s apparently cynical approach to the issue: “Labour’s antics were also deplorable. Two of their three members did not show up, apparently having dropped out at the last minute. So they used their reserves, including Jeff Edmunds.

“Despite having voted unanimously for the policy when they were running the council, they were squeaking that they had reservations about applying it in the case of individual schools. So they abstained, presumably hoping to make political capital out of the issue. There’s leadership for you.”

That last point touches upon one salient factor that some Labour councillors are very keen to play down. The plan for Welsh Medium Education in Carmarthenshire – and the Welsh Language Education Policy nationally – are both creations of the Labour Party.

The position of some of the more opportunistic Labour representatives locally seems to be to stir up opposition to policies pursued by the current administration, which the former Labour administration put in place.

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The Burry Port Harbour Improvement wins top civil engineering award

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THE BURRY Port Harbour Improvement has been announced as the winner of the Bill Ward Sustainability Award at the recent ICE Wales Cymru Project Awards held on Friday (30 September) at the Principality Stadium, Cardiff.

The Bill Ward Award is presented to the project best demonstrating the principles of sustainability, i.e. social, economic and environmental benefits during delivery and on completion. The Judges were impressed with the way two major companies, Alun Griffiths and Atkins, worked hand in hand on the project with their client, Carmarthenshire County Council, to deliver the scheme to a fixed budget, within programme and to the complete satisfaction of historic port custodians Cadw.

Burry Port Harbour is made up of three historic (tidal) basins contained by vertical masonry walls and earth embankments. The 3 harbours comprise 1500m of masonry vertical walls and revetments, which had fallen into disrepair and collapse since its heyday transporting coal in the 1800’s. 

The project is an ongoing, phased renovation with attention being given first to areas of instability. Displaced masonry has been recovered from the floor of the harbour and re-used. New materials have been chosen with care to ensure they are appropriate and will fit into the historic marine.

The work has safeguarded the historic masonry fabric for future generations, provided a safe harbour for the marina vessels and provided the waterside frontage for the Council’s vision to transform the harbour into a dynamic living, leisure and work hub for future generations.

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Wales stands firm in support for Ukraine

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IN THE latest update on the Ukraine crisis, Wales’s Minister for Social Justice Jane Hutt thanked all those households across Wales who have come forward to offer their homes to Ukrainians fleeing the War and encouraged more households to provide this vital support.

APPEAL FOR MORE HOST FAMILIES

The Minister for Social Justice said: “I’m delighted to say that over 5,650 people from Ukraine, sponsored by the Welsh Government and Welsh households, have already arrived in the UK.
“More than 8,200 visas have now been issued to people from Ukraine who have sponsors in Wales, so we expect the number of arrivals to continue to grow in the coming weeks.
“Thousands of Welsh households sponsored Ukrainians to arrive in Wales and committed to hosting them for at least six months.
“As we move into the autumn, we approach the end of that initial period.
“We hope hosts and Ukrainians will agree to extend many of those placements, but we need additional hosts to support those who cannot continue living where they are.
“To ensure a warm welcome to Wales, I’m inviting households across Wales to come forward and open their homes to welcome those seeking sanctuary.
“We’re immensely thankful to all those across Wales acting as hosts to Ukrainians, but more households must come forward.
“I completely understand that there are those who want to help but may not have the resources to do so, given the circumstances we’re all facing with the cost-of-living crisis.”

WALES WILL STEP UP TO THE PLATE

Jane Hutt continued: “What we all know, and has been proven countless times, is that the people of Wales are one of the most generous across the globe, and I’m sure we will step up to the plate once again.
“The idea of hosting can be daunting. That’s why we have funded Housing Justice Cymru to provide a Host Support service which includes expert and reliable information, training, advice, and guidance for people hosting, or those considering hosting, Ukrainians in Wales.
“More information on sessions and training can be found on the Housing Justice Cymru website. We also publish regularly updated guidance for hosts and sponsors at gov. wales/ukraine.
“We still need many more households to consider whether they could provide a home for those in need. This would normally be a commitment to hosting for 6 to 12 months.
“If anyone is considering this, we encourage them to register their interest at gov.wales/offerhome, and to attend one of the ‘Introduction to Hosting’ sessions, facilitated by Housing Justice Cymru. You won’t need to continue the process if you decide it is not for you.
“We have also partnered with Airbnb.org to ensure very short-term emergency placements can be provided to prevent homelessness.
“If you cannot host for more than 6 months but you could offer your property for up to 30 days at a time, you may also be able to contribute. Visit gov.wales/offerhome and follow the link to the Airbnb.org platform.”
Finally, the Minister stated: “We will continue to communicate with those who host Ukrainians, with updated guidance and information to support the valuable role you are undertaking.
“To all those that are already hosting and to those that are considering hosting, thank you, we owe you all a huge debt of gratitude.”

WESTMINSTER MUST BACK HOSTS
DURING COST-OF-LIVING CRISIS

Conservative MS Mark Isherwood raised how the cost-of-living crisis affects Ukrainian refugees.
Where families had taken in those fleeing Russian aggression, he noted a risk of sponsorships not continuing beyond six months because the hosts cannot afford the rise in fuel costs.
He asked the Minister what discussions she’d had with the UK Government about increasing the £350 contribution to households who’d taken in Ukrainian refugees.
The Minister agreed with Mark Isherwood that ending a specific ministerial post dealing with refugees was regrettable.
She noted a lack of information from the UK Government over the summer months and since Liz Truss replaced Boris Johnson as head of the Conservative Government.
Ms Hutt said: “We asked for an increase at least to £500, or up again, doubling to £700 per month. An urgent decision is needed regarding this as they reach the end of their six-month period.
“That period is underway, so we’re writing to all hosts to see if they will continue.”

UK GOVERNMENT URGED
TO PICK UP THE PHONE

The Minister thanked Mark Isherwood for introducing her to a charity offering support in North Wales, Link, and hoped that he and his colleagues would bring pressure to bear on their Westminster colleagues to ensure those in need from Ukraine and those in Wales helping them received support.
She added: “I look forward perhaps that we might have some telephone calls from the Prime Minister and other Ministers to us in Government. We must engage with them and follow this through.
“There is a huge job of work to be done here. We’re taking responsibility in the way I’ve outlined, funding our welcome centres and paying thank-you payments to hosts if they support a family who initially arrived in Wales under the Ukraine family scheme.
“That’s not happening in England. The commitment that we’re making is considerable.
“I hope everyone will join us today, saying that we need to press for those answers in terms of financial support.”

THE THREAT OF HOMELESSNESS

Sioned Williams of Plaid Cymru raised the spectre of Ukrainian refugees becoming homeless in Wales due to a lack of financial support and the end of existing hosting and housing placements.
The Minister praised the work of local authorities across Wales supporting refugees.
She said: “There are very imaginative programmes. That includes a whole range of issues like repurposing empty buildings.
“Local authorities are really coming up with a whole range of ways in which we can support people, perhaps, from a welcome centre, or a host family, into that intermediate accommodation, and then on to other longer-term accommodation.”
Pembrokeshire currently houses around 200 Ukrainian refugees, with the demand for assistance outstripping the availability of suitable accommodation.

NOT ONE PENNY FROM WESTMINSTER
TO SUPPORT FAMILIES FLEEING WAR

Responding to a question from Mabon ap Gwynfor about problems housing family groups, Jane Hutt hit out at the lack of support from the UK Government and how it’s u-turned on a commitment to help families.
“The UK Government has never given a penny towards the family scheme.
“The former Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, in one of his last PMQs, actually said that he thought the Ukraine family scheme should get the same funding and support as the Homes for Ukraine scheme. It’s never happened.
“We have provided thank-you payments to people who are hosting Ukrainian families. It’s all Welsh Government money; it’s not UK Government, because they don’t provide a penny. And also, the British Red Cross—£246,000—who are actually supporting Ukrainian families who are hosting family members under the Ukrainian family scheme.”
On Wednesday, September 28, Eluned Morgan, Wales’s Health Minister, announced the continuation of free healthcare in Wales to Ukrainian residents displaced by the ongoing conflict.
The exemption will continue to apply unless there’s a significant change in circumstances in Ukraine.

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Retired teacher, 75, dies following Saturday night incident in Burry Port

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RETIRED teacher Peter Ormerod, aged 75, who suffered serious injuries in an incident in Burry Port on Saturday night (24 September) has sadly passed away earlier today.

His family have paid tribute to him, saying: “Peter was a well-respected teacher and member of the community.

“A very loved and loving father, grandfather, brother and friend.”

The family requests privacy at this difficult time.

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