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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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Energy Efficiency scheme to come to Cardigan

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If you live in a cold home in the town of Cardigan, your home may be eligible for a heating upgrade, wall or loft insulation or solar panels all free of charge under Welsh Government’s Arbed scheme.

Ceredigion County Council are working in partnership with Arbed am Byth, who manage the scheme on behalf of Welsh Government, to address fuel poverty in the County by improving the energy efficiency and reducing the Carbon Dioxide emissions from our homes. Cardigan has been identified as an area for a potential scheme. This scheme is funded by Welsh Government and European Union ERDF funds.

A cold home can have a negative impact on a person’s everyday health and wellbeing. Living in an energy inefficient home tends to have higher fuel costs due to heat loss as a result of a lack of insulation. The aim of the scheme is to make homes warmer, more comfortable and more affordable to heat. This will be achieved through installing a range of appropriate energy efficiency measures.

Homes in Cardigan are currently being assessed to see if they are eligible for free energy saving measures. If your home is located within the designated boundary of the scheme and is either owner occupied or rented from a private landlord the property qualifies for a home assessment. Every home within the designated area is eligible to apply regardless of the financial situation of the residents living in the home.

During the assessment visit the surveyor will establish whether the home qualifies for energy efficiency measures and which measures may be appropriate. The assessment is free and the home owner is not under any obligation to proceed with the scheme. Following the assessment, Arbed and Byth can advise what specific measures are applicable your home.

Councillor Dafydd Edwards is the Cabinet member with responsibility for Housing. He said, “We are pleased to work in partnership with Arbed am Byth to ensure that our county’s residents live in comfortable homes. This ensures better health and wellbeing for our people. This is a good opportunity for the people of Cardigan town to take advantage of improving their homes.”

Working with Ceredigion County Council, Arbed am Byth hope to support around 150 homes through the scheme. The Managing Director of Arbed am Byth, informs us that “the Cardigan Arbed scheme is a fully funded scheme which will help residents reduce their heating bills and improve the efficiency of their homes. It is a great opportunity to get much needed help at no cost, but the scheme can only address 150 homes, so I urge residents to apply quickly.”

Delivering a home energy efficiency scheme while the coronavirus pandemic is still with us is challenging. Arbed am Byth’s Service Excellence Manager, Jordan Price said, “We have introduced very robust measures to ensure we can work safely in your home through the Covid-19 pandemic. Our assessors and installers complete daily symptom checkers, work in bubbles, wear gloves and masks at all times and sanitise regularly. They always call ahead to check nobody has symptoms before they come to your home. While in the house, they will ensure social distancing.”

For further information on the scheme contact Arbed am Byth at info@arbedambyth.wales or call them 03300414647.

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Connect to Kindness Calendar launch

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Showing acts of kindness is now more important than ever, and this is why a kindness calendar has been launched as part of the Connect to Kindness campaign in Ceredigion.

Connect to Kindness is a regional campaign that was launched in July 2020 across Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion. The campaign aims to create more understanding about the benefit and impact of kindness to ourselves and others in our community.

As part of the kindness calendar, members of the public are asked to send in their photographs, artwork, or even prose of poetry, or anything that represents kindness and its power. The chosen piece will then be included in the calendar for a particular month in 2021.

Entries can be sent in via post or e-mail and must be submitted by noon on 22 November 2020. Full details can be found at: https://connecttokindness.wales/calendar/.

Cyra Shimell, “We hope the calendar will bring some fun at this unprecedented time. It will be interesting to see peoples various interpretations of what kindness means to them. Get as creative at you like!”

If you would like more information about this campaign, visit https://www.connecttokindness.wales/. You can also take a look at the Facebook page ‘Cysylltu â Charedigrwydd Ceredigion – Connect to Kindness Ceredigion’ to see some stories of random acts of kindness.

For more details contact Cyra Shimell, Community Connector Plus Development Ceredigion on cyra.shimell@ceredigion.gov.uk.

Share the message, as it all starts with one person, YOU!

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Business offer WG help in ‘non-essential’ shopping row

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THIS morning (Tuesday, October 27), the Wales Retail Consortium, CBI Wales and Association of Convenience stores presented the Welsh Government joint recommendation to resolve the confusion over non-essential items. The three industry bodies’ statement expresses the hope that the Welsh Government, ‘will agree to these recommendations and the people of Wales can refocus all their energies on respecting the Fire Break’. The recommendations come in response to confused and confusing messaging from the Welsh Government, which allowed its public health message to be drowned out over the weekend by rows over whether toasters, Lee Childs novels, and size 16 jeans were essential items for customers. The confusion was not helped by a mistaken tweet by supermarket giant Tesco which claimed women’s period products were not essential items when they are and always have been. The WRC, CBI Wales and ACS believe their recommendations will fulfil retail’s role in tackling the spread of the virus while allowing for discretion to be used on an individual basis – as recommended by Health Minister Vaughan Gething in a tense press conference yesterday, http://pembrokeshire-herald.com/61929/welsh-health-minister-defends-retail-restrictions/. The business bodies recommend:
  • To limit the spread of the virus and allow for individual discretion, retailers will prominently display Welsh Government approved signage in front of known non-essential items and in communal areas. The signage will make clear the government’s regulation and the need to abide by it.
  • This message will be reinforced through in-store announcements and social media messaging. Advising customers to put off non-essential purchases
  • We recommend the individual customer is trusted to make their own decision as to whether a product is non-essential or not, taking into account the notices displayed throughout the store and their immediate needs
  • If the customer goes ahead with the purchase of the item the final liability ought to rest with the customer
  • Retailers will remove special in-store promotional displays of non-essential items in order to minimise browsing and avoid triggering a non-essential purchase.
  • These recommendations would mean non-essential items are not removed from shelves – or cordoned off in stores – but large notices are placed in front of the products and in communal spaces informing customers of the Welsh Government’s regulations and the Welsh public are trusted to make the right decision.
They also say they ‘look forward to engaging with Welsh Government again this morning and we hope consensus can be reached’.
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