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Cautious welcome for deferred Cymdeithas decision

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Ysgol Cilcennin

Ysgol Cilcennin

CYMDEITHAS YR IAITH CYMRAEG has welcomed a decision by Ceredigion Community Council’s Learning Communities Scrutiny Committee postponed making a recommendation on the future of four Aeron Valley Schools.

Ysgolion yn Dihewyd, Cilcennin, Ciliau Parc, ac Felinfach are all threatened with closure under one option of a planned reorganisation of schools.

Tony Schiavone of Cymdeithas’ education group said:

“We are glad that the committee did not rush to a decision without talking with the very people that any decision would affect. There was considerable disagreement among committee members and deciding on the future of schools is not something to be taken lightly.

“We encourage everyone in the relevant communities to voice their opinions and offer additional ideas: they know their area best.”

Cymdeithas also said that the figures in their report do not support the Council’s case.

Toni Schiavone added: “Instead of threatening four schools we hope that the Cabinet will listen to local opinion instead of following the same predictable negative route again.

“We would like to see an Aeron Valley Federation to combine the Secondary School with the primary schools in the town and the four rural schools in the valley.

“The site in Felinfach could be developed and become a cultural centre for all schools in Ceredigion, counteracting recent trends to make the curriculum more restricted.”

CONTINUOUS REVIEW

Although the Council said they are reviewing the situation of schools in the Aberaeron catchment area as part of a continuous review, there are only three years since the discussion on the future of Trefilan and Dihewyd schools, the two smallest schools in the Aeron Valley.

Both communities fought for their future, and in one last ditch attempt, Trefilan parents decided to send their children to Dihewyd, travelling past two other schools, so that all the children would be in the same school and save that school.

To all intents and purposes the community decided that it had to sacrifice the school. On that basis, Dihewyd School remained open.

Only three years earlier Mydroilyn School was closed, with the children going to Dihewyd.

Cymdeithas have expressed considerable concern that the criteria used to assess schools are far too limited and do not take adequate account of schools and school buildings as valuable community assets in rural areas.

SCHOOLS SEEN AS FINANCIAL ASSETS

Toni Schiavone told The Herald: “‘Sustainability’ and ‘viability’ are always used as reasons to justify closing schools but there is no clear strategy to protect rural Welsh communities, or to use schools as assets to integrate children from families who have moved to the area.

“Schools – like houses – are seen purely as a financial assets. People in these communities are seen as opponents in the debate that officers need to get the better of, without any desire to work together in partnership.

“A report has been put together, and includes a list of options for the future of the schools, but the report does not indicate anywhere what the objective of the review is – whether it is to reduce the number of empty places or to try to save money.

“The figures in their own report do not support their case in this instance regardless of their aim:

• According to the Council’s own estimates, the numbers of children will rise over the coming years, and Dihewyd School is full as it is

• The newest school, Ysgol Bro Siôn Cwilt has the highest percentage of empty places, after Cilcennin School

• Regarding the condition of school buildings, three of the four schools under threat are in the highest category but one.”

SCHOOLS ‘KEY COMMUNITY ASSETS’

Spelling out Cymdeithas’ alternative vision be retaining the integrity of village communities by retaining schools, Toni Schiavone continued: “We advocate establishing a national Key Community Asset Fund to enable communities to purchase a building (hall, shop, school, etc.). In this model, the building would be managed by a community trust and the Education Authority would rent a part of the building in order to organise a school.

“That way, the community benefits and the Council benefits from having no responsibility to spend local taxes on renovation. The project would also be open to other investment funds that are available for schools e.g. European community development funding, or Lottery funding.

“We have seen the impact of the closure of village schools across Wales, where villages and communities slowly decline – young families do not want to move somewhere where they will have to travel far to get an education for their children.

“More than 25 schools have closed in Ceredigion in recent years but there has been no case study to look at the impact on any area – it seems this is not a consideration for the Council.”

A spokesperson for Ceredigion County Council told The Herald: “The content of the review was discussed in a meeting of the Corporate Resources Overview and Scrutiny Committee on Monday 9 May. The Committee felt that there wasn’t enough information contained in the area review for them to recommend a preferred option to Cabinet. They noted the need to consult with the local community before discussing the options.

“Feedback from the Overview and Scrutiny Committee will be reported to Cabinet on 17 May. The suggestions outlined in the statement in question are predicated on some factual inaccuracies. All the relevant correct facts are available for public perusal in the Council’s report.”

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Health

Give someone “the best gift” this Christmas by giving blood in West Wales

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A MOTHER who needed in-the-womb blood transfusions during her pregnancy and a man who depends on regular, lifesaving blood donations are encouraging communities across Wales to give “the best gift” this Christmas by donating blood.

The Welsh Blood Service is preparing to face Winter pressures on its services and is hoping their new Christmas campaign, “the best gift” will raise awareness about the importance of donating blood and the lifesaving difference it makes.

Last December over 900 donations of blood and blood products were needed across Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire to provide care to patients at Prince Philip, Withybush, Bronglais and Glangwili hospital. 

These donations play a vital role by supporting a range of treatments from helping recovering accident victims and patients with blood cancers to supporting mothers and new-born babies during childbirth.

Blood donations were needed during both pregnancies for mother of two, Shelley Parry. After her own life was saved during her first pregnancy, Shelley received several more blood transfusions directly into her womb to keep her youngest daughter alive.

Shelley explains: “Receiving blood is truly the best gift we have ever received. We’re forever indebted as a family to those who have taken the time to donate. Without the generosity of blood donors, quite simply, we wouldn’t be parents. Thanks to their selfless act, we can look forward to Christmas together as a family.

“It only takes one hour of your time to donate, if you can, please consider donating.”

Giggs and his daughter

Also supporting the campaign is blood recipient Giggs Kanias. Since birth, Giggs has received over 1,000 blood transfusions as part of his treatment for beta thalassaemia major, a severe blood disorder. Thanks to blood donors, Giggs is looking forward to celebrating Christmas with his family.

Giggs said: “I am so thankful to the incredible people who give blood. When I’m in hospital, I stare at the bags of blood being transfused into me and always wonder, who is the person that has helped me?

“I know the difference these people have made to my life and I’m so grateful to each and every one of them. Without their generosity, I wouldn’t be here today, I wouldn’t be a dad, or have had the opportunity to see my daughter grow up. Receiving blood is truly the best gift anyone could ever receive.”

Alan Prosser, Director of the Welsh Blood Service, said: “For patients like Giggs, receiving blood will be the best gift they receive this Christmas. It truly is the best gift you can give.

“Blood products have a short shelf life and is needed by hospitals 365 days a year, including Christmas day, to help support patients in need, which is why we can’t stop collecting.”

The Welsh Blood Service provides lifesaving blood products to 20 hospitals across Wales and four Wales Air Ambulance aircraft for use in emergencies.

Alan continues: “It is critical the service prepares. We need to build up blood stocks ahead of a potentially challenging winter, where seasonal illnesses and Covid-19 may exacerbate the usual winter pressures faced by the NHS.

“We are reaching out to communities across Wales to ask them to make a lifesaving blood donation and give “the best gift” this festive season.”

Do something amazing this Christmas. Give someone the best gift. Give blood. If you are aged 17 or over, book to give blood at: www.wbs.wales/Xmas21 or call 0800 252 266 today.

Appointments are available in Pembrokeshire on 7 December and January 6 and 20 in Tenby, 16 December and 27 January in Crymych, 20 December and 17 January in Haverfordwest, 10 January in Letterston Village Hall and 21 January in Milford Haven. 

Appointments are available in Carmarthenshire on 10 December in Pontyberum, 29 December and 13 January in Carmarthen, 28 January in Kidwelly Community Hall, 23 and 24 December and 4, 12 and 25 January in Parc Y Scarlets and 31 January in Llandeilo.

Appointments are available in Ceredigion on 14 December in Newcastle Emlyn, 14 January in Aberaeron and 18 January in Lampeter.

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The west Wales family on standby to save lives at sea this Christmas

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VOLUNTEERING with the RNLI is a real family affair for the Barbers from Cardigan, with all four family members prepared to swap turkey and tinsel for turbulent seas this Christmas.  The RNLI is calling on the public to support them and the thousands of other volunteer crew on call by giving to the charity’s Christmas appeal.

For mum Amanda and daughter Madeleine, 18, it will be their very first Christmas on call. Both have followed in the footsteps of proud dad Tony who has volunteered on the crew of Cardigan RNLI for the past 12 years and son Leo, 20, who joined the RNLI following his 17th Birthday. The family will be spending their Christmas Day at nearby ‘New Life Church’, ensuring those who are in need of a meal on 25 December have food and company. However, they will have the perfect excuse to leave the washing up should they all have to leave in a hurry to respond to an emergency at sea.

Later in the afternoon, they plan to get together and enjoy a Christmas meal at home, but with a watchful eye on their pagers.

Madeleine says: ‘I realise our Christmas may not be a traditional one and to my friends it seems strange that we may all have to dash down to the station whatever time of day or night the call may come. I don’t really give it a second thought; I’m actually looking forward to being on call for the first time this Christmas and being able to help someone in need.

‘Previously when the pager goes off, dad, Leo and I have left mum at home. She’s so proud of us all but obviously is filled with apprehension as to when we may be back. We’re thrilled she’s decided to join us too and volunteer as part of the shore crew.

‘Being part of the RNLI is something Leo and I have always wanted to do as soon as we turned 17. Hearing dad talk about successful shouts has really motivated us all to want to get involved. We’re so thankful for all the support we have from the community and it is humbling to think people give so generously to enable us to do what we do.’

I would like to thank everyone in advance who gives towards our Christmas appeal this year.

‘This year, I hope people can do what they can to support the Christmas campaign and help the RNLI to save every one.’

The family run a boat trip business not too far away from the station, which means they are all ideally placed to be close by should the pagers sound. In the winter months, Madeleine works opposite the station at a local café, Crwst, who are very supportive allowing her to leave and attend shouts whilst at work.

Amanda says: ‘With the rest of the family on the crew, I know how vital, challenging, yet rewarding volunteering with the RNLI is. After many years of watching Tony run from the house at a moment’s notice and in the years that followed Leo, then Madeleine; I no longer had a reason not to join them. Now, rather than waiting and wondering what the outcome of a shout is, I can be on hand at the station supporting them and the rest of the team together, serving the mission of saving lives at sea. This Christmas if the pagers go off at least I won’t be left home alone holding the turkey!’

Over the past decade, RNLI lifeboats have launched over 1,200 times during the festive period. But these rescues would not be possible without donations from the RNLI’s generous supporters, helping to fund the essential kit, training and equipment needed by lifeboat crews all year round.

With thousands of volunteers around the UK and Ireland, each RNLI crew member signs up to save every one from drowning – it has been the charity’s mission since 1824.

Matt Crofts, RNLI Lifesaving Manager for Wales says: ‘With the increase in staycations and more people than ever heading to the coast, it has been an exceptionally busy year for our crews.

‘Even at Christmas, our lifesavers are ready to drop everything at a moment’s notice and rush to the aid of someone in trouble on the water. At this time of year, the weather’s at its worst and lives are on the line.

‘We know that every time our crews go out they hope for a good outcome, but sadly this sometimes isn’t the case. We hope that this year’s Christmas appeal will show people just how tough it can be, but also that with their help we can get so much closer to our goal of saving every one.’

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Health

Council makes available wellbeing and mental health support for social care providers

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The programme will run until March 2022

IN RECOGNITION of the important work of the social care sector and impact of the Covid pandemic on social care providers and their staff, Ceredigion County Council has made available a programme of wellbeing and mental health support sessions.

The programme consists of Wellbeing and Mental health Awareness, Mental Health First Aid (Adults and Youth) and also offers facilitated support sessions.

The programme of events will run from December through to March 2022.

Any social care provider, carer or personal assistant can request more information or book a place on these sessions by emailing Dysgu@ceredigion.gov.uk

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