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£20m scheme launched to improve schools in Wales

The scheme will help secondary schools across the country that are under performing. Credit: PA

A new £20m scheme called 'School Challenge Cymru' will be launched this morning by the First Minister Carwyn Jones and Education Minister Huw Lewis.

It aims to help up to 40 Welsh secondary schools which are under performing and is based around schemes which have already taken place in Manchester and London, which supported schools to help them improve.

Councillors vote to reduce Valleys' nursery services

Parents have campaigned against nursery cuts in Rhondda Cynon Taf Credit: ITV News

Rhondda Cynon Taf Council's cabinet has voted to give the go-ahead to controversial plans to reduce the amount of time younger children spend in nursery classes.The council made two amendments, after widespread opposition from parents.

Children will be able to attend full-time nursery from the term after their fourth birthday, rather than having to wait until the September following their fourth birthday for full-time education via primary school reception as previously proposed.

The changes will be implemented from September 2014, rather than April, as was originally planned.


Decision due on controversial nursery cutback plan

A decision is due later today on controversial plans to change nursery provision for children in Rhondda Cynon Taf.

The council has warned that it needs to make savings of £70m over four years.

Hundreds of parents and children joined a march to protest against the plans. Credit: PA

Its proposals could see nursery classes for many three and four-year-olds cut back from full-time to part-time.

6,500 people responded to a consultation on plans aimed at reducing spending, which also include library closures, and cutbacks to day centres for older people.

The local authority says its proposals would still mean more hours at nursery than the statutory minimum, and that it needs to make savings due to the funding gap.

  1. Tom Sheldrick

Rhondda youngsters fight negative stereotypes

If you're a teenager living in one of the poorest parts of Wales - you'll be less likely to own a car compared to other 16 to 18 years old in the UK and you'll also be less likely to try hard drugs.

The figures are part of a survey carried out by local MP Chris Bryant on young people's aspirations in the Rhondda.

They suggest that 62% of young people plan to move away after finishing their education.

They also indicate that fewer of them will go to college or university than the UK average. The figure is 65% for the Rhondda, that compares with the all Wales average of 79%.

MP for Rhondda: ideas of young people are wrong

MP Chris Bryant says ideas of young people in the Rhondda are not realistic. He has helped to conduct a survey which has looked at pupils' future ambitions and opinions on education, relationships and drugs.

In many ways the young people from the Rhondda don’t fit the stereotype of Valleys kids. They work hard, they study hard, they want to be engineers not pop stars and they think people should wait until they can afford to bring up a child before starting a family.

The comparisons with elsewhere are fascinating too. As the survey shows, young people in the Rhondda are far more likely to be in work whilst at school than their peers elsewhere, and are more likely to stay in Wales for university than young people from other parts of Wales.

The majority of those surveyed are optimistic about their futures, with many expecting to earn considerably more than the median income in sectors such as engineering and IT.

I look forward to discussing these results further with the young people in the constituency and working hard to help them achieve their ambitions.

– MP Chris Bryant

Report shows Rhondda youth optimistic about their future

Pupils from across Rhondda helped with questions for the report Credit: Chris Bryant MP

Young people in the Rhondda feel confident about their future despite being less likely to go to University or take up full time employment after their studies.

Just over half of pupils expect to go on to further education after A level compared 79% of other students in Wales.

MP Chris Bryant has helped conduct the report on the aspirations of people between the ages of 15-19 in his constituency.

Pupils were asked to compile questions on their feelings towards employment, future earnings alcohol, drugs, relationships and higher education.

Only 38% of the young people questioned said they would stay in the Rhondda, with the rest admitting to moving to Cardiff or abroad in the future.


Frontline experience for Welsh schoolchildren

Re enactment at the trench in Pendine Credit: Morfa Bay

A real-life trench system has been created in Pendine, Carmarthenshire to educate children across Wales about the realities of war.

The 'Back to the Front' experience at Morfa Bay Adventure Centre features a 100 metre long trench system, equipped with sandbags and barbed wire.

Officer's Mess Credit: Morfa Bay

The system has a frontline trench, an officer's dug-out, communication trench and a delousing area.

It also has 'funk holes', where soldiers may have slept, a toilet area and a cleaning area.

The system has a realistic frontline trench Credit: Morfa Bay

The brains behind the project is Director Andy Edwards, who created the project with the help of a £13,000 tourism grant.

Mr Edwards says he wants West Wales to play its part in marking the 'war to end all wars.'

'With all the media coverage planned for next year's centenary, I feel we have a chance to grab children's attention and tell them the stories that have built our history', he said.

Fixed penalties for parents of truants will 'hit morale'

Fixed penalties for parents of persistent truants will "hit morale" according National Union of Teachers (NUT) in Wales.

Assembly Members will debate the detail of plans this afternoon, before voting this evening.

Under the plans, parents would be fined £60 if their children play truant, rising to £120 if the fine is not paid within 28 days.

But Owen Hathway, Policy Officer at NUT Wales, has warned against fixed penalties being introduced.

"We know that the best way to tackle truancy and long term absenteeism is to have a healthy relationship between the parent and the school," he said.

"Our concern is that if you start introducing truancy fines, there's going to be a breakdown in that relationship and it's going to be even harder to engage families in this issue.

"We often know as well that many parents are trying their very best to bring children to school and they're trying every initiative they can.

"If you start fining them it's going to hit the morale of those parents; it's going to hit their engagement with schools and it's going to cause perhaps even greater problems."

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