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January 6 start date for spring term in Swansea

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Schools in Swansea are set to open two days later than planned at the start of next term to allow them to plan and prepare for the term ahead.

It means in Swansea the first day of the spring term in most schools will be Thursday January 6.

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Swansea Council’s Director of Education, Helen Morgan-Rees, has written to all parents and carers in the city outlining the changes following updated guidance from the Welsh Government due to the Omicron variant.

She said: “Our collective priority continues to be to minimise the disruption to education, and ensure where possible learners continue to receive in person learning, as well as protecting school staff and learners.

“The Welsh Government will be providing all schools with two planning days at the start of the new spring term, this will allow us time to assess staffing capacity and put the necessary measures in place to support the return of learners.

“However, schools will also be ensuring that they have robust plans in place to move to remote learning if needed. This could be for individual classes/year groups or possibly for the whole school, depending on staffing pressures.

“The planning days will also allow our secondary schools to plan for learners to safely sit their January exams. At the beginning of term these students will be prioritized for onsite learning and to ensure that the exams can take place safely.

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“Given the current uncertainties around Omicron the Minister has asked schools to move to the ‘very high’ risk level on the schools’ infection control framework.

“At a school level this could see staggered start and finish times from the start of the new term as an additional mitigation as well as the re-introduction of contact groups and potentially pausing after school and breakfast provision, or team sports where necessary.

“These decisions will be taken based on each individual school’s risk assessment. Please support our headteachers when these difficult decisions have to be taken.”

Following updated Welsh Government advice staff and pupils are being asked to take lateral flow tests (LFT) three times a week instead of two.

All staff and secondary-aged pupils should continue to use face coverings in communal areas and classrooms where physical distancing cannot be maintained as well as on school transport and this will continue to be kept under review.

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The families of pupils entitled to free school meals will receive payments during the Christmas holidays and the additional two days while food parcels will be delivered to the homes of those who have chosen that option.

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Education

Neath Port Talbot’s Home Library Service has an electric new recruit

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Neath Port Talbot Libraries’ Home Library Service has celebrated the New Year with a brand new addition. 

The council say that the delivery of a new electric vehicle will mean the invaluable service is now even better than it was, delivering to more people than ever before.

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The Home Library Service is an essential part of Neath Port Talbot Libraries the council says, delivering books and information to residents who have difficulty, or who are unable to visit their local library.  

This can be due to a variety of reasons such as long term illness or disability, for people who have recently returned home from hospital and are recovering at home and for carers where finding the time to get to the library is not easy. 

The service has also played a vital role in helping with loneliness and isolation and during the pandemic has continued to operate, following strict Covid guidance, helping to support the mental health and well-being of residents in Neath Port Talbot.

The service provides free regular scheduled visits (usually every six weeks) by a trained member of library staff, who will provide a selection of books in all formats (large print, audio books) to your front door. There is a vast range of books available, including the latest best sellers. And if the service does not have the book you want, staff will do their best to get it for you. 

The service can also help with accessing a wide range of digital resources online, including e-books, e-audio books and your favourite newspapers and magazines, all available for free. The Home Library Service is also an agent for British Wireless for the Blind and can arrange free loan of audio equipment.

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It is free and available to residents of all ages.

The Department also provides library services to nursing homes, residential homes and hospitals as well as supporting community libraries in Neath Port Talbot. 

Cllr Peter Rees, Neath Port Talbot Council’s Cabinet Member for Education, Skills and Culture said: “Crucially this new vehicle will be better for the environment, helping to meet the aims of the council’s Decarbonisation and Renewable Energy (DARE) Strategy and the goal of a cleaner, more prosperous and healthier County Borough.”

For more information about the service contact 01639 899829 or npt.libhq@npt.gov.uk .

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Property

New study shows Swansea is the best city in the UK for students looking to rent

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Research by Admiral has shown that Swansea is the most student-friendly city in the UK for renters, with 87.3 rentals per 100 available to renters looking for a student-friendly household.

Glasgow and Bristol are the least student-friendly cities in the UK, with only 22.7 and 36.6 available rooms per 100.

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Students looking for student-friendly households have to pay £20 more per month to rent than the average renter in the UK. Wales has the lowest difference with £6 per month, whilst Scotland has the most significant difference with £141 per month.

Top 10 friendliest UK cities to rent for students

RankingLocationMost rentals per 100
1Swansea87.3
2Newcastle83.8
3Sheffield81.7
4Nottingham78.9
5Leicester77.4
6Exeter77.2
7Coventry76.6
8York75.2
9Birmingham74.2
10Liverpool73.4

*The number of rentals available for each demographic was found using search filters on popular online room rental sites in the UK.

Top 10 least student-friendly UK cities to rent 

RankinglocationMost rentals per 100
1Glasgow22.7
2Bristol36.6
3Aberdeen37.2
4Chelmsford38.9
5Wakefield39.4
6Peterborough41.8
7Edinburgh43.2
8Derby50.6
9Gloucester53.1
10Portsmouth53.4

How much more does it cost to rent student-friendly accommodation?

We’ve discovered that in the UK, students looking for student-friendly households have to pay £20 more per month to rent than the average renter. Scotland has the most significant difference, where renters have to pay £141 more. 

LocationAverage rental price per demographicAverage rental price in the locationPrice Difference
Scotland£653£512£141
England£570£553£17
Wales£440£434£6
UK£569£549£20

Tips for renters

Admiral have some top tips for renters to help you find and negotiate for the perfect place.

Budget for what you can afford

  • The most important thing you need to think about before finding a property is how much you can afford to pay each month in rent. A popular rule of thumb is to allocate about 30% of your monthly salary to your monthly rent. This figure doesn’t include what you’ll pay for utilities.
  • The 30% rule means if you earn £1,300 a month (for example), you should look for a property that costs about £390pcm (per calendar month).
  • Set some money aside for your security deposit, which should be equivalent to up to six weeks’ worth of rent. It’s returned back to you at the end of your tenancy.
  • You’ll also need to think about your monthly costs for utilities. These include council tax, water, energy, internet, landline, your TV licence, and any property service fees. Energy costs will differ depending on your chosen energy company, the size of your property, and how much energy you use. Council tax will depend on the property’s tax band, which a letting agent or landlord should be able to tell you.
  • Don’t forget to budget for home and contents insurance, too. Both types of insurance will help to protect you financially in the case of something happening to the home (for example, a fire) or to your belongings (like a burglary).

Look for properties that will cater to your needs

  • If you have a car, find out whether the property has a driveway or a dedicated parking space you can use. If you don’t drive, it may be useful to check out the local transport links. Fully or half-furnished properties (meaning they contain all or some of the furniture you’ll need) are ideal if you don’t have much of your own furniture.
  • Pet-owners will need to make sure that the landlord is okay with you keeping your furry friend at the property. Though it may be tempting, it’s best not to sneak a pet into a house without clearing it with your landlord first and potentially have it written into your rental agreement.
  • Some properties don’t have a garden, so make sure to check this if it’s important to you to have access to an outdoor space. If you have kids, be sure to research the catchment areas of local schools.

Negotiate with your landlord before you sign a contract

  • Your landlord may be open to negotiation when it comes to particular aspects of your tenancy agreement. Always read it through before signing and make sure to highlight anything you’d like to discuss.
  • If a rental price is slightly out of your budget, it may be worth asking the landlord if the price is negotiable. Landlords are often more willing to accept a lower rental price if the property has been empty for a while and they are keen to get someone moved in.
  • Previous landlord references can be used to demonstrate to a prospective landlord how desirable of a tenant you are. Plus points include being able to move in quickly, having a history of paying your rent on time, and personal attributes like not being a smoker or having pets (as these have the potential to cause damage to the property).

(Lead image: Google Maps)

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Carmarthenshire

Work starts on new £8.25m primary school for Pembrey

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Work has started on building a new £8.25million primary school for Pembrey.

The new school building is being constructed on the recreation ground/playing field immediately adjacent to the existing school site on Ashburnham Road.

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It will provide high-quality teaching facilities to improve the overall learning experience for learners, as well as benefitting the local community.

The new school will have capacity for 270 primary pupils, 30 nursery pupils and will incorporate a Flying Start facility which is currently located in a mobile classroom on the current school site.

Headteacher Helen Jacob said: “We are looking forward to having our brand-new school building at Pembrey where we can continue to provide quality educational opportunities and experiences for our children.

“Everyone is excited at the prospect of learning in a modern purpose-built school that will be at the heart of the community.”

The project is part of Carmarthenshire County Council’s Modernising Education Programme which aims to give every child in the county access to first class accommodation and facilities.

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It is being jointly funded by Welsh Government through its 21st Century Schools initiative.

The new school building has been designed by the council’s own architects and the work is being carried out by local contractor TRJ Ltd.

The estimated completion date is the autumn term of 2023.

Cabinet Member for Education and Children’s Services Cllr Glynog Davies said: “I am delighted that building work has started on the new school for the community of Pembrey. Building it on the adjacent recreation ground means that we can reduce disruption as much as possible.

“The council is committed to investing in our children’s futures, and the new school building will provide the very best educational facilities for both pupils and staff and accommodation fit for 21st century teaching and learning.”

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Local member Cllr Hugh Shepardson said: “I am delighted that we are making a start on the new Pembrey Primary School. The facility, which I understand will be completed next year, will provide state-of-the-art teaching facilities for our children at Pembrey and will allow our children to be taught in a modern and welcoming environment.

“I am grateful to the Education department’s Modernising Education Programme team and the authority’s Cabinet for their diligence and hard work in making the completion of the new school a reality.”

To date, the Modernising Education Programme has invested more than £300million in Carmarthenshire schools, including the building of 12 new primary schools, two new secondary schools, and 48 major refurbishments and extensions.

(Lead image: Carmarthenshire Council)

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