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It Starts In School: Community backs campaign to help Pembrokeshire children get back in the classroom

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Pembrokeshire County Council has launched a campaign to encourage consistently high school attendance across the county, signposting the support available for parents and pupils.

Backed by local people and schools, It Starts In School highlights the community of support that exists in Pembrokeshire, helping young people get back into the classroom after a challenging few years.

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The campaign focuses on the benefits of school beyond academic lessons, amplifying the importance of key moments, friendships and shared memories that often begin in school.

As part of the campaign, teachers, pupils and members of the community have starred in a TV advert which emphasises how creativity, community and support are integral to a well-rounded education.

Teachers, pupils and members of the community have starred in the TV advert (Image: Pembrokeshire Council)

The video showcases Ysgol Cael Elen, Ysgol Penrhyn Dewi and Gelliswick School, as well as local people who live and work in the county.

The campaign is being supported by a wide variety of people from Pembrokeshire, whose successes stem from their time in school.

They include news broadcaster Jamie Owen, Musical Director Iestyn Griffiths, prestigious French horn player Laura Llewellyn-Jones and European Sailing Champion Michael Beckett, as well as international footballer and rugby player Jo Price.

Broadcaster, Jamie Owen (Image: BBC)

Reflecting on his time at Pennar School in Pembroke Dock, Jamie Owen said: “I was born and brought up in Pembrokeshire and all these years later, I still remember the names of my teachers – Ms Thomas, Ms Phillips, Ms Jones, Mrs James, Mr Cole and Ms Lewis. Between them all, along with the constant support of my parents, they helped me to read and write. My education and my career began with them.

“As a television news presenter, the tools of my trade were all formed in school. Being in the classroom and learning from other children and those teachers was a great start in life. I owe them all a great debt.”

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With the repercussions of consecutive lockdowns still being felt by pupils, and additional pressures on families like the cost-of-living crisis, the importance of support for parents and children is not being underestimated.

Staff and pupils at Ysgol Penrhyn Dewi VA (Image: Pembrokeshire Council)

Rachael Thomas, Headteacher at Ysgol Penrhyn Dewi VA, said: “If attending school is difficult, it’s really important to talk to your teachers and the school inclusion team who can help you. The support offered across schools in Pembrokeshire will reflect best-practice and guidance from governing bodies, and can be tailored to meet your individual needs.”

She added: “Being at school means being part of the school family. There are so many opportunities at school for learners to develop their mental, physical and social wellbeing, as well as academic learning. Regular attendance at school lays the foundations that help children’s dreams become a reality.”

Cllr Guy Woodham, Cabinet Member for Education and Welsh Language at Pembrokeshire County Council, said: “I’m very pleased to be supporting this campaign – after two and a half years of disruption to learning, it is important that Learners take all the opportunities that school offers them.  Achieving qualifications is important, but so are the other, wider benefits of engaging well with education. I know that some Learners face issues and challenges when it comes to attending school regularly.  The message from this campaign is that schools and the education team at the Council are here to help.”

And Susan Lees, Education Welfare Officer at Pembrokeshire County Council, said: “After the last two years, schools across Pembrokeshire want to assure parents and learners that they’re returning to a safe environment.

“We know that there are many complex reasons leading to children missing school but if you need support with attendance, we can work with you to help find the best solutions for you and your child. Please talk to your school or call our Education Welfare team for help and advice and on 01437 764551.”

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(Lead image: Pembrokeshire Council)

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