Rogerstone Grassroots 10/08/18

Playground fundraising… Gwen Vaughan from Rogerstone  has been in touch to ask for some help with fundraising for playground equipment for Newport’s first and only Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) specialist school – Ysgol Bryn Derw (YBD).  Gwen’s son Sam joined the school when it opened in September 2017.Friends of YBD, the school PTA, is chaired by Katie Bajjada and they have a fundraising target of £10,000 to equip the outside area of the school.  Jenna Mellon, treasurer of ‘Friend of’ has set up a crowd funding site where you can donate:  Friends of YBD have already achieved a lot through coffee mornings, school discos, a summer fete and more.  Only recently, Sam’s Aunty, Lisa Vaughan, hosted a tea and cake party and raised over £450 for the school!  They have a lot more planned too for next year, but with fewer than 60 students continued fundraising is a challenge, so any donation that can be given will be gratefully received and will genuinely make a real difference. As it says on the just giving page, Friends of YBD, are raising funds to equip the outdoor spaces with specialist sensory and movement equipment for the pupils – such as swings, trampolines, coloured sensory panels, tactile panels and mirrors, musical chimes and drums, mud kitchen, balance bridges and sports goals and hoops. This type of equipment is expensive but highly beneficial to the pupils. All of the pupils will benefit greatly from the exploration, movement, stimulation and engagement that the equipment will bring – this will reduce anxieties, increase confidence, encourage the pupils to share, communicate and develop their play skills. Here is just one example of the great work the school has done in their first year. Gwen’s son, Sam was 10 when he joined Ysgol Bryn Derw in September and had a very restricted (self-improved) diet since the age of 2. He would only eat 2 hot meals: “Heinz mum’s own spaghetti bolognese” and  “Heinz mum’s own sweet and sour chicken” – both microwave toddler dishes for 18+ months. This made holidays and days out very difficult. For cold food he would only have dry white toast, petit filous yogurt (3 flavours only), custard creams, rich tea biscuits, kit kats (but only the finger that says “kit Kat”, not the one that says “take a break”), chocolate buttons, milky bar buttons, magic stars, and organics noughts and crosses tomato flavour crisps.  That was it. For 9 years. The school understood that Sam’s diet was the most important issue for Sam and his family: not just for Sam’s health but also to help to get a bit closer to a ‘normal’ family life at meal times. Over the year, the school helped and encouraged Sam to first look at new food. Then smell new food. Then touch new food. Then touch new food and put his finger in his mouth. Then taste new food using cutlery and by the end of the year he is eating school dinners!! A different hot dish every day, independently and using a knife and fork.  At home Sam’s family have also been able to extend his range of meals considerably.  Gwen told me: “The school is amazing and Sam is really happy to go to school each day.   What the school have achieved with his diet is incredible, but that doesn’t mean the school just focused on the food and ignored other areas. Sam’s language has continued to improve and now will say “I don’t like …”. This is incredible progress – it’s the longest sentence he’s said (that is not echolalia), he uses it in the correct context, and it expresses a preference, something Sam finds very difficult to do. All the staff at the school are fantastic and an incredible team:  Sam’s teacher Mrs Jenkins, the school cook Teresa, Mr Drew, the Head and everyone else have been instrumental in making it such a brilliant year for Sam.  “The outside space is really important. Children with sensory processing difficulties may need to be outside in order to be in a different light, or temperature or to feel the wind over them, in order that they can relax and focus. Some children will need to be outside to get more space, away from the confines of the classroom and the business of their classmates. Some children will need to be outside burning off their excess energy in order to be able to concentrate. My son need to get out there when he’s ‘having a meltdown’ (an anxiety triggered ‘tantrum’ for want of a better word) in order to calm down, the anxiety to pass, and for him to regain control of himself” It is great to hear about what a positive impact the school is having on their students and their families and getting the specialist equipment in the playground will really make a difference to many, if not all, of the students at Ysgol Bryn Derw. Please help in any way you can, either using the just giving site  : or contacting the Friends of Ysgol Bryn Derw. Ysgol Bryn Derw is a Local Education Authority maintained, special day school which educates children and young people with Autism and associated learning difficulties, in the age range of 4-19 years.


Jubilee Park run….Since returning from a few days away I’ve enjoyed several walks and occasional runs round Rogerstone leaving the car behind to meet neighbours and to hear their concerns and to try to help with various issues, after one such visit I put the trainers and shorts on and went for a run round the linear park which circles most of  Jubilee Park, it was good to see kids playing with families in the parks – free from overflowing bins – thanks to neighbours who brought this to my attention,  and joggers far more capable than myself out for a run, it was also great to see the recently installed outdoor fitness equipment around the edges of the park ready to use I couldn’t resist a go on the ‘pull up’ station which, I’m afraid I failed abysmally at, the rowing equipment looked like a real challenge too. So this week’s  fitness tip, if your looking for a great place for a run and outdoor workout, check out the linear park down Jubilee.


Fairness Chair wanted….There’s a  Vacancy for Chair of Newport City Council’s Fairness Commission and I passionately believe it would be good to see a truly independently minded person take up the position, here’s some information and background: Fairness Commissions are independent bodies set up by councils to advise them on the best use of resources and powers to achieve the fairest outcomes for local people. The Newport Fairness Commission met for the first time in November 2012, becoming the first of its kind in Wales. Its role is to keep issues concerning fairness on the public agenda and to monitor and advise on how these issues are considered in the council’s decisions and policies. The Commission is now looking for an experienced Chair to Head the Commission and take our work forward. This role is unpaid and it is non-political and so does not depend on any particular political affiliation or political party membership. If you want to apply for this role then please send a one-page letter expressing your interest explaining what you can offer to the Commission, plus a full CV, by 5.00pm the 17th August 2018, to More details about our work can be found on: It’s anticipate that interviews will take place sometime in late August for the appointment to commence as soon as possible thereafter. If you do not hear from the Council  by the 28th August I’m told  you can assume that we have not called you for interview.


Highcross Primary School update…. Several neighbours have been in touch and made approaches at the recent school summer fete requesting information with regards to a recent report that the council had apparently received into improvements needed to Highcross Primary School, here’s the unedited questions I poised on behave of neighbours  and the replies. I’m aware you are in receipt of a building report on the condition of High Cross School Rogerstone, can i request that you make that report available to all Ward members at the earliest possible date please. Also, could you answer the questions below from a concerned parent please? (Questions asked upon the request of the parent, name retracted)

  1. I understand that the building report has been completed by NORSE and has been discussed with the headmaster. Under freedom of information, please may I have a copy of this report? (Forward report to Cllr Chris Evans who will make the report available to me)

Pick Everard were instructed by Newport Norse to undertake a survey of High Cross Primary School in order to assess the current condition of the property and report their findings and recommendations. Their full report is private and confidential and cannot be disclosed to any third party without their express consent, because it contains professional advice. Therefore, this is exempt from disclosure under section 41 of the Freedom of Information Act. However, a copy of an Executive Summary report, produced by Newport Norse for the Headteacher and Governing Body, is attached (if you’d like a copy, get in touch with me on the contact details above)

  1. Please may I ask why the building inspection and report were completed by Newport Norse and not an independent surveyor? Given that there could potentially be a conflict of interest as it is in their interest to maintain the school as opposed to it being replaced, and that they were also responsible for overseeing the building, when the serious incident occurred with the falling masonry.

Whilst Newport City Council has instructed their own property agents, Newport Norse, to undertake the survey of High Cross Primary School, an independent external surveying company (Pick Everard) was appointed by the property agent to undertake the survey. In relation to any potential conflict of interest, Newport Norse advises the Council on both the maintenance and strategic replacement of Council assets. Whilst Newport Norse provides response maintenance services to schools, they are not responsible for overseeing the day-to-day management of school buildings.

  1. Is the school going to be replaced with a new one built in its current location?

There are no current plans to replace the existing High Cross Primary School with a new school build. A Building Condition survey was recently undertaken of the whole site and confirmed an overall condition of C+, on a scale of A (Excellent), B. C+, C, C- and D (Poor).

  1. If the school is not going to be replaced, how do you propose to bring it up to 21st standard? Bearing in mind, that its current layout is outdated, classrooms and hallways are small and cramped; the canteen is a shed with a capacity for 80 children at a time in a school of approximately 275 pupils.

According to welsh government guidelines, each classroom should be able to accommodate 2 desk top computers. This is impossible in almost every class due to the lack of space. None of these issues can be resolved by maintenance, so please clarify how you propose to bring it up to standard.

As at the January 2018 Pupil Level Annual School Census (PLASC) the school had 238 pupils of statutory school age on roll. A school capacity assessment undertaken in November 2016 in accordance with the advice contained in Welsh Government’s “Measuring the Capacity of Schools in Wales” guidance confirmed that the school has capacity for 223 pupils over 8 classrooms. The school is therefore oversubscribed by 15, a situation which

arose when a bubble class was created in September 2014. This cohort of pupils will move into Year 4 in September 2018.

In terms of dining facilities, the school has recently received a small amount of investment for redecoration and replacement furniture. The new furniture has enabled more pupils to be accommodated at a single time. Consideration was given to reducing the size of the kitchen to create more dining space, but this was not considered feasible when balancing the costs associated with this against the small amount of additional capacity that would have been created.

All corporate assets will shortly receive a building condition survey and the information provided from this will contribute towards future capital maintenance programmes. The school will be considered with all other buildings within the Council’s portfolio and any future maintenance will be prioritised and managed through the Council’s Capital Strategic Asset Management Group.

The school has recently been allocated a sum of £50,000 which can be prioritised to assist in meeting the cost of outstanding maintenance work. The Council is awaiting confirmation from the Headteacher and governing body as to how they wish this to be spent.

  1. With regards to the classroom sizes, please could you kindly clarify the m² of working space per child in accordance with the welsh government guidelines for both infants and juniors.

Also please may I have under the freedom of information, the actually working space of each class in the school? This should not include cupboards that cannot be used as worktops and any space within a class, which is used as a corridor.

The “Measuring the Capacity of Schools in Wales” guidance states that a classroom area of 56m2 is the ideally appropriate space for a group of 30 Foundation Phase or Key Stage 2 pupils. In terms of the 8 classrooms at High Cross Primary School, I can confirm that they have been measured as follows:

65.5m2 55.5m2 50.2m2 59.5m2

63.0m2 48.9m2 49.6m2 50.0m2

6 Have you even considered the option of replacing the school with a bigger school? Given the popularity of the school, which I believe received 104 applications this year for 30 spaces and that there is enough land there for a new, larger school, I would appreciate that you consider the possibility of building a larger school where the junior building is currently situated, keep the current infants and canteen open during the building process and house the juniors in demountable on the field. When the building is complete, the children move in and the demountable removed, the infants building can be demolished to make way for a large outside car park accommodate the parents and there would be no need to expand Rogerstone Primary.

The Council has acknowledged the need for expansion in the Rogerstone area and considered all four schools for this purpose. After consultation with relevant colleagues, the preferred and most appropriate solution was confirmed as being Rogerstone Primary School. The High Cross Primary site is constrained and it would be difficult to develop a new facility whilst the school continued to operate from the existing buildings.

  1. With regards to 21st Century funding, please could you name any schools on the list that will benefit from the funding without the need for expansion? I can confirm that the Council’s 21st Century Schools Band B Programme in the primary sector is focussed on expansion to meet the increasing demand for school places across the City.


Join the Parade… Pride Cymru’s Big Weekend returns this August bank holiday with a kaleidoscope of colour, music, love and glitter and my friends at Rainbow Newport have asked me to invite you to join them on the parade With over 50,000 people expected to descend on Cardiff over the 3 day event, the city itself will become a celebration of culture and diversity, acting as a beacon of acceptance and strength in promoting the rights of LGBT+ people across Wales. From musical entertainment to market stalls and a street food fair, the weekend offers 3 days of non-stop party atmosphere which includes the ever-growing Pride Parade through the city centre, if you’d like to join the Newport contingent see the Rainbow Newport facebook page for info, last year over 7000 people marched in celebration of Wales’ diverse LGBT+ culture, supported by over 400 volunteers, event sponsors and Pride Cymru’s hard working committee members. Musical guests include Rupaul’s drag race star Derrick Barry, dance music duo Flip and Fill, the iconic Angie brown and 90’s singing sensation Sonique.  Topping this off, the capital will see the legendary Gabrielle on the Sunday mainstage. Dreams can come true!


Help our homeless……. Why not think about  Volunteering  today and helping  homeless people in Newport?   You may have noticed a lot of attention recently on homelessness and an increase in people on the streets in our City. It can be hard to find something positive you can do to help – but if you’re an early riser who wants to get involved with the local community, there’s a charity you can help out my friends at  The Wallich support people experiencing homelessness across Newport. Their Rough Sleepers’ Intervention Team in Newport City Centre are calling out for volunteers to help deliver breakfast and support to people who are currently sleeping rough.  A few hours of your time could help provide the first step out of homelessness, helping people away from the dangers of the streets and into a place of safety. For more information or to apply to be a volunteer, visit or call 02920 668 464.


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