Join the cagoule brigade

27th February 2004 at 00:00
PEMBROKESHIRE A county with everything for those with a passion for the outdoors

Martin Whittaker goes looking for a job in a Welsh idyll for walkers and surfers.

Aren't the Welsh planning to abolish Sats in key stages 2 and 3 as well?

Indeed they are - although, to be honest, the beauty of Pembrokeshire in West Wales should be incentive enough to teach there. This is a lovely rural county full of small towns and villages with Britain's only coastal national park, some of the country's finest beaches, and more castles and ancient churches than you can shake a stick at.

South Pembrokeshire is known traditionally as "little England beyond Wales". The county has a north-south divide, reflecting an historic division between settlers in the south and Celts in the north. Today, the north has the majority of the county's Welsh speakers, while the south is very Anglicised.

But didn't it used to be called Dyfed?

It did. Dyfed county council was the education authority until 1996 when it split into three unitary authorities- Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire, a move that must have pleased some BBC Radio 4 presenters who never really got to grips with pronouncing Dyfed.

So, are they crying out for teachers? Pembrokeshire has no problems recruiting teachers, other than those experienced by other schools in Wales, which has shortages in maths, science, modern foreign languages and Welsh.

The authority operates a pool system for primary posts. Teaching jobs are advertised on the authority's website:

The county maintains 77 primaries, eight 11-18 mixed comprehensives, one special school and one pupil referral unit. There are 30 primaries in which Welsh is the first language or used frequently. In the remainder Welsh is taught as a second language. The county has one designated Welsh-medium secondary school, and two others that offer some subjects in the medium of Welsh.

What is the education authority like? Actually, Pembrokeshire is on a roll just now. It came fourth in a recent Audit Commission survey of authorities ranked in terms of popularity with teachers. Best-value inspections by Estyn, the Welsh inspectorate, gave the county good reports. Its admissions and planning places service, in-service training and governors' support were all judged to be excellent.

The authority has a large number of small village schools and it aroused controversy with the announcement of closures last year. The county gives funding to its primary and secondary schools that is above the average for Wales. Graham Longster, head of improvement and inclusion, says: "We believe our schools are generally successful. They are in the top quartile in nearly all performance indicators.

"School inspections by Estyn show a good profile of high-quality education.

We haven't had a school in special measures or with serious concerns."

Is there much to do when the marking is done?

Not if you like the bright lights and big cities. The main population centres are the towns of Pembroke, Tenby, Milford Haven, Haverfordwest and Fishguard.

But if you like the great outdoors, Pembrokeshire could be the place for you. The coastal national park has miles of rugged cliffs and clean sandy beaches. It is a haven for surfers and walkers. The old town of St Davids can become overrun with people in cagoules and woolly hats. The county is often portrayed as remote, but has good road links to the M4 and south-east Wales.

Can I afford to live there?

Yes. According to the latest Land Registry figures, the average semi-detached house in Pembrokeshire costs pound;94,571. A terraced house goes for pound;88,807. Flats and maisonettes sell for an average pound;103,300.

Any famous sonsdaughters?

Singer-songwriter David Gray, author Sarah Walters, actor Christian Bale, artists Augustus John and his sister Gwen John. And Pembroke castle was the birthplace of King Henry VII.

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