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Confusion surrounding Welsh for Adult learners

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Two steps forward and one step back: Welsh for adults provision still unclear

Two steps forward and one step back:
Welsh for adults provision still unclear

WELSH language classes for adult learners in Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire, and Powys have no tutors and no timetables with less than three months to go until the start of the next academic year. ‘Untold uncertainty’ about what courses will be taught and who will be teaching them has left the future of a key manifesto commitment from Labour unclear. The disarray has followed the dramatic reorganisation of the provision of Welsh language classes for adults across Wales with suggestions being made that money intended to fund tutors and support students have ended up bound up in administration and bureaucracy.

In several areas , a significant number of Welsh language tutors have been laid off or made redundant by those providers who tendered unsuccessfully the ten new contracts awarded by the new entity responsible for overseeing and coordinating the provision of adult language classes. Details of who received offers and the basis of those offers have never been made public, but what is known is:

  • Swansea University was one of the biggest losers, and lost both Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire
  • • In Pembrokeshire, the service will be provided by the county council
  • Aberystwyth University has lost the old county of Meirionnydd but gained Carmarthenshire

There have been other changes in geographical responsibility, mainly in the north. A significant number of experienced staff have been made redundant in Swansea, and a further significant number are facing redundancy in North East Wales. That was certainly not the intention of the report which went to the then Education Minister Leighton Andrews, the main thrust of which was to remove layers of bureaucracy and management and ensure that funding went to the frontline of tutors and learners. What seems to be happening is that ordinary teaching staff are facing the brunt of the job losses. Those jobs are not well-paid and many staff are effectively on zero hour contracts.

WELSH GOVERNMENT SLAMMED

We asked Sian Gwenllian AM, Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for the Welsh Language, for her views. Ms Gwenllian told us: “The Welsh Government’s failure to commit to funding the Welsh for Adults course for next year has led to untold uncertainty. Across Wales, tutors who provide Welsh classes for adults are waiting nervously to hear whether their jobs will be secure, whilst hundreds of students want to know whether the course they want to enrol on will be run. “The Labour government needs to act with immediacy in order to secure their future. The Welsh for Adults budget has already been cut by almost £3m by the Labour government. If it is really planning further cuts to the National Centre, then how on earth is the government going to deliver on its manifesto commitment to increase the number of Welsh speakers to one million? “In the election , Plaid Cymru pledged to double the Welsh for Adults budget with a promise to improve learning opportunities in the workplace, in the home and to promote the language amongst newcomers. It’s time for the Labour government to mimic our ambition. “There is a fortnight to go until the deadline for funding expires. Labour needs to end its dithering and act now.”

THE DISPUTE IN CEREDIGION

In Ceredigion, the County Council will cease to be a provider from July 31 , and The Herald has been told Council staff were told by Aberystwyth University in February that they had nothing to worry about – neither they nor their students would notice any difference, and everyone would be transferred to the university. At a meeting of staff in March, Ceredigion County Council staff were told that Aberystwyth University had not accepted the UWTSD offer, and that its lawyers had concluded that TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment) protocol was not “relevant”. That protocol is intended to ensure that employees are not placed in any worse a position if a new employer substantially takes over the business of an old one.

As a result of the Aberystwyth University’s stance, staff were warned that this could mean either voluntary or compulsory redundancy.

In May, the Council issued redundancy notices to all 19 staff involved, with a rider that the process could be aborted if the university decided to take them on.

Most of the Council staff are stuck in limbo, with Aberystwyth University claiming it is still seeking answers from the Centre in Carmarthen regarding its contract.

Neither the University staff nor the Ceredigion staff have been told anything, and now there are just over 2 weeks to go before the end of the final term. Nobody knows if they will have a job after the end of July, and the course programme for the next academic year is stuck in limbo, unapproved. Tutors can’t even tell students if there will be any classes in the autumn.

Aggrieved tutors have contacted The Herald to complain that their treatment by the University has been ‘appalling’ and that the HR Department at Aberystwyth University is ‘god-awful’ and ‘the worst’.

NO REDUNDANCIES IN CARMARTHENSHIRE

Aeron Rees, Head of Learner Programmes at Carmarthenshire County Council , told The Herald : “Discussions are ongoing with the National Centre for Welsh for Adults and the proposed new provider for Welsh for Adults regarding the way forward in terms of future staffing and course delivery. No members of staff or tutors have been made redundant.”

THE UNIVERSITY RESPONDS

We asked Aberystwyth University to comment on the situation. A spokesperson told us: “Aberystwyth University has been offered the opportunity by the National Centre for Learning Welsh to deliver the Welsh for Adults education programme from August 2016 within three counties and is awaiting the formal contract.

“The University is considering the offer and, along with other providers, has taken legal advice on the staffing implications. In March 2016, we made a request for specific information from the National Centre for Learning Welsh in Carmarthen, which was set up by the Welsh Government.

“A final decision will be made when we have received this information and the full implications have been considered. We hope to be in a position to share our decision with staff and learners by the end of June 2016 .”

AT THE HEART OF THE ISSUE

A spokesperson for the National Centre for Learning Welsh explained: “Responsibility for the Welsh for Adults education programme transfers to the National Centre for Learning Welsh, a new organisation established by Welsh Government, on August 1 2016.

“The Centre has rationalised the number of providers and sub-providers delivering the programme in order to improve planning and raise standards. This is in line with the recommendations set out in the Government’s report Raising Our Sights: review of Welsh for Adults.

“Ten providers have been invited to deliver Welsh courses in different geographical areas. Nine providers have accepted the invitation and their course schedules have been confirmed for September.

“Aberystwyth University has been invited to deliver Welsh courses in Ceredigion, Powys and Carmarthenshire. The University’s response is expected shortly; in the meantime, the Centre is sharing all relevant information and facilitating discussions at a local level.

“In March, providers were informed it was not appropriate for the Centre to give legal advice on local employment matters and that providers should seek their own detailed counsel.

“The Centre is sensitive to the fact this is a period of change for the programme; it is fully-committed to ensuring provision is in place for Welsh language learners across Wales from September onwards.

“Information will be shared with tutors and learners in Ceredigion, Powys and Carmarthenshire as soon as possible.”

 

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Four arrested as man remains in ‘critical condition’

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FOUR men have been arrested after a man was hospitalised in the early hours of Sunday morning (Jan 14).

19-year-old Ifan Richards Owen is in hospital in critical condition after the attack.

The incident took place in High Street, Aberystwyth, at approximately 2:20am.

Four men, aged 19, 20, 23 and 25 have been arrested on suspicion of grievous bodily harm with intent.

They are in police custody.

Police are now appealing for witnesses to contact them as a matter of urgency.

DCI Anthony Evans, of Dyfed-Powys Police, said: “We are issuing a fresh appeal for witnesses to the assault on Ifan Richards Owens, aged 19, which occurred on High Street, Aberystwyth at around 2.20am on Sunday, January 14.

“In particular we would like to speak to anyone who gave first aid to Mr Owens before emergency services arrived.

“Mr Owens remains in hospital in a critical condition.

“We would urge anyone with any information that could assist in our investigation any witnesses to the incident or anyone who may have any CCTV or video footage of the incident to contact police on 101, quoting incident number 402 of January 14. Alternatively, call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

“Four men, aged 25, 23, 20 and 19, have been arrested on suspicion of grievous bodily harm with intent and remain in police custody at this time.”

Ifan’s family said in a statement:  “Ifan is a kind and gentle person, and we have been overwhelmed with messages of support from family, friends, as well as Ifan’s school friends, teachers, university friends, and sports teams, who are all sending their best wishes for Ifan, who is desperately ill following this incident in Aberystwyth.

“Ifan’s only choice for university was Aberystwyth, he had no interest in any other university and absolutely loves the town. He plays football and rugby for the Geltaidd Football and Rugby Clubs and is enjoying his second year studying Criminology at Aberystwyth University.”

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‘Once in a lifetime’ reorganisation planned by Health Board

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THE LOCAL Health Board is embarking on a ‘once in a lifetime’ reorganisational plan which is looking at all potential options to ‘change the status quo and focus on improving health’ of locals.

This will involve, a press release has revealed, transferring more hospital services into the community where appropriate.

This is part of a strategy that the Health Board is looking into, to help solve an acute recruitment problem which is putting a great deal of pressure on the way that the Heath Board operates – and is leading to an untenable level of use of costly temporary staff to plug gaps and services.

In the summer of 2017, the Health Board embarked in an engagement with the public called ‘The Big Conversation’ which involved public workshops and drop-ins being held across the three counties of Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion.

The Health Board now says the it has independently analysed opinions of the general public and has been using that data to explore, challenge and test different scenarios.

It is yet to be seen what these changes will mean for end service users.

The Herald understands it is likely to mean hospital services being reduced or cut, and replaced with community alternatives.

The Health Board has said it will not make any changes, unless it can guarantee the safety of the people which it serves.

The Health Board has insisted that no preferred option for change has yet been determined, and nothing has been signed off or agreed at this stage.

Medical Director Dr Philip Kloer said: “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for our health service and community to work together to design an NHS which is fit for our generation and beyond. It has been acknowledged for some time across the UK that healthcare services are challenged like never before and we need significant change. Indeed this has been recognised in the recently published ‘Parliamentary Review of Health & Social Care’ here in Wales.

“We need to develop more proactive, resilient and better resourced local community services to support and improve people’s health and wellbeing, and avoid deterioration where possible. This will involve closer working with our partners, particularly colleagues in social care. We are also looking at ways of providing the most modern clinical practice, using the latest digital, technological, and new scientific developments, in fit for purpose facilities to provide better patient outcomes and experience.

“A number of our services are fragile and dependent on significant numbers of temporary staff, which can lead to poorer quality care. For us specifically in Hywel Dda, the geography we cover is large, with many scattered communities that are getting older, needing more holistic health and social care treatment and support. Because of this, we need to better resource our community based care, which is where most of our patient contact is, and help people manage their health conditions. We also need to evolve traditional ways of working and provide a more proactive approach. This should give patients – young, older and frail and everyone in between – the services they need when the need it, so people do not have to wait too long.

“This will mean changing hospital-based care, as well as community care, and we appreciate the attachment local people and our own staff have for their local hospitals. They have been cared for in them, or work in them, and they also play an important role in our wider communities. The options may propose change to a local hospital; however this is about more than the buildings. This is about investing in our communities, attracting doctors, nurses and therapists by operating a modern healthcare system and keeping hospitals for those who really need hospital care.

“We will not put in place any change that isn’t safe for our patients and population. And we will look at all the impacts from ensuring services are safer with better patient outcomes, to considering the wider impact on people, including the most vulnerable.”

Dr Kloer added: “The potential options are evolving, with changes to them on almost a daily basis. Many will never even reach public consultation, for a variety of reasons including safety, accessibility and affordability, or will change significantly as they are tested against population needs and healthcare standards.

“We will be coming back to the public in the spring with fewer options that have been more rigorously tested and we will open and honest about what we think our preferred option is and why. We would not, and cannot, propose something that would not be safe for our population.

“We live in this community, use our NHS and work for our NHS and we want to work with our patients, staff, partners and public to ensure it is the best it can be.”

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It’s About Time

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Sioned spinning

THIS January, Ceredigion Museum are proud to exhibit artwork by the portrait painter Seren Morgan Jones, originally from Aberystwyth and the third generation of women artists in her family.

Jones follows in the footsteps of her grandmother Margaret Jones, whose work forms part of the Ceredigion Museum collection. The exhibition will be followed in January 2019 by a retrospective show of work by her grandmother Margaret Jones who celebrates her 100th birthday this December.

It’s About Time is an amalgamation of two distinct bodies of work created by Seren Morgan Jones; ‘History’s Eyes’ documenting Welsh women from the 19th century and ‘Portraits of Protesters’ a collection of paintings documenting Welsh suffragists at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Drawing inspiration from historical aesthetics and references, but expanding the scope of traditional portraiture, Jones redefines and re-imagines the historical narrative, and through this creating a place for women within the Welsh visual story. The paintings take on an additional layer of importance and meaning when shown in the context of Ceredigion Museum; which houses a large collection of items representing the culture and history of the county. The collection is home to many items that have been donated by women, but we too often don’t have the narrative of those women’s lives. Jones used the Ceredigion Museum collection of welsh costume as research for her paintings depicting women in welsh traditional garb; the women largely remain nameless and faceless in our displays and yet here, in Jones’ work those women’s histories are now brought to life.

The portraits are powerful and direct; the eyes gaze unswerving to create an utterly distraction-free moment between viewer and painting which seeks to challenge and question. The portraits are imagined and shaped from stories and photographs of women rather than actual bygone figures. In the creation of these false portraits, in a style that references that of the tradition of Welsh Masters; Jones places her and the women whom she is portraying within this cultural narrative.

Of her work, Jones says: “I create an alternative image of Welsh women to counter the representation often seen in tourist shops. Some would argue that this is the only ubiquitous presence of women from Wales’ past. It is important that the viewer can relate to these women and for this they must seem to have once lived.”

Join Ceredigion Museum for the official opening of the exhibition on 27 January at 2pm. The exhibition will be opened by the renowned artist William Wilkins.

The exhibition is a partnership project with TEN gallery Cardiff and will run from 20 January until 16 April 2018 at Ceredigion Museum. For more information please contact Assistant Curator Alice Briggs, alice.briggs@ceredigion.gov.uk or 01970633086.

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