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.”
KeolisAmey awarded Wales and Borders Rail contract
KEOLISAMEY is pleased that the Welsh Government has announced its intention to award the contract to operate the Wales and Borders rail service and the South Wales Metro to KeolisAmey.
Upon successful completion of a 10-day standstill period, the contract will run from June 4, 2018, to October 14, 2033, with rail services transferring on October 14, 2018.
This standstill period is normal procurement practice.
KeolisAmey is a joint venture partnership of international public transport operator Keolis, and infrastructure asset management specialist Amey.
KeolisAmey currently runs the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) in London, which has one of the best records in UK rail – consistently better than 99% reliability. Additionally, we operate and maintain Greater Manchester’s Metrolink – the largest tram network in the UK.
Alistair Gordon, Chief Executive of Keolis UK, said: “This will be a transformative new rail service for Wales and its borders which will see Keolis once more combine its worldwide expertise in passenger operations with Amey’s engineering excellence.
“We look forward to the successful completion of the procurement process – this exciting contract will deliver for all of Wales. The procurement process was rigorous, resulting in transformative solutions for the benefit of all in Wales, and indeed, future generations.
“While the proposed changes won’t happen overnight, the railway will be unrecognisable in five years thanks to the vision of the Welsh Government.”
Andy Milner, Amey’s Chief Executive, said: “Building on our successful partnership with Keolis, which already sees us deliver two high performing services – the Greater Manchester Metrolink and London’s DLR – we are honoured to be asked to operate the Wales and Borders service.
“This is a great opportunity for us to use our joint capabilities to deliver a first-rate service for Wales. We will be focused on working with Transport for Wales to transform the existing infrastructure and introduce new trains to significantly improve the passenger experience, as well as creating hundreds of new jobs and apprenticeship opportunities.”
KeolisAmey is unable to make any further comment until the procurement process has concluded and the contract has been awarded.
Changes made to Sex and Relationships Education
EDUCATION SECRETARY Kirsty Williams has announced changes to Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) and its role in the curriculum.
Whilst the topic of sex and relationships is a statutory part of the curriculum of Wales, individual schools can currently choose their approach to the subject. But the changes, set to be introduced in 2022, aim to provide a greater grasp of sexuality, with greater emphasis on healthy relationships rather than a lesson on the biology of the topic.
Age appropriate material on diversity, domestic abuse and consent will be taught to children from five to 16 years old.
The announcement comes 30 years after Section 28 was introduced in Welsh, English and Scottish schools. Section 28 of the Local Government Act stated that a local authority ‘shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality’ or ‘promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship’. It was repealed in 2000 in Scotland and in 2003 for the rest of the UK.
Kirsty Williams, Member of the Welsh Assembly for Brecon and Radnorshire, said: “The days of traditional sex education are long gone; the world has moved on and our curriculum must move with it.
“Sex should never be taught in isolation for the simple reason that it is about so much more than just sex; it’s also about relationships, rights and respect and that must go hand in hand with a much broader understanding of sexuality.
“Anything less does a disservice to our learners and teachers.
“The fact is relationships and sexuality shape our lives as well as the world around us.
“They are a fundamental part of who we are and how we understand ourselves, each other and society.
“30 years on from the introduction of Section 28, we will also ensure that RSE is fully inclusive of all genders and sexualities and meets the needs of LGBTQI+ learners.
“Crucial to all of this will be ensuring that our teachers have the knowledge and confidence to provide the RSE our learners deserve.”
Illegal gin traps leads to death of red kite
AN RSPCA appeal for information has been launched following the death of a red kite caught by an illegal gin trap.
RSPCA Cymru was alerted after the poor bird of prey was found bleeding, and with broken legs, in the trap on Park Avenue in Aberystwyth on May 7.
The caller who found the bird transferred the animal to a local veterinary practice, where it was confirmed that the legs had been broken by the trap.
Sadly, the vet was left with no choice but to put the bird to sleep to prevent further suffering.
Gin traps, such as the device used in this incident, are spring-operated and illegal to set and use, although not illegal to own. It is also illegal to set any spring trap in the open or on top of a post.
The RSPCA say they are following a line of inquiry about the placing of the trap – but are calling on the local community in Aberystwyth to get in touch should they have any relevant information.
RSPCA inspector Keith Hogben said: “These gin traps were made illegal to set many years ago and yet shockingly are still being used to catch animals. They are indiscriminate and sadly this red kite is the latest victim.
“The potential consequences of these devices for animals and humans are so severe. I shudder to think what could have happened had a toddler, for example, crossed the path of this trap.
“We are following a line of inquiry on this incident but are eager for more information to come to light as to the circumstances behind this illegal trap being put down.
“The RSPCA’s inspectorate appeal line can be reached on 0300 123 8018, and all calls are treated in confidence.”
If you have concerns about the welfare of an animal, please call the RSPCA’s emergency line on 0300 1234 999 to report the incident.
For more information on what to do if you find a wild animal in need of help, please visit the RSPCA website.
If you wish to help RSPCA Cymru complete rescues such as this, you can donate online. The RSPCA is a charity and relies on public donations.
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