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.”
Ceredigion Conservative Association Elects a New Chairman
On the 18th September, the Ceredigion Conservative Association held its Annual General Meeting, attended remotely by Conservative Members from across the County. The Association was formally re-established and Patrick Loxdale was elected as the new Chairman.
Commenting on his new position, Patrick says:
“ I am very honoured to be given the opportunity to serve in this position. I believe passionately in democracy and the democratic process. The Welsh Conservatives came second in Ceredigion in last year’s General Election, increasing the Conservative vote share by more than the national average. It shows that Conservative values are widely held by people of all ages in Ceredigion, and it is important that we have a functioning local association, and strong candidates to allow their opinions to be heard.”
Patrick, whose family have lived in Llanilar for five generations, previously served as a Medical Officer in The Royal Navy for almost twenty years, qualifying as a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon. From 2001 to 2016 he worked as an NHS Consultant in Devon. Moving back to Llanilar when his brother passed away, Patrick now farms from his family home and enjoys acquiring new knowledge in organic farming and rural management. Patrick adds:
“Ceredigion is a fantastic place to live, with a world beating environment. There are great opportunities for our future and our children’s security, prosperity and fulfilment here. Yet the Labour run Welsh Government continues to fail to grasp this and rarely provides any real focus outside of the M4 corridor! In next year’s Senedd election, the people of Ceredigion deserve a credible alternative choice; a choice that rejects both the on-going failures of Welsh Labour and the separatist ideology of Plaid Cymru. It is time for the people of Ceredigion to vote for the Welsh Conservatives.
Walk-in testing now available for Aberystwyth town
From today [Wednesday 30 September 2020], people in Aberystwyth with symptoms of COVID-19 can access testing (through a booked appointment) via a temporary walk-in facility in the town.
Hywel Dda University Health Board has arranged this extra testing service in addition to the drive through facility already in place at Canolfan Rheidol, because many residents in the town, including students, do not have their own private vehicle in order to access the drive-through testing facility.
The facility is located in the former university nursery building (behind, but not connected to, Padarn Surgery), Penglais Road, Aberystwyth and can be accessed via the walkway which will be clearly signposted to ensure people get to the right place.
Alison Shakeshaft, Director of Therapies & Health Science at Hywel Dda University Health Board said: “We have put this extra facility in place to make sure those in the local community without their own transport are not missing out on getting a test when they need it.
“We appreciate the efforts people are making to help protect each other during this challenging time. I urge everyone to remain vigilant and follow the rules, including wearing face coverings where required, keep social distancing, washing hands regularly, or using a hand sanitiser if hand washing is not possible, to help us live and work alongside the virus whilst containing its spread.”
Eifion Evans, Ceredigion County Council Chief Executive said, “We thank Hywel Dda University Health Board for providing extra testing service in Ceredigion. Residents and students alike are urged to utilise this service for the health of everyone living in our county and we are able to protect the vulnerable. This is a critical time for us to follow the rules and keep Ceredigion safe.”
Anyone who has symptoms of the virus (a new persistent cough, high temperature or loss/change of taste or smell) must book a test as soon as possible through the online UK portal at www.gov.wales/coronavirus.
Please make sure when booking your test that you select the option you need (for example, only book the walk-in centre if you are not able to travel in your own vehicle to the drive through facility). If you attend the walk-in centre you must wear a face covering.
University students with COVID-19 symptoms, when booking a test, are required to provide the temporary local address they are living at while they are students at Aberystwyth university and not their usual home address.
Please do not book a test if you do not have COVID-19 symptoms and do not turn up without booking first as it will not be possible to accommodate you without an appointment.
Please follow the latest self-isolation guidelines which can be found here.
Thank you for helping to #KeepCeredigionSafe.
For the latest news and updated from Hywel Dda University Health Board visit www.hduhb.wales.nhs.uk
Adjustment to Safe Zones
In August, temporary traffic orders were introduced so that Safe Zones for four Ceredigion towns could remain for up to 18 months subject to regular reviews so minor adjustments can be made.
In line with the evidence collected on the use of the towns, Ceredigion County Council feel the need to keep the safe zones in place for the time being. Aberaeron and New Quay will continue as they are.
In Cardigan the closures will change to 11am until 4:30pm Monday to Saturday. The safe zones will not be in place on a Sunday in Cardigan. These adjustments will come in to force on Sunday morning, 04 October.
In Aberystwyth, additional parking has been implemented for the disabled and blue badge holders in Chalybeate Street close to the Care Society Mobility Centre.
Further enhancements to provide better access for the disabled and blue badge holders will also continue to be explored.
Safe zones were introduced in Aberaeron, Aberystwyth, Cardigan and New Quay on 13 July to create safe and spacious areas for the public to visit and provide the confidence that social distancing can be maintained in these areas.
Safe zones will be in place until at least 01 November 2020 and reviewed fortnightly in line with the infection rate and available evidence.
More information can be seen on the safe zones web page: www.ceredigion.gov.uk/SafeZones
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