A DECISION to kick announcements regarding the future of student finance in Wales made by former Education Minister Huw Lewis appears to have spectacularly backfired following comments made by former minister Julie James during a media interview.
Speaking at a Labour campaign event in Aberdare on Monday, Julie James, a Deputy Minister in the Education and Skills department of the last Welsh Government told BBC Wales: “We’re committed to continuing our current policy until Professor Diamond reports in the autumn.
“And then we’re committed to an evidence-based policy after that, with the commitment that Welsh students will always be better supported than their counterparts elsewhere.”
The Diamond report into Welsh Higher Education was commissioned as long ago as 2013 and a summary of evidence presented in December 2015 made uncomfortable reading for the then Welsh Government.
Speaking to The Herald at the time, Plaid Cymru’s Simon Thomas, a candidate in Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, said: “The report (by Professor Sir Ian Diamond) could not be clearer. All of those bodies which responded to it agreed that the current tuition fee policy is completely unsustainable.
“The evidence is overwhelming and unanswerable, but the Welsh Government has decided to wait until October and then probably feign surprise when it is told things have to change. The Welsh Government’s position on tuition fees is dishonest.”
Indeed, every education institution – including the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales – that provided evidence to Professor Diamond said that the Welsh Government’s commitment to its student finance policy – especially tuition fees – was damaging the Welsh higher education sector and was untenable.
On the campaign trail, Labour has been combative on the issue, claiming that only it will maintain the favourable settlement on tuition fees that Welsh undergraduate students have. Leighton Andrews, the former Minister who can always be depended on to stick a spoon in a pot and stir it, has even taken to social media to deride parties who have failed to commit to maintaining an unaffordable and wasteful policy.
Now, Ms James, a former minister who was actually in the Education and Skills ministry when Professor Diamond’ summary of evidence was released has hinted that Welsh Labour’s approach may change ‘depending on what Professor Diamond says’. In particular, Ms James has hinted that the Assembly Learning Grant (currently set at around £5,000) will be targeted by any new Welsh Labour Government as a way of making up the shortfall in subsidising tuition fees for Welsh students.
Ms James suggests that: “There might be nuanced changes.”
Taking the fight to Plaid and the Conservatives on student finance when one of its own candidates and a former minister has now hinted at change and, moreover, claimed that a future Welsh Labour Government’s policy will be determined by a report which it kicked back until after the election, has drawn predictable fire from both Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Conservatives.
A Welsh Conservative spokesperson told The Herald: “Welsh Labour’s stance on this issue changes from one day to the next which is indicative of a party in complete disarray.
“Welsh Conservatives have long campaigned for a reform of Labour’s unsustainable tuition fee support policy and would introduce ‘Student Rent Rebate’, offering undergraduates timely and sustainable help with university living costs.
“We would further support students in reducing their debt by exploring the viability of fast-track degrees studied over two academic years.”
Responding to a Labour politician’s admission that the current level of support given to university students may be cut, Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Education Minister Simon Thomas said: “This is the first sign that Labour politicians are realising that they cannot maintain the fiction of their tuition fee policy as it is.
“Plaid Cymru has always said that the current system is unsustainable and our manifesto has committed to a more sustainable model of funding, whereby students who live and work in Wales within five years of graduating will have £6,000 of their loans written-off, up to £18,000.
“Voters deserve an honest answer about Labour’s plans. Pretending that things won’t change is unsustainable and there will be a huge black hole in Labour’s budget if they don’t explain what they will do with their tuition fee policy.”
National Library of Wales stand will be hive of activity on Eisteddfod Maes
THE NATIONAL LIBRARY in Aberystwyth is promising a hive of activity at the National Eisteddfod of Wales in Tregaron from July 30 to August 6.
The library’s stand will include a unique exhibition and cinema where visitors can relax and enjoy viewing treasures from its vast moving images collection.
An exciting and diverse programme of events for families and adults will be held on our stand during the week, including gigs with artists such as Parisa Fouladi, Owen Shiers, Mari Mathias, Ynys, Izzy & Eädyth and Plu.
Other sessions will focus on health and wellbeing, including Clocsffit with Tudur Phillips and a circus workshop.
An event will be held in partnership with the charity Meddwl and singer Miriam Isaac to raise awareness of the importance of mental wellbeing.
Literary sessions with partners include a special event on Monday, August 1 with chief poet Gwenallt Llwyd Ifan, who is originally from Tregaron. He will present a sequence of poems, recently commissioned by the library in partnership with Barddas, which are based on and inspired by the current exhibition A Oes Heddwch?
The library will also have a presence in other areas of the Maes with diverse and fascinating presentations in the societies stands, Y Lle Celf and Tŷ Gwerin.
The library’s shop will launch a series of specially commissioned products by the artists Valeriane Leblond and Ruth Jên, together with unique items based on national collections, including some relating to the Tregaron area.
Pedr ap Llwyd, the library’s chief executive and librarian, said: “We very much look forward to seeing people from far and wide visiting us on the Maes and in the library building as we welcome one of Europe’s biggest cultural festivals here to Ceredigion.
“After a long wait, we look forward to a special and memorable occasion and we have prepared a varied and exciting programme of events, celebrating our language and culture for families, on our stand and in other areas of the Maes in Tregaron.”
Pedr ap Llwyd, the National Library of Wales’ chief executive and librarian.
Harnessing the power of theatre to explore the impact of translation on court proceedings
AN INNOVATIVE fusion of theatre and law has been adopted as a research tool in a project by Aberystwyth University academics exploring the influence of simultaneous translation on court proceedings.
The pioneering approach has been adopted by Dr Catrin Fflûr Huws, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Law and Criminology, who is interested in the engagement between theatre and law.
Dr Huws is the lead researcher on a study which is considering the effect, significance and influence of simultaneous translation in court cases, particularly the challenges and benefits to interpretation services in instances when court proceedings are held remotely.
As part of the study, a moot court was held at the University on Monday 20 June 2022.
The simulation involved the cross-examination of the claimant (an actor) by a barrister through an interpreter, following a script of a real-life court hearing.
For the purposes of the moot court, the barrister, the claimant and the interpreter were all in different locations, in order to emulate a remote court case. A mock jury was formed of members of the public.
The event used an interactive theatre technique known as Forum Theatre, which uses theatre as a tool for challenging and changing preconceptions. Audience interaction is encouraged and different options for dealing with a problem or issue are explored through participation.
Dr Catrin Fflûr Huws explains: “In a court case, effective multilingual communication is wholly reliant on the role of the translator. And yet the importance of interpretation is not adequately understood.
“In our moot court the mock jury listened to an intense cross-examination of a claimant by a barrister, both with and without simultaneous translation. Their reactions, opinions and feelings were then analysed, facilitated by a director. This allows us to ascertain the jury’s response and understanding of a claimant with an interpreter, and a claimant without an interpreter, therefore establishing the effect and impact of the interpreter.”
Other Aberystwyth academics involved in the study are Dr Rhianedd Jewell, a Senior Lecturer in Professional Welsh with expertise in translation studies and professional translation, and Psychology lecturer Dr Hanna Binks who specialises in language acquisition and the psychology of bilingualism. Non Humphries, a PhD student within the Department of Welsh and Celtic Studies is also part of the investigation team.
The research work has been funded by Aberystwyth University’s allocation of the Research Wales Innovation Fund from the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales.
Dr Rhianedd Jewell said: “This research is allowing us to explore how current practices might be changed for the better. Although the focus of this research is on Welsh-English bilingualism in court proceedings, many of the findings will also be relevant in other contexts in which court hearings are multilingual, including British Sign Language.”
The outcome of the research will be the subject of an online conference to be held on 21 July 2022.
The conference will be of interest not only to academics from the fields of Psychology, Translation Studies and Linguistics, Law, Criminology and Politics, but also to people working in the fields of justice and criminal justice, law practitioners, the police and translation services.
Free School Meals for Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 from September 2022
CEREDIGION COUNTY COUNCIL will be offering Free School Meals from the Autumn term onwards to all Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 children.
This comes following Welsh Government’s announcement to offer Free School Meals for primary school pupils across Wales, starting with Reception classes from September 2022.
In response to the current rising cost-of-living, this is a positive step forward in ensuring that no child goes hungry while in school and tackling poverty in our County.
From Monday 5 September 2022 onwards, all Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 Children in Ceredigion schools will be offered Free School Meals, extending the offer beyond what needs to be done by September.
Ceredigion County Council and Welsh Government are committed to implementing this scheme quickly and would ask for your patience as we build catering capacity to ensure a successful phased implementation and work towards a whole school roll-out over the next three years.
The Council are working with Welsh Government to develop a process for you to be able to request a free meal for your child/children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 from September 2022, trying to avoid any unnecessary burden for you.
If your child is currently in receipt of free school meals and/or any other associated benefits, these will not be affected.
Wyn Thomas, Cabinet Member responsible for Schools, Lifelong Learning and Skills, said: “The Government’s aim is for Welsh Local Authorities to provide a free school meal for Reception pupils in September 2022. The Council has taken advantage of the flexibility of the scheme and so more pupils in Ceredigion will benefit from the offer of a free meal for Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 pupils in September 2022 in the County’s schools.”
Further information will follow by the end of term.
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