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Welsh tuition wrangle rolls on

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Aberystwyth University: Still to confirm its position

Aberystwyth University: Still to confirm its position

ARRANGEMENTS for the provision of Welsh language learners courses across Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire, and Powys remain uncertain, The Herald has confirmed. 

The University of Wales Trinity Saint David was selected by the Welsh Government to lead Canolfan Dysgu Cymraeg Genedlaethol – thew new National Centre for Learning Welsh.

That new Centre was supposed to be based in Carmarthen, but The Herald understands that many of its operational decisions will instead be taken in Cardiff.

The organisation of the Centre’s management structure and senior staff appointments have been criticised for being Cardiff-centric and not being representative of the Welsh language community in West a n d North Wales.

Aberystwyth University was successful in its application to the new national centre to run courses in West Wales.

It now appears as though Aberystwyth University is trying to get out of the terms of a contract for which it tendered successfully, or at least to vary that contract’s terms in its own favour. A dispute has since arisen between Aberystwyth University and local authorities regarding the transfer of staff to it as the tuition provider.

The situation has caused anger and dismay both to staff who do not know whether or not they will have a job, and amongst students who do not know whether and when courses will be delivered.

Speaking to The Herald, Adam Price, AM for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, expressed his dissatisfaction with the situation: “The priority has to be the availability and continuity of Welsh for Adult courses for learners in Carmarthenshire so that residents can continue to study and learn in their local communities.

“The National Centre was hailed by the Welsh government as a means to improve the provision of Welsh for Adult courses in Wales, yet it seems in practice a lot is left to be desired.

“On the basis of the information with which I have been provided, I am not content with the situation that seems to be unfolding here in Carmarthenshire.

“As a consequence, I have made urgent representations to the Welsh Minister for Lifelong Learning and Welsh Language to ask that he intervenes in this matter and ensures that the long-term arrangements for courses in Carmarthenshire are secured.”

It appears, however, that the University is now engaged in an exercise to reduce its commitment to provide all Welsh language tuition in the area for which it tendered.

Having been alerted to a potential change, The Herald asked Carmarthenshire County Council to comment.

A spokesperson for the Council told us: ‘It is confirmed that Carmarthenshire County Council will continue to provide a range of Welsh for Adults courses within Carmarthenshire. Another provider will be responsible for the courses previously provided by Higher Education establishments.

“The National Centre for Learning Welsh will be overseeing these arrangements. Collectively, this will ensure a comprehensive range of courses for learners for the next academic year.”

We asked the National Centre to update us on the position, and apprised them of the information we had received.

A spokesperson for the National Centre for Learning Welsh said: “The National Centre for Learning Welsh has invited Aberystwyth University to take responsibility for Welsh for Adults courses in Ceredigion and Powys from September 2016 onwards.

“Furthermore, the University has been invited to deliver intensive courses and blended learning courses at all Levels, and Higher and Proficiency Level courses, in Carmarthenshire.

“Carmarthenshire County Council has been invited to deliver weekly courses at Entry, Foundation and Intermediate Levels in Carmarthenshire.”

That position not only confirms the rejigging of the Carmarthenshire contract, but opens questions about why it is at this stage that the University is being ‘invited to deliver courses’ for which it has already successfully tendered.

A suggestion has been by one source involved in the saga that the University had underestimated the resolve of Ceredigion County Council and the determination of the National Centre not to let it wriggle off the hook of its obligations to those staff who previously provided tuition in the Welsh language.

A spokesperson for Ceredigion Council told The Herald: “Officers from the Council have held constructive talks with Aberystwyth University and the National Centre for Learning Welsh in relation to Welsh for Adults. We are working through the details of these talks and are optimistic that a satisfactory solution can now emerge. Once the arrangements have been confirmed and details shared with staff, further information will be shared in due course.”

We asked Aberystwyth University to confirm its position and put Adam Price’s statement to them. In response we were told: “We hope to be in a position to confirm our decision in the coming days.”

We asked Adam Price’s office for a further statement in light of the developments. A spokesperson for Assembly Member Adam Price confirmed that Mr Price has made written representations to the Welsh Government’s Minister for Lifelong Learning and Welsh Language on the matter of the provision of Welsh for Adults courses, and was still awaiting a response.

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Llanelli High Street shortlisted for prize

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LLANELLI HIGH STREET has been shortlisted in the Government’s Great British High Street Awards, in proud partnership with Visa, putting them in the running for up to £15,000.

After a rigorous selection process led by a panel of independent judges, the high street has been shortlisted for the Rising Star category, which celebrates high streets which are taking the lead to adapt and diversify.

The bid by Ymlaen Llanelli follows research commissioned by Visa in April 2019 demonstrating the positive impact that the local high street has on communities. The research found that nearly three quarters of consumers (71%) in Wales say that shopping locally makes them feel happy, with nearly half (45%) citing supporting local shops and knowing where their money is going as the main reason. Spending time with friends and family (25%) and offering a sense of community (18%) were other reasons cited for why high streets make people feel happier. The research also reveals that half of consumers (50%) feel that their high street gives them a sense of pride in their local community.

High Streets Minister Jake Berry MP said: “Congratulations to Llanelli for being shortlisted for the Rising Star Award for this year’s Great British High Street Awards.

“Llanelli high street is a hive of activity, with food festivals, childrens’ days and community get-togethers all part of the local calendar. A great example of how high streets can bring a renewed energy to communities.

“People are happier when they can see their hard-earned cash support local businesses. That is why we are celebrating those that go above and beyond to keep their high streets thriving for generations to come.”

Sundeep Kaur, Head of UK & Ireland Merchant Services at Visa, added: “We’ve seen some fantastic entries for this year’s Great British High Street Awards across both the Champion High Street and Rising Star categories. In particular, the desire to innovate stands out amongst this year’s entries, with high streets adapting to the challenges presented by a rapidly changing retail environment to find ways to thrive at a local level.

“As our research shows, high streets play a vital role at the heart of communities, so this is a great opportunity for those communities with shortlisted high streets to show their support by placing their votes on the Great British High Street website.”

Llanelli High Street is one of the 28 high streets that have been shortlisted for the Rising Star category, identifying high streets which are taking the lead to adapt and diversify. 12 high streets have been shortlisted in the Champion High Street category, which recognises the UK’s best high streets. All 40 high streets are now in the running to win a prize of up to £15,000 to be dedicated to a local high street initiative.

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Head Teacher at Primary school in Llanelli suspended

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THE HEAD TEACHER of a Welsh primary school has been suspended, it has been confirmed.

Catherine Lloyd-Jenkins, who is head at Ysgol Gymraeg Ffwrnes in Llanelli, has been suspended from her duties at the school with immediate effect.

Governors at the school have been unavailable for comment, but Carmarthenshire Council confirmed the news this morning.

It is understood that the chair of the governing body is currently out of the country, and the council would not comment further on the circumstances surrounding the suspension.

The council’s director of education, Gareth Morgans, said: “School staffing is a matter for the Governing Body, however, we can confirm the headteacher of Ysgol Ffwrnes has been suspended.

“It is not appropriate to comment further.”

Mrs Lloyd-Jenkins has worked at Ysgol Gymraeg Ffwrnes for 23 years, taking up a post at the school in 1996.

She has been the headteacher there for almost 20 years, taking over the role in 2000. She has also worked as a peer inspector at Estyn, the education and training inspectorate for Wales confirmed.

According to one local councillor, ‘serious concerns’ have been raised about the school in recent months.

“Local residents and parents have approached us raising serious concerns about the school in question,” said Carmarthenshire councillor Rob James.

“We are in dialogue with senior council officers to assert whether the allegations are credible and what action the council and governors have taken in response to these allegations.”

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Dyfed-Powys Police numbers at record low, say Labour

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POLICE officers based across the Dyfed-Powys area are now at their lowest levels in the last decade, with over 300 officers being lost across the region, claim Carmarthenshire Labour.

According to a freedom of information request by Carmarthenshire Labour, police officers based across Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion are down 42% and are at record lows in both Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion.

The figures published by Dyfed-Powys Police show that Carmarthenshire has lost 160 officers in the last ten years, Pembrokeshire is down 107 officers and Ceredigion has lost 56 bobbies on the beat.

These figures come off the back of a poor report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary that shows the force has gone backwards in the last year, with crime also on the increase.

HMIC’s recent PEEL (Police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy) report noted concerns about Dyfed-Powys Police’s performance in keeping people safe and reducing crime and specifically warned of failures to assess all incidents of domestic abuse.

Carmarthenshire Labour Leader Cllr Rob James claims that the figures show that the current Police and Crime Commissioner is now performing worse than their predecessor.

Rob James stated: “These figures that show a dramatic decrease in police numbers are extremely worrying and reinforce what communities are saying across Dyfed Powys – there are simply not enough police officers in our areas.

“The fact that we now have lower police numbers in the three counties compared to the end of the last Police and Crime Commissioner’s term with crime now on the rise illustrates that the Plaid Cymru Commissioner is failing in his duty to protect our communities.

“We need urgent action to make our communities safe once more, as there is a clear link between the loss of youth provision and cuts to officer numbers, and the rise of crime in our communities.

“There is little evidence that our Commissioner has grasped the nettle over the last three years in tackling this important issue.”

These claims however, have been slapped down by Police and Crime Comissioner, Dafydd Llewellyn. He said that said that Cllr James had misunderstood or misrepresented the information provided to him.
The Carmarthen data have a significant rider attached to them.

The explanatory note reads: ‘It should be noted that the figures for Carmarthenshire police division between 2008 and 2018 are not comparable as the structure of Carmarthenshire division in 2018 has altered to that of 2008 which has impacted upon the figures provided’.

That explanation is expanded upon concerning the Ceredigion data. Regarding them, an explanatory note warns that: ‘[T]he structures between 2008 and 2019 are not comparable as some sections that were recorded divisionally now come under the HQ remit, e.g. the Road Policing Unit, CID, etc.’.

Dafydd Llewelyn pointed out that note in his response to The Herald: “As outlined in the response to the Freedom of Information request, structures between 2008 and 2019 are not comparable as some sections that were recorded as divisionally based are now recorded under the HQ remit, for example, Roads Policing Unit, CID.”

Dafydd Llewelyn continued: “Since taking up my role as the elected person to represent the many communities across the four counties served by the force, I have increased the overall resource available by 4%. I have ploughed funding into dedicated teams to support front line officers and have invested in resources to support the most vulnerable in our communities.

“I have commissioned services specific to their needs – be that as victims of domestic abuse or young people choosing to leave their homes for reasons unknown to authorities. I will continue to do this. I will not be held to account by numbers on paper alone, but by the difference I can make to individuals’ quality of life.

“I will also use the opportunity I have to campaign for services appropriate to the very specific needs an area the size of Dyfed-Powys Police has and will work with the force to adapt according to those needs.”

He concluded by pointing out: “Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Powys remain the safest counties nationally and I’m proud to be driving a service that is willing and able to flex and respond, despite the financial challenges faced day-in-day-out.”

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