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‘Astounding’ higher education cuts curbed



Reversal an admission government got it wrong: Simon Thomas, AM

Reversal an admission government got it wrong: Simon Thomas, AM

WELSH GOVERNMENT plans to cut funding for higher education which could have had a devastating impact on West Wales’s economy were not subject to assessment of their impact by Carwyn Jones’s Cabinet.

Plaid Cymru has uncovered that there was no discussion by the Welsh Cabinet of the potential impact of a 32% cut to university budgets.

The discovery came ahead of the Welsh Budget statement on Tuesday (Feb 9).

Last month, the First Minister confirmed to Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood that his government had made no calculation of the job threats the budget cuts posed.

The potential impact of the proposed cuts underlined by a report prepared by Universities Wales in October 2015.

That report disclosed that around 5,100 jobs in West Wales were linked to higher education, whether directly or indirectly, and that higher education was worth in excess of £484m a year to the combined economies of Ceredigion, Carmarthen and Pembrokeshire

Ahead of the budget, Plaid Cymru called for the Government’s planned £41m cuts to university budgets to be reversed in order to protect standards of Higher Education in Wales. The proposed cut was reduced to £10m by the Welsh Government in the budget announcement.

Plaid Cymru AM Simon Thomas said: “I’m pleased that the Labour government has bowed to pressure from the Plaid Cymru and has reversed some of these cuts. It is astounding that the government was intending to make record cuts to the Higher Education budget without even carrying out an impact assessment or discussing it in cabinet meetings, and this reversal is an admission that it got it wrong.

“The Education Minister has made a mess of things, and threw our universities into panic. His refusal to acknowledge the crisis that he has caused smacks of a deep misunderstanding of the effect that such large cuts would have on our universities, and the subsequent impact on Wales’ economy. I am pleased that the Higher Education sector has been given some reassurance today that the cuts will not be as devastating as they first thought.”

Mr Thomas’s own position was itself subject to criticism from Welsh Liberal Democrat AM Eluned Parrott.

She hit out at Plaid’s education spokesperson for a supposed slur cast against vocational educational in a Plaid Cymru press conference.

Mr Thomas told journalists on Tuesday that Labour’s proposed cuts to higher education would leave Wales with “glorified polytechnics”.

According to Mr Parrott: “Simon Thomas’s attitude towards what were polytechnics is absolutely appalling. It’s entirely typical of the stigma attached to vocational and professional education, and demonstrates just why so many young people are put off taking such a route into work.”

Mr Thomas, the Mid and West Wales Assembly Member, and Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire candidate responded: “The Lib Dem spokeswoman does not seem to realise that polytechnics disappeared from Wales twenty years ago, so all our institutions are universities: vocational training is delivered by FE colleges and work placed learning.

“We are clearly committed to vocational training but we won’t slash our universities and pit one sort of education against another.”

The issue of cuts to Welsh higher education has grown particularly toxic following the Welsh Government’s decision to continue exporting £90m of Welsh Government money to English universities in order to top up tuition fee payments for Welsh students studying over the border.

The Welsh Government’s student finance arrangements have been described as ‘unsustainable’ by virtually every higher education body that responded to a call for evidence made in connection with a review of the Welsh Higher Education system headed by Professor Sir Ian Diamond. The Welsh Government is already out of step with funding postgraduate study. From September 2016, English students studying at Welsh universities will be able to access student loans to fund their studies. Welsh students studying the same courses at Welsh universities will get no such support. There is no sign that the Welsh Government is considering reviewing that policy, although The Herald was previously told by a Welsh Government spokesperson that an announcement might be made last month on how the Welsh Government would address the issue of postgraduate funding.

Huw Lewis AM, the current Welsh Education Minister, who is due to retire from the Senedd in May, has ruled out reconsidering the Welsh Government’s approach to its student finance package until after May’s Assembly election.

The findings of the Diamond Review have likewise been kicked into the long grass beyond May’s election by the Welsh Government.

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Werndale Hospital recognised for outstanding patient care in national award



STAFF at Werndale Hospital near Carmarthen have been recognised for the quality of their patient care. 

The prestigious ‘Private Hospital Group of the Year’ award is presented to an organisation that has shown excellence in its delivery of care, commitment to the community and innovation within healthcare.

Werndale Hospital was also recognised for their initiatives to support staff in their career progression and wellbeing.   

The latest statistics show, 98% of patients at Werndale Hospital were satisfied with their overall level of care, 98% of patients would recommend their care to family and friends, and 98% of patients rated the nursing staff as excellent or very good. 

In addition, independent analysis of Circle hospitals’ hip and knee procedure outcomes of health improvement shows that Circle scored 8.4 versus an independent sector average of 7.8 in the hip category, and a score of 15.4 versus an independent sector average of 13.9 in the knee category.   

The award presented to Circle Health Group, owners of Werndale Hospital, in London in June, also noted the extraordinary contribution the teams at the hospital had made to the community. 

In 2021 alone, Werndale Hospital partnered with Air Ambulance Wales and raised £1,205 to support the charity’s work in the community.  

In addition to the charitable work, Werndale Hospital was recognised for it’s commitment to support staff through a series of wellbeing initiatives and career development opportunities. The judges were particularly impressed with the launch of the ‘Be Heard’ survey at the hospital.   

The survey looks to empower staff to feedback on everything from the working environment at the hospital through to their own career ambitions. Building directly on the feedback from this survey, the ‘Grow Your Own’ campaign was launched which supported staff to work towards specific qualifications from nursing degrees with partnered universities through to bespoke management programmes and MBA qualifications.   

As a direct result of this support for staff at what is a challenging time for healthcare workers, Werndale Hospital and Circle Heath Group were recognised as being a Top 20 Best Large Company to work for.   

At the heart of Werndale Hospital’s approach to treating patients is a commitment to the community they serve.  

 Paolo Pieri, CEO of Circle Health Group, said:  “The award is a testament to what an amazing year 2021 was for Werndale Hospital with considerable investment into the facilities and services on offer to patients in west Wales. I couldn’t be prouder of what our staff and doctors have achieved.”  

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Aberglasney Gardens delighted to win 2022 Trip advisor Travellers’ Choice Award



ABERGLASNEY Gardens is thrilled to have been recognised by Tripadvisor as a 2022 Travellers’ Choice Award winner for being in the top 10% of attractions worldwide.

The Award recognises businesses that consistently deliver great service with the Gardens being rated ‘Excellent’ by 342 visitors.

The award celebrates businesses that have received great traveller reviews from around the globe on Tripadvisor over the last 12 months. As challenging as the past year has been, Aberglasney stood out by consistently delivering positive experiences to visitors.

Aberglasney’s Director of Operations Jim Stribling said: “We are delighted to have once again won an award from Tripadvisor. It is fantastic recognition for the team’s hard work and dedication. To rank among the top ten percent of those listed on Trip Advisor as one of the best places to visit is outstanding.

“We are grateful to all those who take the time to leave us a review after visiting. It is no cliché when I say all the team, be it in the gift shop, the gardeners, the tearooms and the administrative team, all take the reviews on board to help make a visit to Aberglasney the best possible experience for everyone.”

Tripadvisor, the world’s largest travel guidance platform, helps hundreds of millions of people each month become better travellers, from planning, to booking, to taking a trip. Travelers across the globe use the Tripadvisor site and app to discover where to stay, what to do and where to eat based on guidance from those who have been there before.

With more than 988 million reviews and opinions of nearly eight million businesses, travellers turn to Tripadvisor to find deals on accommodation, book experiences, reserve tables at restaurants and discover great places nearby.

As a travel guidance company available in 43 markets and 22 languages, Tripadvisor makes planning easy no matter the trip type.

“Congratulations to the 2022 Tripadvisor Travellers’ Choice Winners,” said Kanika Soni, Chief Commercial Officer at Tripadvisor. “The Travellers’ Choice Awards recognise the best in tourism and hospitality, according to those who matter most: your guests.

“Ranking among the Travellers’ Choice winners is always tough – but never more so than this year as we emerge from the pandemic. Whether it’s using new technology, implementing safety measures, or hiring outstanding staff, I’m impressed by the steps you’ve taken to meet travellers’ new demands. You’ve adapted brilliantly in the face of adversity.”

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Council’s plan to expand bilingual education will be a gradual journey over 10 years



Carmarthenshire County Council

CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council’s vision to increase bilingual education in Carmarthenshire will be a gradual journey over 10 years.

The Cabinet met yesterday (Monday, July 4) to discuss the Welsh in Education Strategic Plan (WESP), and emphasised that it was important to give all children and young people the opportunity to develop their Welsh language skills.

However, members stressed that families will still have a choice on the language in which their children will be taught over the next decade and after 2032.

The plan sets out how the council will develop Welsh language provision in schools based on the outcomes and targets set by the Welsh Government.

All councils across Wales have to submit 10-year Welsh language education plans to the Welsh Government in order to meet its target of one million Welsh speakers by 2050.

The outcomes include more nursery and reception children being taught through the medium of Welsh; more young people studying for qualifications in Welsh as a subject, and subjects through the medium of Welsh; increasing provision for learners with Additional Learning Needs; and increasing the number of teachers able to teach Welsh and through the medium of Welsh – with continuing support to develop staff through a comprehensive and flexible training programme.

The Cabinet said it was important for the council to provide more opportunities to be bilingual and referred to the various benefits it brings – from educational attainment to employability and health.

Cabinet Member for Education and Welsh Language, Cllr Glynog Davies said the aim was to meet and exceed the target set by Welsh Government on the percentage of Carmarthenshire pupils receiving their education through the medium of Welsh by 3032 (10-14%).

It included changing the language provision at 10 schools over the next 10 years creating an opportunity for a further 300 learners to be educated in Welsh.

He said: “We want to build on the progress made in early years education provision, and my ambition is clear – equal opportunities across the county.

“It is worth noting that we have the largest percentage 57.5 percent of nursery age children taught through the medium of Welsh. Immersion education is key to the strategy, and it is important that we continue to see an increase in the percentage of children transferring from the Meithrin groups to Welsh-medium education in the Foundation Phase.

“These early years are so important, the children are like sponges, absorbing information and absorbing a new language.

“We must then continue to see an increase in numbers in our reception classes, we say this even though we are the authority with the largest percentage (62.5 percent) of children receiving their education through the medium of Welsh.

“Children must continue to improve their Welsh when going from one school phase to another, and we need to make sure all children have the opportunity to pursue their secondary education through the medium of Welsh.

“At the same time, we need to give children and young people the confidence to use Welsh, in school and in the community. That’s what we want to see isn’t it, more and more using Welsh, hearing Welsh on the street. We need to develop and build on skills and confidence.”

Cabinet Member for Rural Affairs and Planning Policy, Cllr Ann Davies said: “I am extremely pleased to see this document and have a pleasure in supporting it. Working with young children, that is children under three-years-old, I can say that children pick up language very quickly, they absorb it, and the process is very different to learning a language. As they get older the process in the brain is completely different. I am pleased to see that there is an emphasis on early years, that is when we need to start.”

Cabinet Member for Resources, Cllr Alun Lenny said: “It is very important to state that there are many advantages to learning a language, obviously for careers, especially in health and social care where patients and clients must have a choice of language, it’s important particularly for older people, and young children, and people with dementia.

“The Chief Constable of Dyfed-Powys Police has stated he is keen for all his staff to speak a certain level of Welsh, so we have a duty here to support that.

“The advantages of being bilingual are multiple, socially and in the world of work, and this strategy is very much welcomed.”

The WESP has come back to the cabinet for discussion following feedback from the Welsh Government, mainly to include some additional data and detail. It will now be submitted to the Welsh Government for final approval. A public consultation was held last year.

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