As the Christmas break approaches, ColegauCymru reflects on the challenges and achievements of the Autumn term and prepares for a busy and productive 2022.
Supporting members to respond to the continuing challenges posed by the pandemic has remained a priority for ColegauCymru. As learners and staff returned to campuses in August, it was clear that the foundations laid by working closely with both our members and Welsh Government colleagues would provide reassurance and support. However, it was not to be business as usual. The positive response from across all our colleges has allowed learning to continue despite the ongoing uncertainty exacerbated in the last two weeks, with the arrival of the Omicron variant to Wales. Support has taken a variety of means, from the ongoing work of the Return to College Working Group to finding ways to ensure competitive sport has been able to resume.
The adoption of our five-year Corporate Plan sets out the basis for our work across both policy and public affairs, and in developing programmes that help enhance learning outcomes and enrich the learning experience across the FE sector. Following changes to our team we have been active in recruiting new roles and in ensuring that the employment offer at ColegauCymru remains attractive in what are challenging times for both recruiting and retaining staff. We were particularly delighted to join a growing family of Living Wage employers in the education sector and we have continued to support staff as they continue to work from home.
Policy and Public Affairs
Our Policy and Public Affairs Team have been busy over the last four months.
- Senedd Consultations and Evidence Over the last four months, we were pleased to be able to respond to key Senedd Committee consultations in relation to their priorities for the next five years. We provided oral and written evidence to both the Senedd Children, Young People and Education Committee on the Commission for Tertiary Education and Research Bill, and the Senedd Culture, Communications, Welsh Language, Sport, and International Relations Committee for a one-day inquiry into the challenges facing organisations that support and promote the Welsh language.
- Key Meetings We also held meetings with several Senedd Members, both newly elected and returning, to discuss priorities for the FE sector.
- Progressing the Anti-Racist Wales agenda A considerable achievement for the Charity was the launch of our partnership with Black FE Leadership Group. Events supported by both the Minister for Social Justice, Jane Hutt MS, and John Griffiths MS, looked at race equality in the further education sector in Wales and how we can collectively promote and progress the anti-racist Welsh agenda.
- Labour market changes and their effects on FE in Wales We joined forces with labour market analytics specialists Emsi Burning Glass as we reviewed the post-pandemic Welsh labour market and the implications for further education institutions.
- Policy Recommendations for the next Welsh Government The priorities set out ahead of the May 2021 elections have created a sound foundation for our work in this area.
Enrichment and Enhancement
There were also some great achievements from our Enrichment and Enhancement Team too.
- Winter of Wellbeing Funding of £230k was secured to upskill sports and childcare learners, and to help re-engage groups with the outdoors.
- Return to competitive sport CollegesWales Sport supported regional competitions with approximately 800 learners competing from 17 campuses across 12 colleges.
- Cymraeg Gwaith Almost 500 FE staff have now registered for the Scheme, with 223 of those registered on the Ganolfan’s new self-study modules. A Celebrating and Development event took place to aknowledge Cymraeg Gwaith in FE, now in its fifth cycle.
- ILEP Consultation We worked with all FEIs on the new Welsh Government International Learning Exchange Programme (ILEP) Consultation.
- International Strategy A new group was set up to develop an International Strategy for the sector.
- TeachMeet events Two successful online TeachMeets supported by the Teaching and Learning Network took place in October and December.
- Support for ALN colleagues Three podcasts were published to support ALN transformation. A targeted programme of training was also delivered to FE staff to prepare for the implementation of the ALNET (Wales) Act.
- As we look ahead to the New Year, and with the ongoing uncertainty of the pandemic, ColegauCymru is committed to continuing to support our member colleges and focus on key priorities.
- We’ll be continuing to work with members to ensure that the wellbeing of learners and staff is at the heart of decision making.
- We’ll also be working with Welsh Government to ensure sufficient funding for colleges to continue to address the challenges posed by Covid19 and to provide a resilient financial settlement for the 2022/23 academic year.
- Further, we’ll be focusing on continuing professional development for staff, to support them to achieve even more for the sector and our learners.
- We'll also be providing strategic support and guidance as we look forward to welcoming two new senior staff members into roles in the areas of work-based learning, employability and employer responsiveness, and in employment relations and the common contracts.
We’re grateful for the support we’ve once again received from our stakeholders during this autumn term. We look forward to working closely with you all in 2022. In the meantime, we wish you all a restful Christmas break and a Happy New Year.