We’ve had a busy Autumn term here at ColegauCymru! As we prepare for the Christmas break, we reflect on the activity of the last four months.
We were pleased to welcome our new Chief Executive, David Hagendyk who will be working with the sector to prepare for the introduction of the new Commission for Tertiary Education and Research and to ensure we have a vocational qualifications system that is fit for the future, as well as focusing on stable and fair long-term funding for the sector.
Commission for Tertiary Education and Research We’ve been engaging with Welsh Government and other stakeholders ahead of the transition to the new Commission for Tertiary Education and Research (CTER). CTER will bring together strategy, funding and oversight of not just FE, but higher education, community learning, apprenticeships and training, all under one organisation from 2024. We will continue our work with Welsh Government on the secondary legislation and regulations in the new year.
Financial pressures on the sector Across the sector all institutions are facing real budget pressures. We have highlighted the breadth and scale of this challenge, including the soaring cost of gas and electricity, specific pressures on work-based learning provision, the loss of ESF funding, and the need for sustained investment in learner health and well-being. Led by our network of Finance Directors, the sector has worked closely with Welsh Government on a fair funding settlement for colleges. The sector is facing unprecedented financial challenges and it is vital that colleges continue to work together to make the case for reasonable investment.
Policy and Public Affairs
Our Policy and Public Affairs team have been busy over the past four months with September seeing us welcome new Director of Policy and Public Affairs, Rachel Cable to the organisation.
We held meetings with Senedd Members and other staff, to discuss priorities for the FE sector. We also responded to a range of consultations including the Welsh Government Draft Budget, Decarbonising the Public Sector, Impact of Increasing Cost of Living, Qualifications Wales’ Have your say on GCSEs, and the Draft Innovation Strategy for Wales. We gave oral evidence to three Senedd Committee inquiries into Mental Health in Higher Education, Welsh in Education Strategic Plans, and cost-of-living pressures and the Young Person’s Guarantee.
The vocational qualifications landscape in Wales is changing. A major focus of our work has been to support and influence both the quality of new qualifications to ensure they a fit for purpose for learners, and to think ahead to the future. We are continuing to work with Qualifications Wales on the changes we believe are needed to some of the new qualifications recently introduced. This is detailed work that draws on the expertise of staff from across all colleges and is a great example of the value of the sector having a collective approach.
We are continuing to engage proactively with the Welsh Government Vocational Qualifications Review Board. The review of Vocational Qualifications, being led by former FE Principal Sharon Lusher, is an important opportunity to think about and to shape the long-term reforms we think are needed and to put colleges right at the heart of the system in the future.
Our work in the area of equality and diversity has progressed significantly. We held the first meeting of the newly formed ColegauCymru Equality and Diversity Group to look at how we can make a meaningful and positive impact in the FE sector. Likewise, we continued to work with Black Leadership Group in a second project to design tailored Anti-racist Action Plan templates for use by FEIs, Adult Learning and Apprenticeship Providers across Wales. The project will also provide training and coaching to help develop best practice to support the ambitious objectives of the Welsh Government Anti-Racist Wales Acton Plan. A new Welsh Government FE Anti-Racist Steering Group has also been established to progress this important work further.
Our Internationalisation Strategy that will support the enrichment and enhancement of teaching and learning experiences was launched in October. The Strategy is designed to increase learners’ aspirations and raise the profile of the international work undertaken in FE.
We submitted applications for Taith Pathway 1 and 2 funding. The projects, if successful, will build partnerships through international collaborative projects and develop quality outputs addressing educational challenges and opportunities across Wales and internationally. Physical, virtual and blended outward and inward mobilities for individuals and groups will also give flexible short- and long-term opportunities to learn, study, work or volunteer abroad.
We were delighted to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with T-Hub in Telengana, India, and Universities Wales, to develop collaboration in research and innovation with industry.
Work based learning (WBL)
The new Knowledge Transfer Scheme for colleges and independent WBL providers funds the delivery of ‘masterclasses’ and/or research projects which are designed to accelerate and build expertise for staff and increase learners’ knowledge and learning experience in a range of subject areas.
Every FE college now has a dedicated Employment and Enterprise Bureau to help young people prepare for the world of work by supporting them to find a job or setting up their own business.
New qualification development To enhance the quality of delivery already seen with the Apprenticeships Programme in Wales, work is ongoing to develop the qualifications which sit within apprenticeship frameworks, and the overall content of the frameworks themselves focussing on the important areas of Construction and Building Services Engineering, and Health and Social Care. Work has also begun to reform the content and shape of apprenticeship frameworks in programme areas including travel service and tourism, retail, sports and leisure, and hospitality and catering.
We were pleased to hold a series of regional active wellbeing events which looked at how we can increase the activity and wellbeing of FE learners in a post-Covid world. Supported by funding from Welsh Government for better mental health in FE, our annual FE Multisport event will once again return next Spring.
Additional Learning Needs (ALN)
We held a series of regional events which provided local authority ALN leads and partners with an opportunity to consider their duties to meet the complex needs of post-16 ALN learners in Wales. As we begin to implement the new ALN Code for Wales, it is essential that young people have equitable access to further education, with these events highlighting the importance of having a consistent and shared understanding of the Code.
The Cymraeg Gwaith Scheme, which develops the Welsh language skills of lecturers in FE colleges, continued into its sixth year. The Scheme now supports 400 staff across 11 colleges annually and contributes to the ambitious Welsh Government target of reaching one million Welsh speakers by 2050. A new pilot scheme, Cymraeg Gwaith+, funded by the National Centre for Learning Welsh, was introduced this year, designed to help increase confidence of staff to use their Welsh language skills in the workplace. The first cohort of Cymraeg Gwaith+ staff have completed their 10-week course with a new cohort ready to begin in January.
October saw us mark #LoveOurColleges week and #AdultLearnersWeek where we celebrated the fantastic breadth of work across our colleges.
As we look ahead to the New Year, with the ongoing cost of living pressures, ColegauCymru is committed to continuing to support our member colleges to focus on key priorities. 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 2023. In the meantime, we wish you all a restful Christmas break and a Happy New Year.
Lucy Hopkins, Communications Manager