Author: Blog

Accounts Scrutiny – What’s it all about?

The Public Accounts Committee will spend a significant part of the Autumn term undertaking accounts scrutiny for the Welsh Government, National Assembly for Wales Commission, Public Services Ombudsman for Wales, and the National Museums Wales.

What is Account Scrutiny?

The annual scrutiny of accounts by the Public Accounts Committee involves the consideration of the accounts and annual reports of different public funded bodies, to consider see whether there are any unusual or unclear items of expenditure of public money.  In addition to looking at how these organisations spend money, the Committee also considers how they are run and whether their governance arrangements are appropriate and accountable.

Why do it?

Although this approach can appear a little dull, this is an important piece of work because it ensures that there is scrutiny of how public money is being spent. It also provides an opportunity to hold to account those tasked with the responsibility of overseeing the expenditure of public money.

Accounts and Annual reports not only provide an important snapshot of the financial health of these publicly funded organisations they also tell a story about how the organisation is being run and whether there are robust governance structures and working practices in place or not.

By undertaking this scrutiny annually, the Committee has been able to build a deterrence factor into its work, with organisations responsible for spending our money knowing they could be called before the Committee to face public scrutiny.

Does it work?

The Committee has been doing this work for a number of years now, and generally we have seen an improvement in the information available, and in ensuring that it is more accessible. In particular, many organisations have risen to the challenge of presenting this often complex information in a more understandable format.

In addition to the more general improvements, the Committee has also brought to light a number of areas of concern which have been subject to greater scrutiny and ultimately an improvement in practices – and have generated media coverage such as:

Why consider these bodies?

At the beginning of the fifth Assembly, the Committee agreed to consider the accounts and annual report of the Welsh Government and the Assembly Commission annually. It took this decision because the Welsh Government has an annual budget of over £15 billion, which is a significant sum of public money. While the Assembly Commission is the corporate body which provides support for the National Assembly for Wales, and its Members, (so ultimately the Committee) – and so the Committee felt it was important to not sit above scrutiny.

For 2017-18, the Committee will be considering the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales Annual Report and Accounts and National Museum Wales.  The Committee has previously considered the Accounts and Annual Report of these two organisations.  Hopefully, the recommendations by the previous Public Accounts Committee will have helped these organisations to make improvements and there will now be a positive story to tell.

Get Involved

Do you have any questions you would like asked about how these organisations have been run over the last year?

Do you have any concerns about how funds have been allocated?

What question would you ask those responsible for spending public money?

Let us know: @seneddpac / @seneddarchwilio
Seneddpac@assembly.wales

Our Accounts Scrutiny starts on Monday 8 October 2018 when we look at the Accounts and Annual Report of the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales and the Assembly Commission.

Kyffin Williams at the Senedd

 

Image of Llanddwyn Beach by Kyffin Williams from the private collection of Eryl Nikopoulos

Our blog post comes from David Meredith, Chair of the Kyffin Williams Trust ahead of the launch of the Kyffin Williams Exhibition at the Senedd. 

The Kyffin exhibition at the Senedd, through paintings and prints, represents Kyffin’s vast artistic output, is a fitting tribute to the genius of Sir John Kyffin Williams.

Painting for over 60 years, Kyffin became an expert in the use of the palette knife for his powerful creations, his landscapes, seascapes and portraits in oil. He was also a glorious and sensitive painter in watercolour as exemplified by his painting of flowers. Kyffin was also a keen exponent of prints.

An artist, a teacher and an influencer 

To Kyffin, the preparation and printing of black and white and colour prints of his oil paintings  – along with his masterly ink wash drawings, remarkably pleasing to the eye – meant that as many people as possible had access to art: the teacher in Kyffin was always to the fore. Before moving home to Anglesey in Wales in 1974 Kyffin had been the senior art master at Highgate School in London for 30 years. As an artist, Kyffin realised early in his career that painting was not just putting images down on paper or canvas, but that love and mood was involved in the act of painting.

Such was Kyffin’s artistic influence, status and appeal that the paintings exhibited at the Senedd are not only from galleries and museums but also from Government offices, from individual homes in different parts of Wales, from broadcasting centres (ITV Cymru Wales and BBC Cymru Wales) and from University Collections (Aberystwyth University). The glory of this exhibition is that most of the paintings featured here are a part of people’s everyday lives, paintings that surround people in the workplace and in the house as well as in academia and art galleries.

Kyffin Williams painting of Dr Huw T Edwards

A national treasure 

Sir Kyffin was truly a national treasure and a great benefactor to Wales, an artist by his own admission who painted in Welsh!

In a television interview in 2004. Sir Kyffin said that he ‘had painted thousands of paintings’. A few years previously, he had been criticised for painting too many paintings, only to reply to his critics with a remarkable limerick:

‘They said that enough was enough,
The output of work by old Kyff,
So they finally put strictures
On his output of pictures
So the output of Kyffin was nothing!’

Kyffin had a wonderful sense of humour!

Luckily for us he continued to paint. As Professor Tony Jones, a fellow Anglesey man and Director of the Kansas City Art Institute said:

‘Kyffin’s way of painting, the look and the style of his work, is distinctive, personal, unique – but is also immediately accessible to a wide audience … he captures the hanfod, the essence perhaps even the DNA of the Welsh landscape and he put it all in the paint.’

Kyffin’s friend and fellow artist Gareth Parry once said of Kyffin’s liberal use of paint that it was good enough to eat! Gareth always encouraged people to practically put their nose in it and revel in Kyffin’s palette knife markings.

You can visit the Kyffin Williams Exhibition at the Senedd from 4 – 31 October 2018.

Find out more about visiting the Senedd here.  

David Meredith

Kyffin Williams painting "Cymglas"

 

Bi Visibility Day 2018

 

By Rhayna Mann

Twenty years ago I had just finished university. I was travelling, having adventures, meeting new people and beginning to consider my future. Doesn’t that sound idyllic? The other side of this story is that I was also coming out as a bisexual woman. Why do I put a bit of a negative tint on that? Because it was a confusing and challenging event that didn’t happen overnight.

As a youngster I was attracted to women as well as men, but growing up in a small valleys mining village these thoughts were seen as unnatural. To be gay was frowned upon and it was frightening to me as a young child to see how some gay men (because there were no visible gay women) were avoided and talked about. I grew up thinking there was something wrong with me, but the feelings I had towards men and women remained.

By the time I was eighteen, the public narrative around gay people was shifting. It was ok to be gay – as long as you lived in a cosmopolitan city or were famous! But what struck me the most were the people who were acknowledged in the media as being bisexual, people such as David Bowie, Marlon Brando, James Dean, Freddie Mercury and Janis Joplin. I looked up to these people, they filled me with inspiration and awe….and they were bisexual. To be able to identify with someone whom you can look up to is very powerful.

At the age of eighteen I came out. It was incredibly uneventful, I was a bit disappointed. My friends responded with ‘thought so’ and carried on being my friends. My parents however introduced me to my first experience of passive biphobia; they believed that being bisexual isn’t real or legitimate and dismissed it as being ‘just a phase’.

My second experiences of bi-phobia happened throughout my twenties; when starting a new relationship with a man they would often see my bisexuality as a threat or a novelty. When dating a gay woman, I would be seen as a fraud.

The final experience of bi-phobia has been my ongoing inability to keep some female friends. I have personally found that some straight women find female bisexuals threatening, and that has been one of the most upsetting things for me.

However, once I was comfortable with my own identity I found that, by and large, others were too. Over the past twenty years positivity and acceptance have overshadowed any negativity. Talking with friends about sexuality, their honesty and humour has been refreshing and has helped me to evolve from a bisexual woman into just a woman…who happens to be bisexual.

But the most significant experience I’ve had has been positive and non-judgmental acceptance from my beautiful children, friends, family and work colleagues. This has given me the strength to be happy and comfortable with who I am.

So happy Bi Visibility Day, let’s continue to question stereotypes and help create an environment where we have the opportunity to flourish and evolve into the people we truly are.

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2018 top-employer-black-bilingual

 

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Steddfod at the Senedd

Eisteddfod outside the senedd

During August 2018 the National Assembly for Wales was proud to play an integral role in this year’s National Eisteddfod by hosting a range of exhibitions, discussions and events exploring life in Wales.

Dubbed the Eisteddfod with no fence, the Senedd became home to Y Lle Celf (the art exhibition) and the Societies Pavilion.

The Eisteddfod has hosted an ‘Art and Crafts’ exhibition in some form since 1865. Nowadays Y Lle Celf comprises of a multi-media exhibition of contemporary fine and applied art, and a celebration of architecture in Wales.

This year exhibits included Jin Eui Kim’s eye-catching ceramics, 2018 Tony Globe Award winner Philip Watkins’ paintings of Valleys life and 2018 Gold Medal and People’s Choice award winner Zoe Preece’s ceramic and wood pieces, alongside many other thought-provoking displays.

Covering much of the Senedd’s floor, you can watch André Stitt’s huge installation take shape in this time-lapse video:

The Societies Pavilion saw the Assembly host discussions on issues including austerity, women’s role in politics, votes at 16, democracy and the arts, electoral reform and justice in Wales.

If you missed them the first time you can view them again here:

Democracy and the Arts: the effect of one on the other
Democracy and the Arts play a central role in the lives of Welsh people – but how do they affect each other?
Llywydd of the National Assembly, Elin Jones AM, chaired a discussion panel along with the Chair of the Assembly’s Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee, Bethan Sayed AM, Artist Elin Meredydd and leading dance, performance artist and presenter Eddie Ladd.

Democracy and the arts discussion panel
Democracy and the arts discussion panel

Ready for the vote?
An event in partnership with the Electoral Commission to discuss reducing the voting age to 16 at elections in Wales.
The discussion was chaired by Elan Closs Stephens, Electoral Commissioner for Wales with panellists Elin Jones AM, Llywydd, Sally Holland, Children’s Commissioner for Wales and young people including Ethan Williams, Vice-President of Urdd Gobaith Cymru and Vice-Chair of the Syr IfanC Board, the Urdd’s National Youth Forum.

Women’s Role in Politics
Marking 100 years since the successful campaign to secure votes for women, Elin Jones AM, Llywydd, was joined by historian Dr Elin Jones to discuss the influence of women on politics in Wales, in the past and present. Journalist and TV presenter Bethan Rhys Roberts chaired.

Womens role in politics discussion panel
Womens role in politics discussion panel

6948 people attended events at the Societies Pavilion during the week.

For non-fluent Welsh speakers the Pierhead became the home of Shw’mae Caerdydd – the centre for information about the Welsh language – for the duration of the festival. Sessions included a discussion about Welsh dialects, alongside workshops from clog dancing to hat making.

Friday 10 August saw Llywydd Elin Jones among those honoured by the Gorsedd of the Bards, alongside Welsh rugby international Jamie Roberts and the musician Geraint Jarman, and was presented with the blue robe for her service to the nation.

Y Lle Celf at the Senedd, Ready for the vote panel, Elin Jones honoured by Gorsedd of the Bards
Y Lle Celf at the Senedd, Ready for the vote? panel, Llywydd Elin Jones honoured by Gorsedd of the Bards

Later in the week there was also the small matter of the homecoming event for Geraint Thomas, celebrating his remarkable achievement in becoming the first ever Welshman to win the Tour de France.

Geraint was welcomed by Llywydd Elin Jones at her annual reception at the Eisteddfod, before being greeted by Catrin Heledd, Band Pres Llanreggub, the band Siddi and finally the thousands of excited fans who had congregated on the steps of the Senedd.

Geraint-Thomas-Senedd
Geraint Thomas at the Senedd

One of the most popular activities at the Senedd during the week was the chance to visit the Assembly’s debating Chamber, where for the first time visitors were able to have their picture taken in the Llywydd’s seat. Over 5595 people took advantage of this unique opportunity to momentarily assume the role of the Llywydd, and experience what it might be like to oversee debates in the Chamber.

During the Eisteddfod we welcomed over 18,000 visitors to the Senedd, over half of which had never visited the Assembly before, and we hope they left knowing a little bit more about how devolution in Wales works.

A big thanks to our partners the Electoral Commission, the Arts Council of Wales, the Morgan Academy, the Wales Governance Centre, and of course the Eisteddfod for making the events over the course of the week such a success.

We’ll see you in Llanrwst!

 

This year’s Y Lle Celf artists were: Justine  Allison, Billy Bagilhole, Jo Berry, Kelly Best, Zena Blackwell, Steve Buck, Ray Church, Nerea Martinez de Lecea, Cath Fairgrieve, Mark Houghton, Gethin Wyn, Jones, Jin Eui Kim, Anna Lewis, Laura Lillie, Gweni Llwyd, James Moore, Marged Elin Owain, Zoe Preece, Glyn Roberts, John Rowley, André Stitt, Caroline Taylor, Jennifer Taylor, Sean Vicary, Adele Vye, Philip Watkins, and Casper White.

Mum’s the word? Parenting and employment in the Land of my Fathers

Today, the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee launches its report, ‘Work it out: Parenting and employment in Wales’. As part of the Committee’s inquiry into pregnancy, maternity and work in Wales, we sought the views and experiences of people from across Wales. Galvanised by the opportunity to influence change on such an emotive aspect of everyday life, the insights offered by the many women who shared their views and experiences were instrumental in helping the Committee form its recommendations to the Welsh Government.

Impassioned, sometimes distressing, often alarming, but always vitally important, the views shared were key in highlighting the varied experiences of mothers from across Wales.

This was not the time for keeping mum.

The current situation

According to research published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in 2016, 87 per cent of employers in Wales felt it was in the best interests of organisations to support pregnant women and those on maternity leave. However, it also found that 71 per cent of mothers reported negative or discriminatory experiences as a result of having children, 15 per cent reported a financial loss, and 10% even felt forced to leave their job.

The associated impact on the UK economy was highlighted in research published by the UK Government’s Women’s Business Council, which estimated that equalising the employment rates of women and men could grow the UK economy by more than 10 per cent by 2030.

As part of its work, the Committee was keen to gather the views, experiences and ideas on how the Welsh Government should tackle the issues within its control, such as employability support, economic development, the Welsh public sector equality duties, public sector workforces and childcare.

What we heard

“When I was pregnant with my first child, I was working as a cleaner and had to stop working at about 3 months pregnant due to high blood pressure. I wasn’t supported by my employer and they stopped paying me. My boss didn’t believe I was pregnant initially because I hadn’t had my first scan. The matter eventually ended up going to court, and even though I won, I was awarded a really low sum of money because my boss hadn’t been properly recording all the hours I’d worked.”

  • Mother, Carmarthenshire

Focus groups were held with mothers in Cardiff and an online forum was created using Senedd Dialogue – a tool which allows for open and frank discussion where participants can share their views and ideas, anonymously or otherwise. It also allows participants the opportunity to read, rate and comment on other people’s ideas and experiences.

The breadth of views shared – some of which were positive and highlighted areas of good practice by some employers – were reflective of the diversity of participants. Contributions were submitted by mothers from Blaenau Gwent to Carmarthenshire, and from Bridgend to Flintshire. They included young mothers, single mothers, mothers from low-income households – some of whom were employed, some were in part-time work or on zero hour contracts, and others were out of work. For those who were employed, views were shared by mothers working in the public, private and third sectors.

A number of key themes emerged, which informed subsequent evidence sessions as well as the recommendations made to the Welsh Government in the Committee’s report.

Along with gendered assumptions about childcare and widespread discrimination, inflexible workplace structures was a recurring theme cited by many women as a reason why mothers are more likely to be trapped in part-time, low-paid work with fewer opportunities for career progression.

“Part-time or flexible jobs are important for many parents so that they can juggle childcare and work. There is a severe lack of p-t jobs on offer, and the majority are low paid and low skilled. Many people with great skills and careers aren’t able to work because the jobs simply aren’t available.”

  • Mother, Cardiff

The views shared on flexible working informed Committee members’ briefings for formal evidence sessions, which followed the focus groups and conclusion of the online forum. This was best demonstrated during an evidence session at which Anna Whitehouse, otherwise known as Mother Pukka, founder of the eponymous lifestyle website for parents and staunch activist for flexible working, shared her experience and those of her many followers.

What did the Committee recommend?

The Committee made a number of varied and far-reaching recommendations that included reassessing the Welsh Government’s new Childcare Offer, encouraging culture change, ensuring that public bodies, businesses and charities in receipt of public funding take responsibility for eradicating  discrimination, and of course, promoting flexible working.

To read all the recommendations made by the Committee, you can access the full report here.

What next?

We will await a response from the Welsh Government to the recommendations made, before they are debated during a plenary session. You will be able to watch the session on Senedd TV.

If you would like to know more about getting involved in the work of the Assembly, visit our website, or get in touch with the Outreach team – SeneddOutreach@Assembly.Wales

 

 

 

Raising awareness is key to early identification of Type 1 diabetes in children and young people.

Guest post by David Rowlands AM, Chair of the Assembly’s Petitions Committee.

On Friday 13 July 2018, the National Assembly for Wales’ Petitions Committee released our report on a petition which calls for improved treatment of Type 1 diabetes in children and young people. The petition was submitted by the Baldwin family whose 13-year-old-son Peter tragically died as a result of not being treated effectively for Type 1 diabetes.

diabetes

The petitioners are seeking better recognition of the symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes among health professionals and the public in order to aid rapid diagnosis and treatment of children and young people with the condition. This is critical because, if left undiagnosed, the condition can rapidly become life threatening. Tragically this was the case with Peter Baldwin.

In particular, the family want to ensure that all GPs have access to finger-prick testing equipment which can provide an immediate indication about whether a child may be diabetic. It is also vital that health professionals are trained to recognise the most common symptoms of Type 1 diabetes – the Four T’s (Toilets, Tiredness, Thirst and Thinner).

Raising awareness with health professionals

There are approximately 1,400 children with diabetes in Wales, the vast majority of which (96%) have Type 1 diabetes.

Through considering the evidence in relation to this petition we discovered that there was a certain amount of, shall we say, non-recognition of the symptoms of Type 1 diabetes among health professionals. In particular there was some evidence that frontline staff were not particularly looking for Type 1 diabetes and that the disease wasn’t really a factor when trying to identify what was wrong with a patient.

The problem is of course, that many of the symptoms associated with type 1 diabetes are also associated with a number of other health problems. This means that when a patient goes to a GP they may be presenting a number of different symptoms that could be associated with Type 1 diabetes, but could also be indicators for other conditions, so the Committee has a certain amount of sympathy with GPs on that basis.

Our report contains 10 recommendations but if we were to highlight what we feel is the most important factor, it would be the training of frontline staff to recognise the NICE guidelines. Health professionals need to be very much aware that when patients are presenting these symptoms it could be an indication of Type 1 diabetes. The consequences of the disease not being detected and treated within a very short period of time can be, as we’ve seen in the very sad case of Peter Baldwin, absolutely tragic.

Turning scrutiny in to action

In the case of this particular petition, now that we’ve published our report and presented it to the Welsh Government that’s as far as we can go for the time being. It’s now down to the Welsh Government to decide what to do next and we would hope that they’ll act on our recommendations

We’d like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the bravery of the Baldwin family. By bringing this petition forward it meant they had to reenact and remember the very tragic circumstances of their experience quite some time after it actually happening. The Committee has been very supportive of the proposals they brought forward within their petition.

The great thing about the Petitions Committee is that it is a portal for people to get direct access to the Welsh Assembly. That means if people have concerns or issues that they want to bring to us, through the petitions process the issue will be looked at with the considerable scrutiny.

Whilst not every petition will result in a debate in the Chamber, the process of engaging with petitioners, writing to the relevant Cabinet Secretaries, getting the replies, writing to other stakeholders etc means that there’s a great deal that goes on. It might not be immediately obvious to the public in general but I can assure you that the high level of scrutiny is there for any petition that comes before the petitions committee.

We asked Beth how she felt about the report:

Read the full report: Routine Screening for Type 1 Diabetes in Children and Young People

David Rowlands AM is Chair of the Assembly’s Petitions Committee. The committee reviews all petitions that have gathered 50 signatures with a view to presenting them to be debated at Plenary.

Petitioning the Assembly is one of the most direct ways that a member of the public can raise matters of concern with the Assembly or suggest new policies and different ways of doing things.

You can find out more about how to petition the Assembly at assembly.wales/petitions and you can follow the Committee on Twitter at @SeneddPetitions.

 

Hitting the Right Note: Inquiry Into Funding For and Access to Music Education

An interview with Bethan Sayed AM, Chair of the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee.

Introduce yourself briefly explain the remit of the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee.

My name is Bethan Sayed, and I chair the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications committee in the National Assembly for Wales.

Bethan Sayed AM, speaking at the report launch event.
Bethan Sayed AM, Chair of the Committee, speaking at the report launch event.

We scrutinise government ministers in relation to their portfolio. For example, we’ve recently done an investigation into radio in Wales. We’ve looked at the Welsh language and we’ve also looked at the historical environment as well as non-public funding of the Arts.

It’s been good to be able to have a remit that includes communications so that we can look at the broadcasting landscape of Wales and scrutinise that effectively also.

The Culture, Welsh Language and Communications committee has just launched its report on its inquiry into funding for and access to music education in Wales. The topic of this inquiry was chosen through quite an innovative and slightly unusual way.  Could you explain the background and what led the Committee to look at this particular issue?

After being on committees for quite some time that, of course Assembly Members have their own ideas and bring ideas for future work to the table, which is valid but it could obviously be based on our own pet subjects.

I thought it would be interesting to go to the public to ask them exactly what type of investigation they would like us to look into what the population wanted us to focus on, and what were the key priority areas.

We did a public poll and it came out that people wanted us to look at music in education the music tuition that people receive in schools and in our communities and how that can be improved and developed.

It was really good to launch this public poll because then people could engage with a committee in a very different way. So I was happy that our committee was the first to try this and perhaps we could do it again to come up with other ideas for the future.

 What were the key themes that the inquiry covered?

They were very keen for us to look at music services in schools. We were seeing, constituents coming to our offices saying that there were problems with the funding of this sector. We were seeing that music services by local authorities were being cut.

So we wanted to get to grips with what was important and come up with solutions to see how we could aid the sector.

We didn’t look at the curriculum, because music education in relation to the provision of tutoring was very different to that. That’s something that we could look at in future. But that’s not what we focused on this time.

During the inquiry the Committee heard from a wide range of witnesses and due to your own experiences as a musician this topic must be very close to your heart – Was there anything that came up through the course of the inquiry that was a particular surprise?

 When we went to Ysgol Pengam, we found that they were doing very structured work in the rock and pop field, and they were competing in competitions in England, but they weren’t able to do that in Wales and there was no ensemble. There’s an ensemble for the orchestra, here in Wales but no rock and pop ensembles.

Maya Morris performing at the event
Maya Morris from Lewis School Pengam performing at the event

So I guess what did surprise me, perhaps because I’ve come from the more classical side, is that there was such an enthusiasm to set up this ensemble so that people who wanted to go into the rock industry or the pop industry could do that through their school structures.

So that was quite enlightening, but also pleasing to see, because orchestras and ensembles is not always going to suit everybody You don’t necessarily have to be able to read music to take part in those types of activities, so it would open up a new avenue.

In relation to funding streams, that didn’t surprise me, because my sister is 18 and she’s attended orchestras, and I know from my interest in this issue that this downward trend of the provision of services was not new.

The report says that music services must be protected, nurtured and accessible to all.  The Committee also states that it welcomes the Welsh Government’s Commitment to put creative activity on an equal basis to other areas of learning and experience.  Why is music education so important? What are the benefits?

I think a lot of schools get it in relation to music because they understand that it’s a transferable skill – it’s working as a team, it’s discipline, it’s allowing people to be creative and allowing their wellbeing aims to be met. But some schools, unless the head teacher really understands the value of music, then it might not permeate throughout the school.

As somebody who’s played the piano, viola and violin from an early age, I think it has to be seen as something that isn’t niche, that isn’t exclusive, that is accessible – because it can aid you in so many different ways in life.

For example, an orchestra course would allow me to become independent. It would allow me to make new friends. You’ve got to learn to listen to others and to be able to be respectful of others, and so is not all to do with the music that’s on the paper – it’s about how you want to progress as an individual.

People who go into music at a young age can take their skills elsewhere and you will meet doctors, you’ll meet scientists, you’ll meet politicians who have used music in ways in which they can be quite focused on what they want to do in life.

I think we need to encourage more schools to understand that it’s not just this fluffy thing about listening or playing music for an hour a day, it’s about how that can be seen as a core part of the curriculum in every shape and form. I hope that through this report that we can convince people that we can grow and develop music in our schools.

With all those potential benefits it must have been troubling for the Committee to hear some witnesses characterising the position of music in Welsh education as in ‘crisis’.  In July 2015, the Welsh Government commissioned a report into music services in Wales – What has been the Committee’s conclusion about the progress made in the 3 years since the publication of that report – is the Welsh Government doing enough to prevent this ‘crisis’ from developing?

It was very troubling to hear people such as Owain Arwel Hughes, a renowned conductor, Tim Rhys-Evans, who conducts Only Men Allowed, say these things, because I don’t believe that they would use the word ‘crisis’ lightly.

The Committee received evidence from Tim Rhys-Evans, founder and director of Only Men Allowed
The Committee received evidence from Tim Rhys-Evans, founder and director of Only Men Allowed

It troubles me that Wales is associated with music and song, and they were saying we may not be the land of song anymore if we allow this, music services are being cut, and may even disappear in parts of Wales. In fact, we’ve seen with the national ensembles, less people have been auditioning for them this year so there is that worry.

Also with regard to the report that was commissioned, , I feel that once certain ministers had left – that it wasn’t a priority for some local authorities. I think that’s why we’ve said so clearly in the report that there needs to be a national guidance and national strategy, because you cannot simply rely on local authorities.

I think some people, to be fair, said ‘well perhaps that’s going a bit too far, we don’t want to scaremonger’. But again, sometimes using those types of phrases can actually say ‘well now is the time to make sure that we don’t get to the point where those services don’t exist anymore’. I hope that our support has allowed for that discussion to happen at the right time before more music services are cut or disappear altogether.

The report itself covers 16 recommendations but what’s the most important issue to take from the findings?

Well, we wanted to come up with solutions because, it’s been close to my heart for many, many years.  Perhaps there’s a lack of coming together in the past of people from different walks of life in the music service to say, ‘well actually, how can we make this happen and how can we improve on this?’

I welcomed the Welsh Government investment in relation to the endowment fund, in relation to the music amnesty and in relation to putting music on the political agenda again. But without structural change, things are not going to improve. So the most important recommendation for us has been to say that we need to establish a national arm’s length body for music services in Wales.  We simply cannot rely anymore on individual local authorities deciding whether they prioritise it or not. We would need to make sure that it was properly funded, and that there would be a regional element to its delivery on a ground level.

At the moment you’re seeing the national ensembles work in a different type of landscape to the work that’s happening on the ground in our communities. It’s called ‘the pyramid’, so you would have the school orchestras, then you would have the community orchestras, then you would have the national ensembles. If you had one national body – they would be identifying young people to come through the system, and that’s what we’re not seeing at the moment.

There was discussion about whether it could be done in a different way, but I think ultimately we came to the conclusion – especially as we were calling for a national music strategy – that one national body to deal with this particular element of the educational workforce would be integral to its future. I think as a committee we want it to be forward looking, we wanted to put a recommendation out there that would challenge people’s minds and that they would look outside the box somewhat to current funding and current structures.

We wouldn’t want to let any of those particular areas get left behind as well. We didn’t want to be too prescriptive but we wanted to put our marker down and say ‘this has to be a national system now’.

To download Hitting the Right Note: Inquiry Into Funding For and Access to Music Education, click here.

For the latest updates from the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee, follow @SeneddCWLC on Twitter.