Eco centres in cash crisis

Global citizenship teaching struggles after losing out on funding to 'stronger competition'. James Graham reports

The only Welsh education centres dedicated to the promotion of education for sustainable development and global citizenship (ESDGC) are being threatened by a cash crisis.

Global Connections, the World Education Centre and the Powys Environmental and Development Education Centre (PEDEC) are struggling after funding applications to the Department for International Development (DFID) in London were refused.

The DFID's decision has exposed the financial frailty of the three centres just as the Assembly government prepares to underline its commitment to ESDGC in a new strategy to be launched at a two-day conference in Cardiff, which kicks off on Monday.

The centres are funded by a patchwork of different organisations including charities, local authorities and small grants from the Assembly government.

But the largest proportion comes from the DFID in the form of three-year grants for specific projects. This year all three Welsh education centres saw those projects end and their new applications refused.

Cyfanfyd, the Welsh development education association, has been in talks with the DFID in a bid to keep the centres afloat.

Co-ordinator Dominic Miles said: "We're working on a proposal to cover areas of work this year. The ESDGC strategy will lead to some formal funding but there isn't any yet, so the DFID has been the main source. They always rely on project funding so there's always a potential crisis.

"It's ironic because there's a lot of government support but the funding environment is harsh."

A DFID spokeswoman said the Welsh centres' applications had lost out to stronger competition, but it was still funding seven other development education projects in Wales totalling nearly pound;60,000.

She added: "We are now looking at how, with the Assembly, we can together continue to provide support for the centres."

In July, inspection agency Estyn said only one in 10 Welsh schools and colleges were committed to ESDGC, citing confusion among staff about what to teach and patchy local authority support.

Schools are being urged to work on issues including energy conservation, healthy living, diversity, global poverty, fair trade and human rights. The centres provide resources and advice to teachers. For example, Global Connections, based in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, has helped Pembrokeshire College with a "Wales in the world" unit of its Welsh baccalaureate programme. Two-thirds of its pound;152,000 income in 2004-05 came from the DFID.

The World Education Centre in Bangor has pursued ESDGC with trainee teachers and via continuing professional development - with 70 per cent of the Pounds 45,000 costs coming from the DFID.

Jenny Morrison, a trustee of PEDEC, said the centre had enough non-DFID funding to keep two small projects going until June 2007.

"We're trying to provide teachers with skills and resources to incorporate global citizenship into their curriculum," she said. "But we haven't been able to find any other funding for formal education. I just hope something crops up before June."

Christian Aid Wales and Oxfam Cymru both have long-term connections with the education centres and still provide funding.

Jeff Williams, head of Christian Aid Wales, said: "Without the centres the Assembly will find it difficult to continue to deliver ESDGC to the same extent. These centres are quite major players."

Plaid Cymru MP for Caernarfon, Hywel Williams, has raised the issue with the DFID and will meet junior minister Gareth Thomas on October 18.

He said: "Some of these centres deliver the work through the medium of Welsh and that's not provided anywhere else."

A spokesman for the Assembly government said it was looking at how it can continue to support the work the centres are undertaking "especially where they are consistent with the Assembly's own policies and priorities in this area".

He added: "Cyfanfyd, the development education organisation in Wales, of which all three centres are a member, receives funding of pound;100,000 a year."

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