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Language staff need greater security

Teachers at the forefront of Welsh language support are being denied mortgages because they are employed on temporary contracts, a union leader has warned.

Teacher unions are calling for athrawon bro ("area teachers") to be funded via local education authorities rather than the Welsh Language Board and for all of them to be given permanent jobs.

There are about 200 athrawon bro working in LEA teams. Since 1997, they have been funded by annual grants paid by the language board. LEAs bid for funding to run teams, language centres and residential courses, and are expected to meet at least a quarter of the costs. LEAs can also fund some of the work of athrawon bro from education budgets.

Gethin Lewis, secretary of the National Union of Teachers Cymru, said:

"These teachers are often in danger of being made redundant or being on short-term, temporary contracts.

"Surely we should be able to have a permanently appointed and permanently funded Welsh language advisory teacher team in each LEA in Wales."

But Meirion Prys Jones, chief executive of the Welsh Language Board, said the board made three-year funding allocations, which allow LEAs to plan their Welsh language provision in advance.

He said: "The board provides a grant of pound;2.3 million to LEAs to assist in the funding of athrawon bro and other Welsh language support services.

"By distributing grants in this way the board maintains a strategic overview of the needs of Welsh education and is in a position to react to specific requirements efficiently."

An Estyn review of these staff in 2002 found they had helped to raise standards in Welsh, and were "instrumental" in delivering the national curriculum for the subject and supporting English-speaking pupils who move to Welsh-speaking areas.

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