Into the deep end!
When I moved my young family from England to Wales in 2017, so that they could have a Welsh-medium education, I had no idea that 4 years later I would be working for the Mudiad on a scheme that is key in increasing the number of children in Wales who attend Welsh-medium education. This is my journey with the Mudiad, as a staff member, but initially as the Chair of a Cylch Meithrin Committee.
My first contact with the Mudiad was in summer 2017, when I saw an advert for a public meeting. The Cylch Meithrin was in danger of closing without a new committee, and as I wanted my son to be able to attend the cylch, I went along to the meeting and walked out of it as Chair of the new committee! I had no idea what I’d let myself in for!
From the beginning, I and the other new committee members faced challenges: a Leader and 2 staff members resigning a week after the formation of the new committee; difficulties recruiting new staff; losing our CIW registration and having to re-register; and discovering debts and financial difficulties.
The Mudiad’s local staff (the Support Officer, Deputy Manager and Regional Manager) were on hand to offer support from day one, both to myself and the committee and also to the Cylch’s staff. Help and advice were always available, and there was a form/template for everything – and I used them all! Thanks must also go to the Local Authority, associate teachers and Flying Start staff for their understanding, patience and support during this difficult time.
After 9 months of struggling to keep our heads above water the Cylch was stabilised and the committee had time to begin looking to the future and to develop the Cylch, rather than firefighting past problems. For me personally there was an opportunity to join the Mudiad as a staff member working on the Set Up and Succeed scheme to establish new Cylchoedd Meithrin. My experiences over the past 9 months put me in a good place to understand how Cylchoedd Meithrin operate and what can go awry, therefore I knew how to build a Cylch from the ground up with robust procedures in place from the very beginning.
Throughout the summer of 2018 the Cylch was moved to a new location which was better suited to its needs. The Cylch’s staff had been on temporary contracts due to the previous year’s uncertainty, so it was important to us as a committee that we appoint them to permanent contracts in order to give them greater security. The staff had stayed with us through the good times and the bad, and to this day I am thankful to them for their hard work and support during my 2 years as Chair.
During my second year as Chair we received the good news that the local Welsh-medium school was having an extension built to create a designated room for the Cylch within the school. (At the time of writing, September 2021, we are hopeful that the Cylch will move into the school building at the start of 2022.)
During May 2019 we received a joint inspection from Estyn and CIW. The Leader and staff had been working closely with the associate teacher to prepare, as we were aware that we would be inspected at some point during the year; but of course, everybody was nervous as none of the staff or committee had previously been through the experience. As Chair I spoke with the inspectors, and also uploaded documentation in advance of the inspection. It felt a bit like sitting an exam!
At the end of the second day’s visit, I, the 3 staff members, Support Officer and associate teacher met with the inspectors for verbal feedback. As they delivered their findings in each area, everybody’s smiles grew bigger and bigger – we’d earned a “Good” rating in every department! As soon as the inspectors left there was a group hug, and I’m sure that more than one tear was shed!
Two months later I succeeded in recruiting a new committee from among the Cylch’s parents, and transferred everything into their hands. Despite Covid 19 the Cylch continues to flourish under the new committee’s leadership, with the brilliant staff also playing a key role. By now a new committee is preparing to move the Cylch onto a new site within the school.
What did I gain from the experience? A feeling of pride in being able to say that I and the new committee had left the Cylch in a much better state than the one we’d found it in; the amazing feeling when the Cylch received its inspection results, and a new career with the Mudiad!
Was it hard work? Yes, at times.
Was it stressful? Yes, at times.
Was it worth it to keep the Cylch open and ensure its future? Yes, 100%.
By Sali Edwards, Set Up and Succeed Lead Officer