During Urdd Eisteddfod week, Wales’s largest youth festival, the Eisteddfod stage is packed with the talents of Wales’s young people.
But the Urdd represents much more than this. The Urdd was established in 1922 to provide Welsh-medium opportunities for all young people in Wales (aged between 8 and 25) to aid their development into well-rounded individuals and to enable them to play a constructive role in society by fostering personal and social skills.
Today, the Urdd has over 53,318 members and delivers a wide range of provision within schools, the community, residential centres and on overseas trips. Opportunities also extend to non-members in order to ensure that everyone can benefit from Welsh-medium provision.
Young people in every county in Wales can, through engaging with the Urdd, receive Youth services through the medium of Welsh. In some areas, we are direct providers, in other areas, we deliver through service level agreements with the Local Authority. Since it was established, the Urdd has had a good working relationship with a large number of secondary schools in Wales, including 100% of Welsh-medium schools and approximately 72% of all schools in Wales.
In order to offer consistent, all-Wales provision, since 1922 the Urdd has established accountability structures at local, county and national levels, for our young people and for their communities. We cannot do this without investing in our staff and volunteers.
In 1922, Sir Ifan ab Owen Edwards had the vision to establish Urdd Gobaith Cymru. Part of this vision involved opportunities for volunteers, and later, for employed staff, to nurture their skills and be recognised for educating young people about issues pertaining to Wales, society, common humanity and the world beyond Wales.
This remains the case today, and it is good to welcome legislation that has gained our workforce recognition for their skills in supporting young people.
All members of our employed workforce that provide youth services are qualified to Level 3 Youth Work Practice. We have procedures and policies to support them in their work. This instils confidence in our staff to support young people and encourage them to achieve their potential. It instils confidence, respect and trust as we deliver and design jointly with partnerships and local authorities across Wales for the benefit of young people.
We are grateful and full of admiration for the support of schools in Wales for Urdd Gobaith Cymru’s vision and work. Through our involvement in schools all across Wales, our aim is to ensure that our staff work professionally and to the same professional standards as other staff members on site. This fosters respect and trust between different sectors of the education workforce. It also fosters trust and accountability among senior management in schools and local authorities.
Urdd Gobaith Cymru welcomes Youth worker registration. To date, we have registered up to 40 of our existing staff with the Workforce Education Council. Over the past 8 years, we have enabled over 100 individuals to gain a Level 3 youth work qualification through the medium of Welsh. This has enabled us to coordinate and deliver high-quality youth work consistently across Wales that answers young people’s requirements and needs. In many areas, we design and coordinate Welsh-medium provision jointly with Mentrau Iaith and the Duke of Edinburgh Award.
Informal and non-formal education in youth work interventions have a role in supporting the Welsh Government’s strategy to achieve a million Welsh speakers by 2050. Through our community, sports, arts and residency activities, we are making an impact and enabling more young people to use the Welsh language outside the classroom and to see the economic value of the Welsh language in their lives. First Minister, Carwyn Jones, said recently that Welsh-medium events could be ensured by establishing more Urdd branches.
Through CWVYS, the national voluntary youth work network, we receive the latest information about youth work in Wales and beyond, as well as opportunities to extend our staff’s skills and knowledge through training and development opportunities.
The next steps - Over the next few years, we are keen to secure a continuous professional development programme in Welsh for our workforce. A programme that will include strategic leadership, the principles of youth work and the use of social media. We look forward to offering the Education Workforce Council Wales the opportunity to discuss the next steps after registration and to secure strategic investment in the workforce. We feel that we are in a position to guide, encourage and formalise ongoing professional training for Welsh-medium youth workers.
Urdd Gobaith Cymru has a unique contribution to make in the development and aspirations of young people today and for future generations and we look forward to working with the Education Workforce Council to raise standards and quality within youth work.
Dai Bryer is the Director of the South Wales Youth and Community division for the Urdd. He originally comes from Tremeirchion in Denbighshire, but now lives in Llanddarog, Carmarthenshire.