Guardian: Negative article on Welsh-medium schools ‘honestly reported’

The Welsh-medium Llangennech School at the centre of the furore


The Guardian has defended an article which asked whether a Welsh-medium education harmed children.

The message, sent by the Guardian to readers who had complained about the article, argued that it “was honestly reported, and these parents’ concerns are genuine”.

It also said that some of those the Guardian approached for comment did not want to discuss the matter. “This may have led some readers to feel that the article was one-sided,” it says.

The message also refers the comments by Professor Diarmait Mac Giolla Chríost, who is quoted in the article, as evidence that Welsh-medium education “doesn’t really work in the long run”.

The message is from Jonathan Allford of the Guardian Readers’ editor’s office but quotes an unnamed editor who commissioned the article.

Jonathan Allford writes that the education desk has also commissioned an article which will report from a Welsh-medium school’s perspective.

“I understand the impact this article has had on the Welsh-speaking community,” he says in the message.

“It’s an emotive, political and often heated debate and due to coverage of Wales across the media in general, I can see how this article has been perceived by some readers as an attack.

“The perspectives in this article were from parents of children who struggled in Welsh-medium schools, I appreciate that isn’t the perspective of all parents in Wales, nor is it necessarily indicative of Wales more widely.

“The Guardian strives to provide balanced reporting in all articles it publishes, however in this case the article included personal anecdotes from parents specifically about their children and the impact Welsh-medium schools have had on them.”

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  1. “was honestly reported, and these parents’ concerns are genuine” – but one of ‘concerned parents’ quoted by the guardian (alice morgan) doesnt exist. Her real name is Julia Rees

    How can it have been ‘honestly reported’ if the article quotes someone with a made up name? The guardian should publish a retraction and apology for the crude anti welsh hatchet job it ran.

  2. i’m still awaiting a reply from my complaint, I would be interesting to know how many complaints they received, and how many they reply to

  3. Well it’s not. I got in touch with Louise Tickle She claims it’s all honest reporting but none of the Welsh speakers she got in touch with would speak to her. Unsurprising. Found a blog from cneifiwr emlyn who points out that this is something that’s been stirred up by a few deselected Tories and Labour trying to kill off Plaid. Certainly “Alice Morgan” is Julia Rees and then there is Michaela Beddows who is a Labour Party member and fan of the English Defence League. Both of whom have wheeled in the Chuckle Spouses Neil and Christine Hamilton. She also quotes something from Save the Children which they immediately disassociated themselves with and imply that there will be no english language stream for the kids of Llangennech. I’d say they were played for fools and ended up writing something that can only be seen as a slur on a community. It’s not as if the Plaid Council were initiating this, they were carrying on with a Labour Party decision.

    So. Either the Guardian can;t see the harm because they were lied to OR they genuinely feel that we are lesser human beings…..

  4. Mrs Mary Susan King

    We moved to Wales as our son was about to start school. He immediately started welsh primary school,where he thrived. I did find a wonderful neighbour to help with reading ( a surrogate mamgu( grandmother)) but other than that no concessions. When it came to secondary school the local bilingual was the obvious choice on grounds of discipline and education. He sailed through school going on to Cambridge where he has 3 masters degrees and a PhD finals on October. His best friend from a similar background went to Bristol university PGCE etc. They have both been in contact on the last few days thanking us for choosing the Welsh option saying how much it has enriched their lives. So your horribly biased article did some hoof, in that we now know how much our decision is appreciated. The only problem, PTA meetings and that was down to us to sort out.

  5. Mister Pow

    “The perspectives in this article were from parents of children who struggled in Welsh-medium schools, I appreciate that isn’t the perspective of all parents in Wales, nor is it necessarily indicative of Wales more widely.”
    That comment is just ludicrous and betrays the fact that the reporters did not even bother to do proper research. For the benefit of the hard of thinking Guardian editor and the ‘parents’ quoted in the article, the children had not struggled in a Welsh medium school, they never bloody attended one. They attended a dual stream school operating in accordance with Welsh Labour Government policy on dual stream schooling in the foundation phases. Children in the English stream were taught in English and will continue to be taught in English during the transition to Welsh Medium education, which is bilingual education.
    For crying out loud!

  6. Y Cneifiwr

    One important factor which has been overlooked in the acres of reporting and comment on the Llangennech story is how small the core group of objectors is/was: roughly 6 families in a village with a population of roughly 5,000.

    It may also help readers to put this row into context by looking at the school itself. Council figures show that the infants and juniors have a combined capacity of 450, and there are 408 pupils. The infant department is very close to capacity.

    In 2015, the school reported 6 Welsh medium classes and one “mixed” class in infants. In other words, we are talking about very small numbers not currently in the Welsh stream.

    Pupils currently in the English stream in the junior department will remain in that stream until they leave, so the whole row boils down to a small number of children in the mixed class – rather less than 5% of the entire school.

    For those parents who cannot stomach the Welsh language, the village is served by two English medium primaries with plenty of spare capacity.

    One small clarification on previous comments – Michaela Beddows was suspended by the Labour Party after sharing EDL material on social media. She subsequently claimed never to have been a member.

  7. Trailorboy

    I was just wondering why all the fuss about Llangennech and never a murmour about Brecon, where I think more kids were involved. I can imagine the outcry if parents in Brecon had used the same sort of disgusting tactics and accused others of violence against them, racism, apartheid and all the rest – it takes an absolute nerve to behave like that and it just wouldn’t happen. Maybe the Welsh stream in Brecon will still get a reprieve though, so probably best not to shout too much just in case??

    • What went on in Brecon sorry? Forgive my ignorance.

      • Trailorboy

        Well the good news is that the Welsh stream in Brecon which was closing, is closing no-longer – after objections (and without major protests) it looks like the decision was overturned this week apparently.

        At this meeting, the Cabinet approved the recommendation of the Portfolio Holder for Education to reject the proposal to close the Welsh-medium stream at Brecon High
        School. The reasons for the recommendation were as follows:

        i) To ensure the continued provision of Welsh-medium education in Brecon
        ii) To ensure that Welsh-medium pupils can access provision in the new school building planned for Brecon High School
        iii) To support the Welsh Government vision to create 1 million Welsh speakers by the year 2050

  8. Cymreigiwr

    “Honestly reported”?

    Hmm, being very charitable, at best they probably mean that their supposedly professional journalists were naively taken in by their interviewees, and uncritically accepted the anti-Welsh prejudice and propaganda they were fed, without thinking to do any basic checking at all, despite the situation being obviously heated and complex. Clearly the journalists involved not only had no knowledge or experience of the subject matter, but no doubt their own biases must have played a part – they were obviously willing to believe the rubbish they were being fed, otherwise they would have looked further.

    In their defence, the woman they interviewed claims to be a Welsh speaker, and I have no doubt played on this to the utmost in order to hoodwink them into thinking she was an unbiased source – and they obviously swallowed the lot, without realising that she’s actually an experienced troll with a well rehearsed patter from the nasty little campaign.

  9. Tim Richards

    Private Eye was also hoodwinked but to be fair they did admit to their error – the fact that the Guardian has continued to attempt to justify what was a sloppy piece of Anglo-centric journalism has convinced me to stop my subscription

  10. Terry Thomas

    I’m a first language Welsh speaker and both of my children have been through the Welsh medium school system and benefitted greatly from it. However I have to say that some of their friends were not first language Welsh but we’re still pushed through the same system as ours. Unfortunately their experience was not as positive as ours and from the out side looking in it appeared to cause them to push back against the language. Whether or not their final GCSE grades were affected or not we will never know but the underlying feeling was probably yes. One thing I believe in is that every child in Wales deserves to be taught in their first language, whether that’s Welsh or English. It was something I campaigned for in the 80’s and it’s something that I still feel strongly about today.

    • Cymreigiwr

      I think every child in Wales should gain a useful level of fluency in Welsh in infants/primary school, and that this should be built upon at secondary level through using it as a medium of instruction. Whether it should be the only medium of instruction is a moot point. Kids who have been taught through Welsh all day every day through primary and secondary really are fully fluent. I think it’s highly unlikely that the few kids you refer to who perform badly and weren’t studious and academic yn Gymraeg would have been any more studious or academic in English, but no doubt they consider Cymraeg to be a useful scapegoat for any weak performance. I suspect some do rebel and make a concerted effort to reject their schooling and all that comes with it, including Cymraeg, but these are hardly a representative sample. Kids whose first language is English have actually much more to gain from Welsh medium schooling. I’ve learned Cymraeg as an adult, but my kids first language is English and they’re now at a Welsh medium comp, so I have pertinent experience.

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