Cabinet member ‘astonished by idiocy’ of comments on Welsh medium education in Sunday Times article
A council cabinet member was “astonished by the idiocy” of comments about Welsh medium education on an article in the Sunday Times.
Cllr Myfanwy Alexander, who is Welsh and adult services portfolio holder Powys County Council, hit back at claims that “teaching a child more than one language will hold them back”.
She said children “absorb language like a trifle sponge absorbs sherry”, pointed out that in Wales it is possible to “give your children the wonderful gift of seeing the world differently”.
The article in the Sunday Times included comments from parent behind a petition against switching a school to the Welsh medium who suggested you “cannot stop” English people from coming to Wales.
Dai Holt, 53, has claimed that Powys County Council’s decision to change Machynlleth’s Ysgol Bro Hyddgen from dual stream, does not “represent the community”, and claimed it was a “draconian” policy.
This is despite a public consultation having found the majority of respondents backing the phased transition from dual-stream to Welsh-medium schooling at the bilingual school for pupils aged between four and 18.
Plaid Cymru councillor Elwyn Vaughan has previously told the County Times: “This matter shouldn’t be seen as a ‘Welsh vs English’ thing, and I deplore those that try to make it such.”
‘Staggered to learn’
Alexander said: “I am not often astonished by the idiocy of my fellow man but reading the comments on an article in the Sunday Times about Welsh education I was staggered to learn that there are people who genuinely believe teaching a child more than one language will hold them back.
“How can a child learning more be detrimental? Presumably, these parents carefully sort their children’s’; Lego, allowing them to play with one colour at a time lest they become confused, do not teach them to count beyond 100 because of all the craziness inherent in more than two digits and read slimmed down versions of classics like The Half a Dozen Dalmatians Because Lots of Dogs Would Be Too Much for My Kid.
“Children absorb language like a trifle sponge absorbs sherry. If you can, give your children the wonderful gift of seeing the world differently. Here in Wales, that choice is possible.”
Dai Holt told the Sunday Times: “The school we cherish should represent the community”.
He added: “More English people are going to come to Wales. You cannot stop them with more draconian policies on schooling and houses.
“Schools run on numbers, not language. If you do not have bottoms on seats, you will not have a school to run. People have been verbally and even physically abused over this.”
‘Fear of the unknown’
In response to opposition to the plans, Cllr Elwyn Vaughan who represents nearby Glantwymyn and is chairman of the school governors, has previously said: “Whenever any changes are proposed it is inevitable that some are opposed to such changes, fear of the unknown is understandable.
“Bilingualism is the norm in the world – monolingualism is not – and that is what an English stream is – fluency in one language.
“Bilingualism provides the basis to learn other languages and become truly multilingual – a important asset for the future.”
“Only three pupils have started in the English stream this September – that is totally unsustainable and not fair on them.”
Language campaigners Cymdeithas yr Iaith have welcomed the move to change the school to Welsh medium.
Osian Rhys, from Cymdeithas yr Iaith’s Education Group said: “This is very encouraging news, and gives hope to so many other people and communities. Many thanks to the school governors, campaigners and politicians who have supported this very positive change.
“Welsh-medium schools are the only way of ensuring that children are able to communicate fluently in both Welsh and English. Moving schools along the language continuum is one of the main ways in which we as a society will reach one million Welsh speakers and more.
“This is why we are calling for a Welsh-medium Education for All Act that will encourage and facilitate the conversion of schools across the country into Welsh medium schools, with much easier new processes and statutory targets for all county councils.”
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