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Cabinet member ‘astonished by idiocy’ of comments on Welsh medium education in Sunday Times article

29 Nov 2021 4 minute read
Myfanwy Alexander

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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Elvey MacDonald
Elvey MacDonald
1 year ago

Ardderchog Cyngor Sir Powys!. Llongyfarchiadau a phob dymuniad da am lwyddiant ysgubol i’r cynllun newydd cyffrous hwn.

Tim
Tim
1 year ago

Myfanwy Alexander’s witty retort makes the author of the Sundry Trends piece look even sillier than they were to begin with.
This Dai Holt character sounds a master of the non sequitur.

Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
1 year ago

Many in England forget that the UK has many different languages and just because English is the dominate one does not mean the others should be ignored. Being bilingual enhances a child’s mind not holds them back.

CJPh
CJPh
1 year ago

“Where are all these damaged, babbling simpletons churned out by Welsh medium schools”? Once this point is made (try it when you encounter the “Welsh lang school hurts the child” arguments) the inevitable pivot comes; it’s then about elitism and the “crachach” and “taffia”. We can see similar arguments made against minority groups that are relatively successful in other parts of the world – Jews, Armenians, Chinese minority in Malaysia – all simultaneously economic/cultural elitist snobs and backwards savages. Can’t have it both ways, bigots. What everyone in Wales should realise is that this attitude is uniquely galling when applied… Read more »

Llwynog Abertawe
Llwynog Abertawe
1 year ago

Dydy ‘teaching a child more than one language will hold them back’ ddim yn wir.
Mae siarad mwy na un iaith yn helpu plant, yn ôl archwiliad:
https://www.thebritishacademy.ac.uk/blog/cognitive-benefits-learning-language-two-minutes/

Grayham Jones
1 year ago

Welsh is the first language in wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 we
In wales have got to stop being little Englanders and and be proud to be welsh start fighting for your children and grandchildren future in wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 no more second homes in wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 take all second homes of them and give them to young welsh people who can’t get on the housing market because of incomers it’s time for a new wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿

Jack Bryn
Jack Bryn
1 year ago

The Sunday Times has always displayed a deep knowledge of Welsh affairs and dedicates a huge amount of time and space to reflect life on the ground. This is why they have a substantial team of top-notch journalists embedded within our communities to cover everyday matters. Long may they continue to pen their insightful thoughts.

hdavies15
hdavies15
1 year ago
Reply to  Jack Bryn

Indeed, you got to have a laff first thing in the day and this comment did the biz !! Diolch.

Erisian
Erisian
1 year ago

If she was truly ‘astonished by idiocy’ it must be concluded that she has never read the Sunday Times before.
A nasty paper with a nasty editor and a nasty axe to grind.

Jeff
Jeff
1 year ago

Would English people be opposed to their children being taught in French if they moved to France instead of Wales? Sadly there is still a pungent and colonialistic anti Welsh mindset within many of the immigrant population.

Adrian Meagher
Adrian Meagher
1 year ago

I agree that children absorb languages like trifle absorbs sherry but that refers to spoken languages. Acquiring literacy simultaneously in two languages might be very difficult for the minority of students who are dyslexic. Do any of the Welsh universities have a unit researching bilingual literacy acquisition by people with dyslexia? If not, I would encourage the Welsh government to set up and fund such a unit as part of the Rhaglen dros miliwn o siaradwyr Cymraeg.

Geraint
Geraint
1 year ago
Reply to  Adrian Meagher

I always thought that Bangor was one of the leading centres in the world relating to dyslexia. Very strong and highly regarded Masters programme.

Adrian Meagher
Adrian Meagher
1 year ago
Reply to  Geraint

Great! I was unaware of the Miles Dyslexia Centre at Bangor. They do “training of teachers for work with dyslexic children” and conduct research into “sut mae dyslecsia yn amlygu mewn unigolion sy’n siarad dwy iaith neu fwy” . Maybe a monetary nudge from the Welsh government would allow the Miles Centre to boast that they train bilingual teachers for work with (wannabe) bilingual dyslexic children in Wales. PS what is wannabe in Cymraeg?

stub Mandrel
1 year ago

“Bilingualism is the norm in the world – monolingualism is not – and that is what an English stream is – fluency in one language.”

Wonderfully put. I regret how poorly I was taught Welsh and French, post-covid I hope to take lessons and get my Welsh up to scratch.

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