Call for specifically Welsh rather than bilingual secondary schools
Gareth Williams, local democracy reporter
Gwynedd Council should place more emphasis on specifically Welsh rather than bilingual secondary schools, the authority’s Language Committee chairman has argued.
The draft Welsh in Education Strategic Plan outlines Gwynedd’s vision over the next 10 years up to 2032, setting out seven target outcomes and the authority’s target of more children being educated through the medium of Welsh.
Also proposing more opportunities for learners to use Welsh in different contexts in school, officers have also targeted an increase in the number of teaching staff who can teach Cymraeg as a subject as well as others through the medium of Welsh.
But the move has also sparked debate over the categorisation of the county’s secondary schools, with calls for at least some to be designated as specifically Welsh medium rather than bilingual institutions.
The latest available figures for 2018/19 showed that 78.1% of Gwynedd’s learners had registered for GCSE Welsh (first language) and at least another two further qualifications through the medium of Welsh, with officers targeting an increase in this figure over the coming decade.
64.2%, meanwhile, were registered for GCSE Welsh (First Language) and at least another five further qualifications for levels 1 or 2 through the medium of Welsh.
StatsWales define almost all Gwynedd’s secondary schools – which has the highest percentage of Welsh speakers in the country – as officially ‘bilingual’, with 80% of subjects other than languages taught in Welsh.
Meanwhile, designated Welsh medium secondary schools are judged to be those where all subjects apart from English are taught through the medium of Welsh to all pupils.
But during Tuesday’s debate, with Language Committee members approving the report on the proviso that their comments were taken into account, the newly elected committee chair argued that the authority’s targets need to be more ambitious after describing two subjects as a “very low target.”
Speaking of concern that Welsh was “being hidden behind bilingualism”, Cllr Alwyn Gruffydd said: “It’s about time that we had specifically Welsh schools in Gwynedd, we aren’t going to stand our ground in terms of the language unless we do so.
“In such a case, anyone moving in from the outside would know where they stood.
“I remember Gwenda Roberts, a former Drama teacher at Ysgol Eifionydd, she was offering a GCSE course only via the medium of Welsh and people accepted that and enjoyed much success.
“But the second they went to Coleg Meirion Dwyfor, (the students) were given a choice and they did it in English.
“So if a decision is made that all subjects are offered only in Welsh then people know where they stand, and there lies the answer.
“My hope is that we increase that minimum of two (GCSE) subjects to at least seven if we are to achieve anything, and specifically Welsh schools”
Cllr Elfed Williams added, “This bilingualism has bugged me for some time, for me people need make a decision and we need to be forthright in choosing Welsh.
“Its the same as someone saying they’re Welsh both and British, there’s no such thing, people need to choose rather than sit on the fence.”
In response, a Gwynedd Council spokesman said: “Gwynedd’s Education Language Policy across all the county’s schools is to develop the ability of every pupil to become proficiently bilingual by the age of 11.
“Priority is given to Welsh in the Foundation Phase in order to lay a solid foundation for the language, with attention given to developing pupils’ skills in Welsh and English from the age of 7 (KS2) onwards.”