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Call for specifically Welsh rather than bilingual secondary schools

24 Jun 2021 4 minute read
Keith Evans / School sign / CC BY-SA 2.0

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.”

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Nick Randall-Smith
Nick Randall-Smith
3 years ago

“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.” Hmmm, so if Welsh isn’t your first language you aren’t Welsh, Cllr Williams? This could make an independent Wales very difficult to achieve indeed. Bilingualism is a wonderful thing, very good for the brain they say. Don’t knock English it is the probably the most useful language on the planet, hundreds of millions are trying to learn it. “Its the same as someone saying they’re Welsh both and British, there’s no such… Read more »

Charles Evans
Charles Evans
3 years ago

Well said. Williams’ form of Welsh nationalism isn’t much different from the racist thugs of the EDL – they want to enforce their own view of purity of identity on Wales.

Speak English as well as (or instead of) Welsh? You’re not Welsh and you’re not welcome.
Consider yourself part of Britain as well as Wales? You’re not Welsh and you’re not welcome.

These ultranationalists pretend that they want a vibrant, diverse, multicultural Wales… but then want to enforce a rigid monoculture on everyone.

Last edited 3 years ago by Charles Evans
3 years ago

If pushed to pigeonhole myself I would never call myself British unless in the ancient pre-Norman, pre-Saxon sense. The facts are though that I am technically British in the modern Victorian One Nation sense, until we gain independence. But others may do as they wish. Cllr Williams seems to have some strange ideas, and really doesn’t get to define this for everyone, but he is one councillor in Gwynedd. The idea of having a Welsh only school has merit, but to not have Welsh children also fluent in English puts them at a disadvantage when they enter the jobs market.… Read more »

Last edited 3 years ago by Chris
3 years ago

Syniad da. Bilingualism is a worthy goal but it is a two-edged sword because at the moment it puts Welsh on the back foot even in the more Welsh-speaking regions. This councillor’s proposal seems to be to help schoolchildren develop sufficient proficiency in Cymraeg in the county so as to make the language their normal means of discourse outside the classroom and the family. They will, however, in practice become bilingual, since the English language pervades even the Bro Gymraeg. BritNats won’t like it because they will choose to interpret it as denying Welsh children the chance to learn English,… Read more »

Last edited 3 years ago by Wrexhamian

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