Changes to Welsh language qualifications just ‘rebranding’ claim language campaigners
Language campaigners have criticised the body that regulates qualifications in Wales after they decided not to introduce a single Welsh language qualification for all pupils in Wales.
Cymdeithas yr Iaith has accused Qualifications Wales of doing nothing more than “rebranding” Welsh second language and “failing another generation of children”.
Qualifications Wales announced today that changes will be made to Welsh language qualifications, saying that it would help more learners become confident Welsh speakers.
It has recommended that GCSE Welsh Second Language be discontinued, and a new GCSE in Welsh will be created for learners in English-medium settings.
However Cymdeithas yr Iaith said that Qualifications Wales has not explained how, apart form a name change, the new GCSE Welsh will be different from the current second language Welsh.
Toni Schiavone, Chair of Cymdeithas yr Iaith’s Education Group, said: “Qualifications Wales now recognizes that one Welsh language qualification is the way forward, and says that the aim will be to develop that qualification in the future.
“But these new steps will not be in place until 2025 and there is no plan or timetable for creating a one qualification system.
“Everyone agrees the educational case for one Welsh qualification, so how can we justify continuing to put a cop on the attainment of most pupils, and depriving them of leaving school able to speak Welsh?”
However Emyr George, Director of Qualifications Policy and Reform, at Qualifications Wales, said that the new qualifications would encourage all learners to be confident users of the Welsh language, regardless of which type of school they attend.
“Eventually, we want to see one overarching Cymraeg qualification for all learners in all settings, but we are not there yet because learners have varying levels of exposure to the language,” he said.
“The qualifications will give all learners a fair and equal opportunity to achieve in Cymraeg. They reflect the different sets of expectations for English-medium and Welsh-medium schools, as outlined in the new Curriculum for Wales, while also allowing those learners in English-medium schools who are ready to progress further and more quickly along the Welsh language continuum.
“We have worked closely with teachers, subject experts and the Welsh Government over recent months to ensure this offer best meets the needs of learners to have the skills and confidence to use Welsh in their learning, work, and everyday lives.”
Jeremy Miles, the Minister for Education and Welsh Language, said that Welsh Language qualifications should support all learners on their Welsh Language journey and provide a route towards a shared goal.
“I welcome the new Welsh language qualifications, which remove the concept of Welsh being a second language and will reward the hard work of those studying Welsh across the whole spectrum of Welsh language experience and ability,” he said.
“I have been clear that changes to qualifications must be radical and ambitious and support the new Curriculum, as we move to a continuum for Welsh learning, from those with little or no language experience, right through to those working towards proficiency.”
“There is a real opportunity to work with Qualifications Wales to help shape these new qualifications and I encourage everyone with an interest to engage with the process over the coming months.”
The changes across Welsh language degrees for 2025 are:
- Welsh Language and Welsh Literature will be combined into one GCSE for pupils in Welsh-medium and bilingual schools.
- GCSE Welsh Second Language will be discontinued, and a new GCSE in Welsh will be created for learners in English-medium settings.
- A new additional qualification for pupils in English-medium settings who are ready to progress further in their Welsh language skills.
In a recent letter to the Welsh Government and Qualifications Wales, Cymdeithas yr Iaith had recommended that all pupils take a general examination paper and either an Advanced Welsh examination paper or a standard Welsh examination paper.
There would be an overlap between these two papers and therefore an opportunity for pupils of higher ability, but who sit a ‘standard Welsh’ examination, to reach e.g. grade B ‘Advanced Welsh’ and get recognition for that, they said..
Toni Schiavone added: “By rebranding Welsh second language instead of developing a single Welsh language qualification for all young people in Wales, Qualifications Wales and Government have failed another generation of children and continuing with an education system that deprives 80% of our young people from the Welsh language.
“Almost a decade since the report commissioned by the Government made clear the need to put an end to second language Welsh was urgent it is shameful that we are in this position.
“The Government’s strategy for reaching a million speakers depends on ensuring that half of all English-medium school leavers are able to speak Welsh. But by continuing with separate qualifications, schools are not incentivized to develop Welsh language teaching.
“The only way to raise educational expectations and improve the attainment of all pupils is to introduce one qualification, unless we do, we will not reach the million and most young people in Wales will continue to be deprived of being able to use the Welsh.”
Qualifications Wales said they would now work closely with teachers, examiners, employers, and young people to co-create the content, teaching methods and assessment of the three new qualifications.
Dr. Alex Lovell, Senior Lecturer in Welsh, Swansea University, said: “There is no doubt that much more work needs to be done in order to close the gap between Welsh and English-medium schools in relation to Welsh language provision.
“Nevertheless, Qualifications Wales’ decision to create a new Welsh GCSE qualification which will once again increase the challenge and expectations for learners in the English-medium sector is to be broadly welcomed.
“And their decision to create an additional qualification to bridge between the two new GCSEs in particular is an important first step towards supporting the ambition of Cymraeg 2050 and enabling those Welsh learners who wish to move more quickly and further along the continuum to do so.”
It is expected that the new qualifications will be ready for first teaching in 2025.
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