Changing young people’s ‘perception’ about Welsh language is a challenge, says councillor
Richard Evans, local democracy reporter
Changing the perception some young people hold about the Welsh language is a challenge, according to a councillor.
During a meeting of Conwy County Borough Council, Cllr Emma Leighton-Jones, said she was a “victim” of the language not being seen as “hip” or “cool” in her teenage years.
She said she often hears children who “obviously speak Welsh”, but who instead choose to talk to each other in English.
Conwy hopes to increase the number of children accessing a Welsh language education from 25% to 39% over the next 10 years.
Local authorities in Wales are required to produce a plan and an annual report to show how the Welsh language is being promoted through schools.
On Tuesday Conwy’s cabinet backed the draft Welsh in education strategic plan, which will now go out to public consultation.
The plan will dictate how the Welsh language is spoken from nursery and reception classes all the way through to primary and into secondary schools.
It will also seek to increase provision to children with additional learning needs and increase the number of Welsh-speaking teachers.
Welsh ‘immersion opportunities’ will be offered to primary school children, and the council will invest in training to promote career development and a Welsh-speaking workforce in childcare.
The Welsh Government hope to have a million Welsh speakers by 2050.
The council will also strive to raise awareness of the benefits of speaking Welsh and promote the Welsh culture.
Cllr Emma Leighton-Jones said one of the challenges would be changing some perceptions held by young people about the Welsh language.
‘Always a real shame’
“I’m often conscious that what I sometimes see outdoors is children who obviously speak Welsh – I can tell by their uniforms – but the language they are choosing to talk to each other as they are wandering through town is English, and that’s always a real shame, isn’t it?,” she said.
“It’s about that perception of what’s hip, of what’s cool, I guess, and I was a victim of that when I was 14 or 15. It is that change in perception as well.”
Cllr Julie Fallon is the cabinet member for education and presented the report.
“I’m hoping we will be the victims of our own success,” she said.
“And the hope is once we spread messages about a bilingual education and how good that is for young people to have for the rest of their lives, to have opportunities, people are going to choose a Welsh language education.
“That is something that, when we look at 21st century schools, planning and moving forward, we are very conscious of, at primary and secondary, to make sure we have the best provision for people who make the choice for Cymraeg.”
Currently 20 Conwy primary schools teach in Welsh. Fourteen primary schools teach predominantly in English with significant use of Welsh (20-50%), and 17 schools teach less than 20% in Welsh. Awel y Myndd in Llandudno Junction is Conwy’s only ‘dual stream’ English/Welsh school,
Ysgol y Creuddyn is Conwy’s only Welsh-medium secondary school, although Ysgol Dyffryn Conwy in Llanrwst is bilingual. Aberconwy, Bryn Elian, Eirias, Emrys ap Iwan and John Bright are all English-medium schools.
Dr Lowri Brown is the director of education and said the council had to take ownership of the strategy to succeed in increasing Welsh-medium learners by 14% over the next 10 years.
“I think it is more than just a Welsh in education services strategic plan. It is about our vision as a council, about embracing Welsh culture, the Welsh language and also just the feeling of being Welsh and enjoying using the language,” she said.
Conwy’s leader Cllr Charlie McCoubrey added: “We all know that, moving forward, it (Welsh) is a very special skill and a really important skill.
“By 2050/2060 there will be more people who have Welsh language skills.
“It will improve their careers and improve their cultural life and sense of belonging. It is a lovely place to be living.”
The report was backed unanimously.