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Claims of crisis in Welsh education ‘rubbished’

15 Feb 2024 3 minute read
Children learning Welsh

Elgan Hearn Local Democracy Reporter

A row has erupted about whether there is a “Welsh language crisis” in a council’s schools.

At a meeting of Powys County Council’s Cabinet on Tuesday, February 13 councillors went through recommendations on the draft 2024/2025 budget made by scrutiny committees.

In order to balance next year’s budget, the council need to make £10.652 million in cuts, savings, and income generation from services.

Recommendations

During the last couple of weeks, the council’s scrutiny committees have gone through these proposals in detail and have produced a number of recommendations to Cabinet on what they think of the draft budget.

The report on the recommendations includes the sections that explain whether the Liberal Democrat/Labour Cabinet: “accept, partially accept or reject” the observations.

The Learning and Skills committee believed that the Cabinet need to address the “Welsh language crisis” in Powys schools.

This comment has drawn criticism from Cabinet members as they “rejected” the advice.

At the meeting Conservative group leader, Cllr Aled Davies said it was “really surprising” that the cabinet had rejected the recommendation.

Cllr Davies said: “You just reference the Welsh medium schools; they are going great guns but it’s the overall picture scrutiny was focussing on.

“The Welsh language is not just for Welsh medium schools but for all.”

“I think the point’s been missed.”

“Emotive”

Cabinet member for a connected Powys, Liberal Democrat Cllr Jake Berriman said: “It’s difficult to respond to language which is not specific.

“When you refer to a crisis, it’s very emotive and lacks clarity.”

He added that the Cabinet needed “clear and concise recommendations” to be able to respond to.

Cabinet member for a safer Powys Liberal Democrat Cllr Richard Church said: “We all know that scrutiny should be an evidence based process.

“It should seek to avoid the use of charged language without evidence to back up and support that.

“When I read the Learning and Skills committee’s recommendation, I see no evidence that supports the use of the word crisis in relation to the delivery of Welsh medium education in Powys.”

“A long way to go”

Council leader, Liberal Democrat, Cllr James Gibson-Watt said “We’ve moved Welsh medium education provision on more in the last 12 months than was seen in many years.

“It’s not to say we’re anywhere near the finished article.

“There’s a long way to go but the commitment is absolute there to meet the aspirations as quickly as we can.”

“I think you can understand why Cabinet is not particularly pleased with that word- crisis –  given how we have moved things along.”

Chairman of the Learning and Skill scrutiny committee, Conservative Cllr Gwynfor Thomas: “The point being made is that it’s not where we want it to be.”

He explained that his committee were concerned about how the Welsh would be taught in English medium schools.

Cllr Thomas said: “With the budgets being so tight, schools would not be able to concentrate any efforts or finance to developing Welsh in their school.

“Due to funding pressure schools may let things like the Welsh language drop off their priority list.”

The draft budget is set to be debated at a full council meeting on Thursday. February 22.


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