Consultation on Welsh medium education for two schools starts this month
Richard Youle, local democracy reporter
A consultation on proposals to introduce Welsh language education for early years learning at two schools gets under way in Carmarthenshire this month.
The proposals are for foundation phase learning to be in Welsh at Model Church in Wales School, Carmarthen, and Llanelli’s Ysgol Y Felin, from September 2022.
The consultation has been approved by the council’s executive board and will take place between February 22 and April 4.
The Plaid Cymru-Independent administration wants a bilingual Carmarthenshire and is focusing on immersing children in Welsh at an early age to help achieve this.
“We want to see every child confident in both languages,” said Cllr Glynog Davies, executive board member for education and children.
Similar changes took place last year in five other primary schools, under the council’s Welsh in education strategic plan.
Cllr Davies said pupils’ English language skills would be developed at the same time.
Model Church in Wales School is currently an English language school, which is funded but now owned by the council. It had 429 pupils, including nursery, in January 2020.
Addressing executive board colleagues, Cllr Davies said: “I am aware that many of you have received emails and letters about our plans for Model.
These have been kept for the consultation, if these proposals are accepted today. We are not ignoring them.”
A report before the executive board said if the proposal was to be approved, a Welsh language education stream would in time be set up at key stage 2 for foundation pupils who’d been learning in Welsh.
Cllr Davies confirmed that a consultation, which will include virtual sessions, has been allowed during the lockdown. Council leader Emlyn Dole is to write to First Minister Mark Drakeford for further reassurance on this.
Llanelli’s Ysgol Y Felin, meanwhile, is a dual language school with 222 pupils as of January 2020. More foundation pupils there have been choosing Welsh ahead of English learning over the last three years.
If the proposal was to be approved, the capacity of Ysgol Y Felin’s Welsh stream in key stage two to cope with the potential increased demand for places would be monitored and reviewed.
Disadvantages of the two proposals include potential resistance from the community. In Model’s case, the impact on job security for some staff is noted in the report, while for Ysgol Y Felin there is a potential loss of pupils to other schools.
The council will publish a consultation report after it has taken place, with the executive board to make a decision about whether to proceed – by publishing a statutory notice – in early May.
If it does publish a statutory notice, objections can be submitted before full council determines the way forward in early June.
The Welsh Government wants one million Welsh speakers by 2050, and the executive report said bilingual children tended to do better at school and then earn an average of 11% more income than people who spoke one language.