Council faces down opposition to switching school to Welsh medium
Elgan Hearn, local democracy reporter
A council has faced down opposition to switching a school to the Welsh medium.
From September Machynlleth’s Ysgol Bro Hyddgen will take its first steps down the path of becoming a Welsh medium school after a a meeting of Powys County Council’s cabinet on today (Tuesday October 12).
At the meeting councillors looked at the objections report into proposals to change Ysgol Bro Hyddgen’s language category.
The proposal is that from September 2022, the reception class at Machynlleth’s Bro Hyddgen will be taught in Welsh, in a move which will eventually see all classes from reception to sixth form taught in the language. The legal period to lodge objections took place from June 17 to July 15.
Language campaigners Cymdeithas yr Iaith have welcomed the move.
Osian Rhys, from Cymdeithas yr Iaith’s Education Group said: “This is very encouraging news, and gives hope to so many other people and communities. Many thanks to the school governors, campaigners and politicians who have supported this very positive change.
“Welsh-medium schools are the only way of ensuring that children are able to communicate fluently in both Welsh and English. Moving schools along the language continuum is one of the main ways in which we as a society will reach one million Welsh speakers and more.
“This is why we are calling for a Welsh-medium Education for All Act that will encourage and facilitate the conversion of schools across the country into Welsh medium schools, with much easier new processes and statutory targets for all county councils.”
‘Fear of the unknown’
Cllr Elwyn Vaughan who represents nearby Glantwymyn and is chairman of the school governors said: “Whenever any changes are proposed it is inevitable that some are opposed to such changes, fear of the unknown is understandable.
“Bilingualism is the norm in the world – monolingualism is not – and that is what an English stream is – fluency in one language.
“Bilingualism provides the basis to learn other languages and become truly multilingual – a important asset for the future.”
“Only three pupils have started in the English stream this September – that is totally unsustainable and not fair on them.”
He added that he will “extend” the hand of friendship and would be available to “discuss, advise, encourage and assist wherever possible.”
Over 1219 people had signed a petition against the proposal, just over 278 signed a petition in favour, the council received over 252 other objections with four supporting the proposal. Machynlleth town council had also objected to the language category change.
The original consultation on the proposal took place from December 8, 2020, to January 26.
Of the respondents, just over 61 per-cent were in favour, while 37.5 per cent were against the proposal and 1.5 per cent didn’t know.
Figures from 2020 show that out of a total of 477 pupils at Bro Hyddgen, 332 are educated in Welsh and 145 in English.
Cllr Mike Williams said: “Over 1200 people signed a petition against the proposal, that’s 66 per cent of the adult population of the town.
“I would urge cabinet to take full cognizance of the volume of objectors and those for, as it’s crucial that the views of the Machynlleth townspeople are taken on board.”
“This is a very big issue for the town and the Dyfi Valley.”
‘Very difficult locally’
Education portfolio holder, Cllr Phyl Davies told cabinet that he’d been to Machynlleth to receive a petition and understood: “it’s very difficult locally.”
Cllr Davies said: “The issue is that there aren’t the numbers in that (English) stream.”
He added that the cabinet had to be “consistent” in its approach to school reorganisation and that all the objections had been responded to in the officers report.
Finance portfolio holder, Cllr Aled Davies said “It’s a positive move and the more opportunities for our children to be truly bilingual so much the better.
“This will be phased in over a number of years. It will be almost the end of the decade before it impacts the secondary phase.”
Cllr Davies pointed out that feeder primary schools for Bro Hyddgen: Glantwymyn, Carno, Llanbrynmair and also Pennal and Corris in Gwynedd where some pupils come from, are all “Welsh medium schools.”
“I wish I had an education through the medium of Welsh, my skills would be far better if that had happened,” said Cllr Davies.
He added that he was sure the cabinet were on the “right path” by supporting the changes.
Councillors voted unanimously in favour of the proposal.
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.
Llongyfarchiada Powys – hen bryd!
Yn union. On da chi cofiwch nid yw addysg ddwyieithog yn eu hunain yn ddigon i greu ymwybyddiaeth o Gymreictod. Mae angen meithrin yr hunaniaeth hynny yr yr ysgolion. Achos er gwaethaf addysg gyfrwng Cymraeg, Saesneg mae’r plant yn dewis fel cyfrwng ymysg ei gilydd yn y gorllewin.
“Bilingualism is the norm in the world – monolingualism is not – and that is what an English stream is – fluency in one language”…..a perfect summation of matters from Cllr Elwyn Vaughan. And so good to see a council in Wales standing up to the anti welsh language bigots 👏
All schools in wales 🏴 must be welsh first language of wales 🏴 we in wales have got to stop being little Englanders and be proud to be welsh it’s time for a new wales 🏴
Penderfyniad i’w groesawu! ~ A decision to be welcomed!
Who is doing the complaining here. With 1219 people signing a petition against the move, but only 3 children starting in the English language stream, it can not be parents of children who will attend the school. The figures to me don’t add up. Is there an ulterior motive at work here, and not concern for a childs education.
struck me as being a bit odd, even taking the existing English only group at 145. It would appear there might be some kind of anti Welsh language agenda at work here.
Penderfyniad cywir gan Cyngor Powys — llongyfarchiadau iddyn nhw, a diolch o galon. This is a positive turn of events of a kind that is all too rare in Cymru. Local authorities in Powys seem at last to be stepping up to the plate. But those anti-Welsh voting-figures seem very suspicious for a town with three kids in English-medium.