Council fears it doesn’t have enough teachers to expand Welsh medium education
Saul Cooke-Black, local democracy reporter
A council is worried that it does not have enough teachers to expand Welsh medium education as much as it would like.
Increasing the number of teachers with Welsh language skills will be key to future plans for Welsh medium education in Torfaen, councillors have said.
Torfaen council is currently consulting on a new Welsh in Education Strategic Plan for 2022 to 2032, and it has highlighted issues around the recruitment of qualified teaching staff with Welsh language skills.
The draft plan describes this a “significant ongoing concern” because the number of staff with the necessary skills to deliver the curriculum in Welsh is “far below the levels needed to significantly expand” provision in the language.
The plan includes introducing a late immersion centre, which could provide Welsh medium education for students who have moved to the borough or who have transferred from an English-medium school.
The introduction of a dedicated Welsh medium Special Needs Resource Base is also included in the strategy.
Plans to work with Coleg Gwent to increase the number of staff who are proficient in Welsh language skills by 50 per cent are included, alongside working with other schools and partners.
The draft plan says: “Recruitment is a significant ongoing concern, particularly in the secondary sector where the current number of staff with Welsh language skills at a level where they can confidentially deliver the curriculum in Welsh is far below the levels needed to significantly expand our Welsh medium and bilingual curriculum offer.
“Historical and continuing issues around the recruitment of Welsh speaking staff, including headteachers with relevant subject specialism and/or experience is a real problem in the region.”
At a meeting of the council’s education and overview scrutiny committee on Wednesday, Cllr Kathy Evans raised concerns over the issue and asked what is being done to attract Welsh medium teachers.
Julian Doroszczuk, the council’s head of learning, said the authority has raised the issue with Welsh Government.
A sabbatical scheme for Welsh language training is run by Welsh Government, but Mr Doroszczuk said there are only 15 places available each year across the five Gwent councils.
“It’s incredibly difficult to get people into Welsh medium education with the relevant experience and knowledge,” Mr Doroszczuk said.
“We are strongly going back to the Welsh Government all the time with this as a critical issue.”
The plan shows there is “increasing demand” for Welsh medium education at pre-school and primary levels.
Torfaen council currently has capacity to meet future demand with the expansion of Ysgol Gyfun Gwynllyw, but the position may need to be reviewed during the latter half of the plan.
The strategy also includes increasing the provision of courses on offer for 16-19-year-olds in Welsh medium education.
Plans to do this include working with Coleg Gwent to potentially provide Welsh medium courses at Torfaen Learning Zone in Cwmbran.
Recommendations from the education and overview scrutiny committee included that the council asks Welsh Government for more places to be made available on its sabbatical scheme for Welsh language training.