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Million Welsh speakers target ‘almost impossible’ to meet due to budget cuts

19 Apr 2024 4 minute read
Dona Lewis gives evidence to the culture committee

Chris Haines, ICNN Senedd reporter

A target to reach a million Welsh speakers by 2050 is “almost impossible” to hit due to real-terms budget cuts, with demand for courses outstripping capacity, a committee heard.

Dona Lewis, chief executive of the National Centre for Learning Welsh, gave evidence to the Senedd’s culture committee as part of a one-day inquiry into post-16 Welsh provision.

Ms Lewis warned that the “massive” growth the National Centre for Learning Welsh had hoped to achieve this year will no longer be possible.

She told the committee there are waiting lists for people who want to learn Welsh, “so the demand is higher than what we can reach at the moment”.

Ms Lewis said: “Our work has grown since the centre was established back in 2016 and funding has grown with that. But, to reach more people, clearly, more funding is needed.”

‘Almost impossible’

Llŷr Gruffydd warned that budget pressures jeopardise the chances of meeting the target of a million Welsh speakers and doubling daily use of the language by 2050.

The Plaid Cymru MS for North Wales said: “Reaching the targets of Cymraeg 2050 was challenging already and almost impossible now.”

Mr Gruffydd suggested it is a tragedy that the National Centre for Learning Welsh cannot meet demand, saying: “There’s a risk that we’re missing out on an historic opportunity.”

The Welsh Government’s 2024-25 budget allocates £53.5m to support Welsh language spending, with a near-£3m reduction compared to last year, according to a report.

Ioan Matthews, chief executive of Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol, which works with colleges, universities and employers, said further education and apprenticeships are crucial.

‘Few and far between’

Dr Matthews told the committee that opportunities to study through the medium of Welsh have been few and far between until relatively recently.

Dafydd Evans, representing Colleges Wales, welcomed a more positive approach since Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol’s remit was widened to include further education.

Pressed about whether the Cymraeg 2050 targets are realistic, Mr Evans, who is chief executive of Grŵp Llandrillo Menai, was not confident the aims are achievable.

Mr Evans, who has worked in the sector for 30 years, said: “If we’re going to have new Welsh speakers then we would need a lot more resources in the pot to reach that target.”

Carolyn Thomas, a Labour backbencher, highlighted the Welsh language commissioner’s warning that attempts to expand post-compulsory provision have been an uphill battle.

‘Losing momentum’

Dr Matthews said there has traditionally been a lack of investment but the picture is changing and he was hopeful funding will be restored next year.

Asked about the impact of the re-prioritisation of the Welsh Government’s budget, he told MSs that there is a risk of losing momentum and opportunities as a result.

Dr Matthews agreed that budget pressures will make the 2050 target more challenging.

He said: “What we need is a plan and trajectory which sets out milestones for us. But any slowing down of that momentum will make that trajectory more challenging.”

Mr Evans stressed the importance of focusing on transitions from education and promoting the value of Welsh in the workplace, so young people see the language as a skill.

‘Massive problem’

Lisa Mytton, strategic director of National Training Federation Wales, raised concerns around recruiting qualified assessors and cuts to the apprenticeship budget.

Mr Evans called for a national strategy to create a bilingual teaching workforce, saying there is a “massive problem” in recruiting Welsh speakers in fields such as science.

He welcomed a review of vocational qualifications, carried out by Sharron Lusher, the former principal of Pembrokeshire College, but warned that progress on its findings has been slow.

Mr Evans said made-in-Wales qualifications and resources are currently not in place.

Dr Matthews pointed to the potential role of the forthcoming Welsh language education bill, which aims to transform provision in schools and give learners more meaningful skills.

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1 month ago

An inadequate target, woefully resourced. If you want Cymry Gymraeg, then build communities that siarad Gymraeg together. Resource the Arts and Media and make Cymraeg a right for all residents in Cymru through education and visibility/audibility in all aspects of life in Cymru.

Last edited 1 month ago by Annibendod
Cymro Penperllenni
Cymro Penperllenni
1 month ago

The only way this target will be achieved is if councils redesignate all schools as Welsh medium. English medium Welsh Language provision is in 99% of schools woefully inadequate and merely pays lip service to the Language.

Richard E
Richard E
1 month ago

The good will towards our language across most of Wales is its greatest strength for the future. Anti Welsh elements remain for sure but very much quieter in this current more pc world. The views of young people vary for certain- but not as much as the older generations. It’s more now “ what use is it to me “ I support it but …. ! Indeed I would like my children to speak it and it should be at school . During my own time on PDAG and Bwrdd iaith the change in views was tangible but while local… Read more »

1 month ago

Mae eisiau ail feddwl arian mentrau iaith. Mewn ardaloedd di- (a gwrth-) gymraeg o leiaf, maen nhw’n ei ddefnyddio i gynnal digwyddiadau pwrpasol yn Gymraeg/dwyieithog i lenwi bwlch am fod eraill – cynghorau cymuned a mudiadau lleol rydym eisioes yn eu hariannu – yn dewis noddi a chynnal digwyddiadau heb ddefnydd na chroeso i’r Gymraeg. Pe bai’r rhain yn parchu’r Gymraeg gellir rhou arian Mentrau at ddefnydd mwy effiethiol – galluogi ac addysgu.

Another Richard
Another Richard
1 month ago

Really what is the point of having a million “speakers” if only a small fraction ever use the language in their daily lives? People will only learn a language proficiently if they are properly motivated and receive high quality tuition. I want the language to flourish but is throwing money at the problem the only way to tackle it? Better considered and better targeted measures are needed: even if more money were available it would be an unimaginative response – but there is no spare money, otherwise the National Museum of Wales wouldn’t be facing closure.

Johnny Gamble
Johnny Gamble
1 month ago

The target of 1 million speakers is just pure fantasy.
Wouldn’t it be better if the Senedd were to do more and try to preserve the Language in the ever dwindling Welsh speaking heartlands of Gwynedd,Ynys Mon,Ceredigion and Rural Carmarthenshire.
Getting a grip of uncontrolled inward migration would be a step in The right direction.

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