New Welsh schools in English speaking areas could boost language targets
Elgin Hearn, local democracy reporter
Powys County Council will try to establish schools in predominantly English-speaking areas in a bid to increase the number of pupils being taught all subjects in Welsh.
At a meeting of the council’s cabinet this week, councillors noted the updated WESP (Welsh in Education Strategic Plan) which has been agreed with the Welsh Government and is set to come into force in September.
The original WESP document had been approved for submission to the Welsh Government by the previous Independent/Conservative administration back in January.
One of the main aims of the WESP is to increase the number of Welsh speakers in Year One from 22.6 per cent in 2020/21 to 36 per cent by 2032.
And to do this, three Welsh media all-age schools could be created in Powys as part of a new Welsh in Education Strategic Plan (WESP).
Director of education, Lynette Lovell told councillors that after feedback on the WESP from the Welsh Government had been taken on-board an updated version was sent back to Cardiff.
But timescales “did not allow” for the WESP to be brought back to cabinet before it had to be re-submitted.
Ms Lovell further updated the cabinet by telling them that the WESP had now received approval from the Welsh Government.
Cabinet member for a Learning Powys, Cllr Pete Roberts said: “The key thing here is that we are looking at new approaches in how we expand Welsh medium education.
“For too long and not just in this county, the focus has been on growing the Welsh language within its heartlands.
“We are going to look beyond that – we have already had discussions around possibilities in the Gwernyfed (High School) catchment.”
He added that the cabinet had already decided to start looking at setting up Welsh medium education “from virtually nothing” in traditionally English-speaking areas.
Cllr Roberts said: “We are going to be brave and try innovative approaches and at the end of the five years if we have not made any further progress, it’s not for the want of trying and trying to do things differently.”
Amongst the changes to bolster the WESP outcomes agreed with the Welsh Government are:
- Extra data provided in respect of transition from Cylchoedd Meithrin (Welsh medium nursery provision) to Welsh-medium primary schools.
- Updated information and future plans about Trochi (immersion in Welsh language) provision to reflect development on the previous version of the WESP was approved, and future plans.
- How the council will improve its monitoring of Welsh-medium provision in the secondary sector, to ensure the provision does not deteriorate in the future.
- Information added about the current Welsh language skills of school
- staff, as provided by the School Workforce Annual Census (SWAC).
- Further information on where the council expects to be at the end of the 10-year period added to each of the seven outcomes.
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The main point is that welsh schools are behind most other countries. They need to focus on improving overall education
Welsh medium schools tend to perform better than English medium schools.
And that focus can be brought to bear in both the Welsh-medium and the English medium sector, equally.
Powys is a big county, a map of the areas concerned would be helpful…