School set to switch to Welsh medium after public backing
Elgan Hearn, local democracy reporter
A school is set to switch to Welsh medium following backing from the public.
It is expected 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 proposals will not affect any pupils currently being taught at the school.
During December 2020 and January 2021, the authority carried out consultation on the proposal, which was brought back to cabinet on Tuesday, May 18 for discussion.
In total 440 people completed the consultation response form.
Of the respondents, just over 61 per-cent are in favour of the proposal, while 37.5 per cent are against and over 1.3 per cent didn’t know.
But despite the result of the consultation Powys County Councillor for Machynlleth, Michael Williams, spoke at the meeting and told the cabinet that the “vast majority” of parents who spoke to him opposed the proposal.
He also believed that the figures showing how many studied in Welsh (332) and English (145) was wrong.
Schools’ transformation manager, Marianne Evans, answered that the figures had been given by the school.
“Whatever the decision today, we get it right, said Cllr Williams.
School Governor and Powys County Councillor for Glantwymyn, Elwyn Vaughan. said: “Whenever any change is proposed, it’s natural for people to be opposed, to fear the unknown, to just say no.
“What is worth noting is that 61 per cent of respondents actually supported the recommendation and even many of those that state they are opposed to the changes are in favour of bilingual education.”
Cllr Vaughan also pointed out that within 45 minutes travel each way from Machynlleth there are 10,000 jobs where Welsh language skills are advantageous.
Portfolio holder for Adult Social Care and Welsh language, Cllr Myfanwy Alexander, said: “We should remember, that Machynlleth is the historic capital of Wales, this is where (Owain) Glyndŵr held his parliament.
“It is an area surrounded by Welsh speaking heartland areas.
“There are a number of urban myths about Welsh medium education, that it makes people parochial and limits their chances and this is absolutely untrue.
“There is no better way than to give young people in Wales roots and wings to let them feel embedded in the past, the culture that has created them, that will allow them to fly into a global society.
“We owe our children more than ever a sense of belonging.”
She added that there was a need to address the concerns that had been raised in the consultation and pointed out the “scientifically proven” fact that bilingual speakers find it easier to pick up a third and fourth language.
Cllr Alexander, said: “We want to make global citizens who know they’re Welsh, and the best way to provide this is with the best education possible for them which is Welsh medium education.”
Finance portfolio holder, Cllr Aled Davies, said that the “community has spoken.”
The decision was approved unanimously by cabinet
The next stage of the process will see legal process for the language change start.
It is expected that a report on official objections to the change will be brought to cabinet in the autumn.