Students choosing English medium schools because there’s ‘no Welsh language provision’
Saul Cooke-Black, local democracy reporter
Pupils in Monmouthshire are missing out on Welsh medium education due to a “lack of provision”, a meeting has heard.
Councillors have raised concern that students are choosing to attend English medium schools because there are currently no Welsh medium secondary schools in the county.
The issue was raised at a meeting of the county council’s strong communities select committee on Thursday, during a discussion of Monmouthshire council’s new five-year Welsh language strategy.
There are currently two Welsh medium primary schools in Monmouthshire – Ysgol Y Ffin in Caldicot and Ysgol Gymraeg Y Fenni in Abergavenny – with plans for a third primary seedling school in Monmouth.
However secondary education is currently met by Ysgol Gyfun Gwynllyw in Pontypool and Ysgol Gyfun Is-Coed in Newport.
A new three-19 school planned in Abergavenny had intended to allow Monmouthshire pupils to continue their secondary education through the medium of Welsh within the county, but the school will now be English medium only.
But talks are being held between Monmouthshire, Blaenau Gwent and Powys councils about providing a Welsh medium secondary school to meet the needs of the three adjoining counties, the new strategy reveals.
Cllr Maureen Powell said Welsh medium secondary provision was needed in Monmouthshire.
“I think it is important that we can get a secondary school somewhere in Monmouthshire because it is an awful long way and the travelling is difficult,” she said.
“It makes an awful long day for the children and it isn’t always convenient for the parents to organise it.
“It’s sad that that happens, they go to a primary school for Welsh and then possibly have to forget it.”
‘Willing to engage’
The meeting heard that Chepstow Comprehensive School has said it is “willing to engage in any discussions” about providing a Welsh language stream.
The school said several parents are ‘unsure’ about sending children to the nearest Welsh medium secondary school in Newport due to the distance.
Cllr Sheila Woodhouse, chairwoman of the committee, said it was felt Monmouthshire was “losing children” to English medium schools because of the “lack of provision” and travelling distances.
Alan Burkitt, Monmouthshire council’s policy officer for equalities and Welsh language, said many parents have to “go above and beyond” to send their children to a Welsh medium school.
“If you want your child to learn Welsh in Monmouthshire you’ve got to really put yourself out,” he said.
“If they want to learn in English they can go in any one of many schools and the travelling is always somewhere fairly close.”
Mr Burkitt said the council’s Welsh in Education strategic plan – which outlines plans to expand Welsh medium provision – is “a key part” of improving the situation.
The plan includes increasing the capacity of Ysgol Gymraeg Y Fenni by it relocating to a bigger site and opening the new seedling school in Monmouth.
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