Town mayor brands plan for school to switch to Welsh medium a ‘disgrace’
A town mayor has branded a plan for a school to switch to the Welsh medium “an absolute disgrace”.
Cllr Tony Jones made the comments at an extraordinary meeting of Machynlleth Town Council to discuss the proposal for Ysgol Bro Hyddgen, which is currently dual-stream.
A number of town councillors spoke out against the move, despite backing from the public.
In total 440 people completed the consultation response form, and 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.
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.
The meeting of the town council was called after it received a number of letters from “concerned parents”.
According to the Cambrian News, all councillors, except for Cllr James Honeybill, voted to send a letter to Powys County Council, expressing their opposition.
Cllr Honeybill told the meeting, while he understood concerns, the proposal was a “result of a highly critical inspection by Estyn”.
He added that the town council should be at “the forefront” of ensuring no child gets “left behind”.
“I firmly believe bilingualism is the way forward,” he continued.
“Children with knowledge of a language makes them part of a country, of a culture, with an understanding of how it ticks at all levels.”
Cllr Richie Gaskell said: “I just feel we should listen to the local people and the feeling around town is they’re against it.”
Cllr Noella Elliot said that it was “every parent’s fundamental right to chose where their children are educated.
“Somebody pointed out that, in actual fact, in a way, they’re segregating the English from the Welsh. That’s not my view, do not quote me on that.”
On 18 May, Powys County Council Cabinet gave the go-ahead for a statutory notice to be published, which formally proposed the change.
That is due to be published after the summer half term and people will have 28 days to submit objections.
The Local Democracy Service that when that decision was made, 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.