Welsh Government is ‘robbing children of the chance to speak Welsh’
More than 140,000 school students are missing out on the chance to speak Welsh fluently because of a failure to make changes to the way it is taught, according to language campaigners.
Cymdeithas yr Iaith says there has been a “decade of feet-dragging” over abolishing the Welsh second language GCSE qualification.
Ten years ago a landmark report was published called One Language for All. It recommended abolishing the Welsh second language qualification and replacing it with one Welsh learning pathway for all pupils.
Cymdeithas yr Iaith has accused the Welsh Government of a lack of action which has resulted in the majority of Welsh pupils still leaving school unable to speak Welsh.
The report was produced by an independent group, chaired by Professor Sioned Davies, which had been commissioned by the Welsh Government to look at Welsh second language provision.
Its recommendations included abolishing the division between Welsh first language and Welsh second language and establishing one single continuum of teaching Welsh for every pupil, and setting targets for providing more Welsh-medium education across the curriculum in English-medium schools.
Despite this, a decade later the qualification is still taught, and thousands of pupils sit Welsh second language exams each year. According to research by Cymdeithas yr Iaith, 142,351 children received a grade in GCSE Welsh Second Language in the period since publishing the report, and as a result have missed out on the opportunity to become fluent Welsh speakers. Only 49,657 received a grade in GCSE Welsh First Language in the same period.
Mabli Siriol, Chair of Cymdeithas yr Iaith’s Education Group, said: “A decade of feet-dragging by the government means that another generation of young people have lost out on the opportunity of learning Welsh.
“Ten years ago, a report commissioned by the Welsh Government itself concluded that “it is the eleventh hour for Welsh second language”, and despite the commitments and rhetoric since then, there has been no real progress to abolish Welsh second language and establish in its place one learning pathway and one qualification for all.
“Despite the efforts to re-brand it, the new curriculum and qualifications maintain the division between Welsh first language and second language, which places an artificial ceiling on the potential of 80% of young people, and goes against the accepted principle of one teaching and assessment continuum, and equal opportunities for all.
“Each one of the 142,351 young people represents an individual that could have developed the ability to communicate confidently in Welsh, and experience all the opportunities that come with it. The Government and education agencies’ have failed these young people through their inaction. We must now use the opportunity of the upcoming Welsh-language Education Bill to ensure that every child grows up being able to speak the language that they have a right to.”
Prof Davies, the author of the original report, has also expressed her frustration with the Government’s lack of action.She said: “If the state of Welsh second language was dire ten years ago, it is desperate by now. The vast majority of our children in English-medium schools still leave statutory education without being able to hold a conversation in Welsh, and the number that go on to study Welsh at A Level or degree level has seen a disastrous decrease.
“If we are serious in our ambition that Welsh belongs to everyone, the Government must take action immediately. This must include a revolution in terms of investment and workforce planning to ensure a sufficient supply of teaching staff to ensure that every child in the future becomes confident Welsh speakers.”
Cymdeithas yr Iaith says it aims to ensure that every young person leaves school speaking Welsh confidently, and is currently campaigning for a Welsh-medium Education for All Act that would ensure, over time, that every child in the country receives Welsh-medium education.
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “The Curriculum for Wales is based on a ‘continuum of learning’, so that learners who start with little or no Welsh language skills develop towards becoming confident speakers.
“This approach reflects the recommendations of the One Language for All review to have one continuum of learning for Welsh with clear expectations for pupils learning Welsh in English-medium, bilingual and Welsh-medium settings.
“Between March and June this year, we consulted on proposals that will form the basis of a Welsh Language Education Bill. The Bill will take steps to enable all pupils in Wales to become confident Welsh speakers through the statutory education system.”
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