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Welsh-only education plans could ‘disadvantage’ pupils says Conservative Senedd Member

15 Oct 2021 5 minutes Read
Russell George and Ysgol Bro Hyddgen, Machynlleth.

Plans to teach pupils in the Welsh language only in Powys could “disadvantage” them, a Conservative Senedd member has said.

Russell George said that the move from having an English-only stream at a school in the county to Welsh only could “remove choice” from those who want an English-only education and “sadly disadvantage some pupils”.

He was responding to the intention of Machynlleth’s Ysgol Bro Hyddgen to take its first steps down the path of becoming a Welsh medium school.

Councillors had voted unanimously in favour of the proposal, and language campaigners Cymdeithas yr Iaith have welcomed the change.

However, Russel George said that while it “was fantastic” that many wanted a Welsh education, “removing the choice from those who wish to or need to learn through the medium of English will continue to be a huge concern for many”.

“I had urged Powys County Council to reconsider their proposal and to listen to the community and their representatives on this matter,” he said,” he said.

“I had been contacted by many people from Machynlleth who objected to these proposals. People felt very strongly that there should be a choice on offer for children, so all pupils in the Machynlleth area have a reasonable opportunity to learn either through the medium of English or through the medium of Welsh.

“I am very concerned, as are many of my constituents, that this decision will have a huge impact on the local community.

“I think this decision will sadly disadvantage some pupils and will lead to young people having to travel to attend schools miles away from their homes and potentially out of county, which may remove their opportunity to learn in a bilingual environment.”

‘Fear of the unknown’

The proposal is that from September 2022, the reception class at Machynlleth’s Bro Hyddgen will be taught in Welsh, in a move that will eventually see all classes from reception to sixth form taught in the language. The legal period to lodge objections took place from June 17 to July 15.

Cllr Elwyn Vaughan who represents nearby Glantwymyn and is chairman of the school governors said: “Whenever any changes are proposed it is inevitable that some are opposed to such changes, fear of the unknown is understandable.

“Bilingualism is the norm in the world – monolingualism is not – and that is what an English stream is – fluency in one language.

“Bilingualism provides the basis to learn other languages and become truly multilingual – a important asset for the future.”

“Only three pupils have started in the English stream this September – that is totally unsustainable and not fair on them.”

He added that he will “extend” the hand of friendship and would be available to “discuss, advise, encourage and assist wherever possible.”

Over 1219 people had signed a petition against the proposal, just over 278 signed a petition in favour, the council received over 252 other objections with four supporting the proposal. Machynlleth town council had also objected to the language category change.

The original consultation on the proposal took place from December 8, 2020, to January 26.

Of the respondents, just over 61 per-cent were in favour, while 37.5 per cent were against the proposal and 1.5 per cent didn’t know.

Figures from 2020 show that out of a total of 477 pupils at Bro Hyddgen, 332 are educated in Welsh and 145 in English.

Cllr Mike Williams said: “Over 1200 people signed a petition against the proposal, that’s 66 per cent of the adult population of the town.

“I would urge cabinet to take full cognizance of the volume of objectors and those for, as it’s crucial that the views of the Machynlleth townspeople are taken on board.”

“This is a very big issue for the town and the Dyfi Valley.”

‘Very difficult locally’ 

Education portfolio holder, Cllr Phyl Davies told cabinet that he’d been to Machynlleth to receive a petition and understood: “it’s very difficult locally.”

Cllr Davies said: “The issue is that there aren’t the numbers in that (English) stream.”

He added that the cabinet had to be “consistent” in its approach to school reorganisation and that all the objections had been responded to in the officers report.

Finance portfolio holder, Cllr Aled Davies said “It’s a positive move and the more opportunities for our children to be truly bilingual so much the better.

“This will be phased in over a number of years. It will be almost the end of the decade before it impacts the secondary phase.”

Cllr Davies pointed out that feeder primary schools for Bro Hyddgen: Glantwymyn, Carno, Llanbrynmair and also Pennal and Corris in Gwynedd where some pupils come from, are all “Welsh medium schools.”

“I wish I had an education through the medium of Welsh, my skills would be far better if that had happened,” said Cllr Davies.

He added that he was sure the cabinet were on the “right path” by supporting the changes.

Councillors voted unanimously in favour of the proposal.

‘Easier’

Language campaigners Cymdeithas yr Iaith had welcomed the move.

Osian Rhys, from Cymdeithas yr Iaith’s Education Group said: “This is very encouraging news, and gives hope to so many other people and communities. Many thanks to the school governors, campaigners and politicians who have supported this very positive change.

“Welsh-medium schools are the only way of ensuring that children are able to communicate fluently in both Welsh and English. Moving schools along the language continuum is one of the main ways in which we as a society will reach one million Welsh speakers and more.

“This is why we are calling for a Welsh-medium Education for All Act that will encourage and facilitate the conversion of schools across the country into Welsh medium schools, with much easier new processes and statutory targets for all county councils.”

Additional reporting by the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

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GW Atkinson
GW Atkinson
1 month ago

Tories trying to control our culture and replace it with their made up nationalism yet again. As if the party who deliberately starved poor kids in England during a pandemic cares about children, unless they can molest them. Doing everything opposite of what the tories do is a good idea.

William Glyn THOMAS
William Glyn THOMAS
1 month ago

Why live in Wales if English is your priority linguistically ?

j humphrys
j humphrys
1 month ago

Tories on the attack again, a daily troll. All you welsh-doormat tories, book yourself a horseless carriage ride over the dyke, now!

Andrew
Andrew
1 month ago

Not this old chestnut again. The Brit-Nat Tories trying to ramp up the cultural bullying. When will this inland imperialism ever stop? This attitude of Anglo supremacy obviously facilitaed by Bo-Jo’s “muscular unionism” BS. I can only hope that all these attempts to harry and cow the people of Wales for being – god forbid – Welsh only strengthens the resolve for independence. Westminster is now a toxic entity.

Ed Jones
Ed Jones
1 month ago

Many? So not dozens then, or hundreds, just many? I do not believe him. This is Wales, we speak Welsh, however hard the Tories and their masters have tried to ‘encourage’ us otherwise! On a positive note, the ‘Tory Clown of the Week’ contest is hotting up…

Grayham Jones
1 month ago

Welsh must be the first education in wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 And welsh language not English we in wales have got to stop being little Englanders and and be proud to be welsh start fighting for your children and grandchildren future in wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 it’s time for a new wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿

Gareth
Gareth
1 month ago

Ah, now I know why the Roman empire failed. They spoke Latin, and not English, which put them at a disadvantage. One only has to look at the decrepit state of countries where English is not the first language, to see how backward and deprived they are.

Hogyn y Gogledd
Hogyn y Gogledd
1 month ago

Bilingual young people are so obviously better-placed in the modern word than monoglots.

The tories are just proving themselves to be terminally (I hope) stupid.

Hogyn y Gogledd
Hogyn y Gogledd
1 month ago

“world” of course.

Cai Wogan Jones
Cai Wogan Jones
1 month ago

Shame on this platform for using the grossly misleading term “Welsh only”. All pupils receive equivalent literacy skills in English.

Mick Tems
Mick Tems
1 month ago

Typical bloody Tory!

Gareth
Gareth
1 month ago

I still fail to make the figures add up. The majority of the children attend the welsh stream, 332 to 145 in the English stream, more than double. The council consultation said 61% for 37.5 % against the change. Then Cllr Williams claims over 1200 sign a petition 66% of the town adult population, against the change. It cant be the parents, because they are sending the children to the Welsh stream. Why did the petition signatories not out number the pro change vote on the council consultation. Jiggery pokery going on here I feel.

Rwth
1 month ago
Reply to  Gareth

The petition was organised on the English language Facebook group “What’s happening in Machynlleth”. There is no requirement for members of the group to live in Machynlleth or the catchment area of Ysgol Bro Hyddgen. Many are second home owners and visitors. That is why there were so many signatures, No one arranged a petition in favour of Welsh medium education which would have shown how locals feel

Andrew
Andrew
1 month ago

Let’s bring back ‘ The Treachery of the Blue Books’, style witch hunt and champion us as being ‘ other and lesser breeds’ shall we. Our mam’s can then be described in animalistic terms and their chastity questioned . Our laziness , morality, and intelligence can then be questioned because we want to speak an ancient indigenous native tongue. Then fail to mention ( at the time the books were published), that the Cymru were the most literate population in Britain and probably Europe at the time.

Tim
Tim
1 month ago

Russell George does not make sense – how can getting rid of the Welsh language option “remove choice”? Surely it increases the choices to offer the Welsh language to pupils?

Erisian
Erisian
1 month ago

The opinion of a monoglot should not carry much weight.

Kerry Davies
Kerry Davies
1 month ago

Russell George was on the Powys education committee so knows full well that Welsh streams have been closed for “lack of demand” when a lot more than 3 pupils were involved. He is being dishonest. This is just normal resource management.

Vaughan
Vaughan
1 month ago

A lot of polemics in these comments but little about the educational arguments concerning whether or not early years educaction should be conducted in a child’s first language.

Wrexhamian
Wrexhamian
1 month ago
Reply to  Vaughan

By “first language”, you presumably mean English. You do know this is Machynlleth, right? This George chap is simply trying to weaponise the English language as part of the Tory strategy of assimilation. Surely he knows that children educated in Welsh-medium schools emerge bilingual?

Last edited 1 month ago by Wrexhamian
Vaughan
Vaughan
1 month ago
Reply to  Wrexhamian

Yes I do know that this is Machynlleth
62% of the pupils come from English-speaking homes.
Read the Estyn inspection report (2017)

Wrexhamian
Wrexhamian
1 month ago
Reply to  Vaughan

Everyone in Machynlleth speaks English as a first or second language. Only 33% are complete monoglots with no Welsh ability whatsoever. Even if nobody in Mach spoke Welsh, no local child is disadvantaged by becoming bilingual, and Russell George is just plain wrong, either deliberately or through ignorance

Last edited 1 month ago by Wrexhamian
Rwth
1 month ago
Reply to  Vaughan

Homes with only one Welsh speaking parent are counted as English speaking homes. Children who have one Welsh speaking parent need to be educated in that parents language. They will grow up speaking English anyway

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
1 month ago

Same old same bigoted bilge from our Wales & Welsh language hating Tories. It’s strange how it’s only a disadvantage educationally if our children are taught in the medium of Welsh not in other language? Why is it that in most non-English speaking countries they educate their children first in their native tongue but are quite adapt at learning English unlike monoglot England. Take the Nordic country of Sweden for example.. Swedish children are educated first in the medium of Swedish but have the uncanny ability to speak better English than most monoglot English speakers in Britain. Funny how they… Read more »

Robert G
Robert G
1 month ago

Claptrap from Russell George. We “force” children to be educated. Why not make school attendance optional? Or is choice just opting out of Welsh?

Welsh med ed is about giving your child MORE choice, not taking it away. It’s a nonsensical argument, the same divisive ignorant scaremongering we heard about Llangennech. And guess what? Children are doing just fine.

Owain Morgan
Owain Morgan
1 month ago

First and foremost Russel George’s argument is not factually accurate, research proves that learning a second language at an early age improves your ability to learn languages and helps in other areas. Second, 3 English medium pupils in one year isn’t sustainable and if this was the other way around then the Tories would say was a waste of money and should stop. Also, this is, as it states, entirely consistent with Powys County Council’s policy. So, are the Tories now objecting the Council’s policy or just promoting their Anti-Celtic culture agenda or a bit of both. Whatever the case… Read more »

Rhosddu
Rhosddu
1 month ago

This MP seems to be labouring under the illusion that children lucky enough to receive a Welsh-medium education will leave school unable to communicate properly in English. This shows a profound level of either ignorance or bigotry, which, incredibly, seems to be shared by a small minority of local residents if those suspect percentages are anything to go by. I call it “Llangennech Syndrome”.

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