‘We’ve gone backwards’: Plan for increase in children being educated through Welsh in Powys
Elgan Hearn, local democracy reporter
Councillors have looked at a draft plan for increasing the number of children being educated through the medium of Welsh in Powys, amid a warning that the county has historically “stayed still or even gone backwards” on the issue.
At their meeting on Wednesday, the council’s Learning and Skills scrutiny committee went through their Welsh in Education Strategic Plan point by point.
Education consultant, Geraint Rees explained what the council hopes to achieve by 2032 if the plan is adopted.
“This is a long-term plan; we are aiming for a significant increase to go from 22.2 per cent of our youngest children receiving their education through Welsh to the 32 to 36 per cent bracket,” he said.
“Historically while in the rest of Wales have moved forward with their language provision, Powys has stayed still or even gone backwards.
“We have a significant education transformation agenda underway and the Welsh language is a key element of this.”
Geraint Rees pointed out that one of the areas that Powys needs to improve is the transition phase between primary and secondary schools.
“We have 82 per cent of our pupils who were taught in Welsh at primary school, studying in Welsh in Secondary School,” he said.
“That’s low, and it means that nearly 20 per cent of our pupils are leaving the Welsh stream to join the English stream and means their level of bilingual language development is liable to stay still.”
Mr Rees said he wanted to see this figure rise and that the council should be aiming at “more than 100 per cent”.
He explained that to do this “late-comers” to Welsh language education would be crucial to this ambition.
He added that this is when parents who decide to place their children in an English stream at four years old, decide to change and send their child to Welsh language stream later on.
Providing “immersion” or intensive Welsh lessons to children who arrive from outside of Powys to equip them for life in a Welsh-medium school or stream, will also be key.
Mr Rees also said that another challenge would be how to train and entice more teacher with the ability to teach in Welsh to the county.
“This document takes all of this in, this is the background and the challenge of getting more or our youngsters to be completely bilingual,” added Mr Rees.
Following a discussion of nearly two and a half hours committee chairman Cllr Pete Roberts said: “There’s enough to move to consultation but there are a few areas we will highlight.
“We are strongly encouraging the team use the consultation process to gain additional information and that the final document that goes to the Welsh Government is more robust and based on a little bit more data gathering on the ground.”
Next Tuesday, September 21 the cabinet are set to decide whether to allow the plan to go out for an eight-week consultation period.
The seven outcomes are:
- More nursery children/ three-year-olds receive their education through the medium of Welsh
- More reception class children/ five-year-olds receive their education through the medium of Welsh
- More children to continue to improve their Welsh language skills when transferring from one stage of their statutory education to another.
- More pupils to study for assessed qualifications in Welsh (as a subject) and subjects through the medium of Welsh.
- An increase in the provision of Welsh-medium education for pupils with additional learning needs (ALN).
- Increase the number of teaching staff able to teach Welsh (as a subject) and teach through the medium of Welsh.