Thursday, 9 July 2009

Questions and answers

Having received a report on the results of its 'informal' consultation on educational reform in Dinefwr and Gwendraeth (this was the 'consultation' launched in a great rush after they found out that Plaid were planning a series of meetings in the affected area), Carmarthenshire County Council were somewhat embarrassed by one of the findings.

After dismissing at the outset any suggestion of providing a Welsh-medium option in the Dinefwr area (Ammanford, Llandeilo, Llandovery) because of 'lack of demand', a rather unfortunate 46% of the responses received from that area chose to disagree with them. What to do next?

Well, they'd already used their majority in the council to reject a Plaid motion to conduct a proper survey of parental demand, and found themselves pretty much hoist by their own petard. Having obtained a formal council resolution declaring that they would not conduct any such survey, they found themselves needing to do something to get a different answer, so that they could continue down the path on which they'd already decided.

So, a paper was presented to the Executive Board member responsible for education, who decided to "conduct further research with primary school parents to assess the demand with regard to the linguistic category of the proposed new learning settings" ('learning setting' is apparently the new officialese for 'school').

How are they doing this? By sending a letter to all primary school parents asking them what sort of school they want for their children. Looks to me suspiciously like the survey which they'd earlier refused to conduct, with the use of a few weasel words to avoid contradicting the formal resolution which they themselves had pushed through full council.

Within days of that decision, the letters were sent out, and before any opposition councillor even knew that the 'further research' was being undertaken, parents had received and were starting to return the letters – giving no person or group any chance to present any alternative view to the one being presented by the council.

Several parents have commented already to us that the wording of the letter fails to make the difference between the options sufficiently clear, and there is every sign that the council has acted as it has in the belief that this approach is most likely to give the answer that it wants. The difference between category 2A and 2B is an extremely important one – yet both are, very misleadingly, described as being 'bilingual' schools. Whilst 80% of all subjects are taught exclusively through the medium of Welsh in a category 2A school, it is possible for only a very low percentage of pupils in a 2B school to receive any Welsh-medium instruction at all.

It's not even a serious attempt to properly determine linguistic preference; it certainly does not represent any sort of attempt to actively promote the Welsh language and Welsh-medium education in one of its heartlands.

The bottom line is that the council, seemingly aided and abetted by the education department in the Assembly Government, has already decided that one secondary school in the Dinefwr area should be closed. Establishing a Welsh-medium secondary school to serve the area would seriously compromise that objective, and must therefore be resisted.

The actions of the county council in relation to secondary reorganisation in the relevant part of Carmarthenshire make a complete mockery of any suggestion that they are in any way committed to Welsh-medium education, or to giving parents any real choice on the matter. And the strategy for the promotion of Welsh-medium education, recently launched with great fanfare by the Assembly Government, says nothing which would discourage the county council from its proposed course of action.

1 comment:

Plaid Gwersyllt said...

The draft Welsh Medium Education Strategy will require the authority to carry out surveys of parental wishes.

Carmarthenshire Council seem to be particularly pedantic.