Thursday 3 December 2009

WAG double-speak

The contribution to debate made by teaching unions today over the future of Welsh-medium education is to be welcomed. This is an issue which we have been battling in Carmarthenshire for many months, and it is clearly now starting to impact on other counties.

Carmarthenshire's proposals involve totally ignoring the demand for Welsh-medium secondary provision in parts of the county, by adopting a 'bilingual' teaching model; it seems that Rhondda Cynon Tâf are now in the firing line for proposing something similar. The common thread, of course, is that both are trying to act on the advice and guidance being given to them by the Welsh Government in Cardiff. And that advice is fundamentally flawed.

Part of the problem is nomenclature. The phrase 'bilingual school' means different things to different people; and it doesn't help that there are three separate categories of bilingual school. The most common category in Carmarthenshire is category 2C, which officially means that at least 50% of all subjects taught are 'offered' through the medium of Welsh. It sounds impressive - until you start asking about what teaching actually happens in Welsh.

Believe it or not, the council doesn't know the answer to that question. They do not actually record what proportion of children take up the 'offer'; let alone how many find that the 'offer' is illusory, and can in practice be withdrawn at any time (whilst still being counted in the 50%, of course!) if the numbers in any particular subject in any particular year are regarded by the school as being 'too low'. The gulf between the theory and the practice is an enormous one.

There appear to be no checks on this, and no records are kept outside the individual schools. My best guess is that in a school nominally offering between 50% and 80% of its subjects through the medium of Welsh, the proportion of pupils actually receiving any part of their education in Welsh is probably well under 30%; and the proportion receiving the majority of their education through the medium of Welsh is almost certainly zero. What is completely undeniable is that they are all receiving their education in a predominantly English-medium institution.

It is against that background of utter failure to protect and promote the Welsh language that we must judge the encouragement being actively given by WAG to development of a 'bilingual' as opposed to Welsh-medium model for education; advice seized upon by cash-strapped education authorities who see this as an opportunity to introduce a 'one-size fits all' policy, and rationalise their school provision.

The statement by a WAG spokesman, “We’ve made it clear in Y Siwrnai, all Transformation plans must take account of bilingual provision, ensuring there are a range of quality opportunities available across the network for learning options through the medium of Welsh.” is just a laughable piece of Orwellian double-speak. They have consistently shown that they simply do not - or will not - understand the difference between Welsh-medium 'provision' and Welsh-medium education. But it is a piece of double-speak which is in danger of concealing one of the most damaging government policies ever to be inflicted on the Welsh language.


Anonymous said...

Plaid are in government. What is being done about this?

Unknown said...

"Bilingual" schools are certainly not the way to go. They do no service to the protection and inculcation of the Welsh language. Welsh medium schools are popular and have a proven track record. In fact they do not have enough places to fulfill demand. This issue should be the subject of a national campaign and brought to the fore by Plaid and other interested parties such as Cymdeithas Gymraeg. The future of Wales is at stake. The sooner Plaid takes charge of education in the Assembly the better!

John Dixon said...


It's a good question. I wish that I could give an equally good answer.