Reinventing the Welsh language movement

Cynog Dafis says the next stage is to persuade Welsh speakers to speak Welsh rather than English

It seems that Mudiad yr Iaith (the Welsh-language campaigning movement) is at last in the process of reinventing itself. There is every reason for it to do so. The policy landscape today is fundamentally different from that which led to the formation of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg following Saunders Lewis’s celebrated radio lecture Tynged yr Iaith (Fate of the Language) in 1962. That was a clarion call for a civil disobediance campaign to win official recognition for the Welsh language.

In the 1950s Trefor and Eileen Beasley (pictured) had to suffer 16 court appearances and numerous visits by the bailiffs to remove their furniture before Llanelli Rural District Council finally agreed to produce bilingual rate-demand forms. Last week I attended a memorable funeral service at Henllan Amgoed for Eileen, who typically had bequeathed her body for medical research.

In the 1960s, the Post Office adamantly refused to place Swyddfa’r Post on the facade of their buildings, much less provide any kind of Welsh-language service within them. The request for vehicle-duty forms and certificates to be produced bilingually produced the same kind of response from the Ministry of Transport. Parents who refused to register the births of children other than in Welsh were hauled before the courts and in one case imprisoned. One clerk-to-the-court firmly declared that, “The language of the Queen’s courts is English”.

Faced with such a systematic and comprehensive denial of fundamental rights there was every justification for adopting the revolutionary approach that Saunders Lewis advocated. The fruits of the decades-long campaign which ensued, and which cost many people dearly, are to be seen all around us.

Today the situation is fundamentally different. During its first four years the National Assembly and the Welsh Government accepted the need for proactive policies to strengthen the position of the language. The 2011 Welsh Language Measure further strengthens both the official status of the language and the means by which that status is to find practical expression.

The Welsh Government’s strategy for the Welsh Language 2012-17, A Living Language, a Language for Living declares that it will implement its vision of seeing the language prosper, and will make use of ‘language planning’ to that end. Among other things, the intention over the next five years is to

  • Increase the number of people who know and use Welsh.
  • Ensure more scope for people to make use of the language.
  • Increase in Welsh-speakers’ confidence and fluency.
  • Promote greater awareness among the public of the value of the language.

The Welsh-medium Education Strategy (April 2010) talks about “our vision of continuous growth in Welsh-medium education and training in all sectors and at all ages”. It states that “Welsh-medium education from the early years, with strong linguistic continuity through each educational stage, offers the best conditions for nurturing the bilingual citizens of the future”. It further commits that at least 70 per cent of curriculum time should be in Welsh in order that learners properly master the language. It says the Welsh Government “accepts this central principle”. Further, it says that it is desirable “to ensure that learners are able to attend a school or college where Welsh is used for all activities” – an endorsement of the designated Welsh-medium schools sector.

Among the standards in the Language Commissioner’s consultation document are Promotional Standards which require that “positive steps be taken to promote the wider use of the language”. Bodies coming under the scope of the new Welsh Language Act must therefore not just provide Welsh-language services, they must also promote their use.

What all of this amounts to is that the discourse familiar to members of the Welsh-language movement during the decades following Saunders Lewis’s lecture has now penetrated to very the heart of government in Wales. This is no less than remarkable and is one of the undoubted achievements of democratic self-government, usually called ‘devolution’, though the process of change was well under way before 1999.

The successful launch of Dyfodol i’r Iaith (A Future for the Langauge) at the National Eisteddfod is a response to this transformed situation. Dyfodol will operate strictly within the law but will be independent and adopt a radical policy programme for the development of the language. With professional staff, an active membership and a broad base of popular support, it aims to ensure, though effective lobbying and constructive policy proposals, that Welsh will always be at the heart of government policy and integral to what one might call the ‘national enterprise’. The success of the environmental NGOs is cited as an example to emulate.

The intention is that Dyfodol will become the primary channel through which the wider language movement, loosely grouped in Mudiadau Dathlu’r Gymraeg (Movements that Celebrate the Language), will advance its constructive agenda.

A further initiative launched at the Eisteddfod Arddel (to own/espouse) concerns what one might call the demand side of language-promotion policy. A number of factors lay behind my proposing this initiative:

  • The fact that Welsh-speakers these days commonly find themselves in mixed language communities and situations.
  • The depressing personal experience of observing fluent, and sometimes prominent, Welsh-speakers opt in such cirumstances to use English even when there is every provision to enable them to use Welsh.
  • The need to respond to the provision of Welsh-language services with far greater take-up.
  • The need to snap out of the rhetoric of protest and the defensive crisis-laden mindset which still typifes much of the debate, in circumstances where they are no longer appropriate.

As the demographic ground shakes beneath our feet and the communications revolution redefines interpersonal and community relationships, the big question is how a benign spiral can be set up in which the Welsh language is increasingly used, leading to ever-increasing competence and assertiveness, normalisation and further growth.

A good place to start might be with ourselves. Arddel (meaning ‘to own’ as in opposite of ‘disown’) invites individuals to sign up to an intention to use Welsh in all circumstances where that is reasonable and possible. In this way use of the language would be normalised in the experience of both language-communities. It sounds elementary, self-evident, even tame, you might say. But if taken seriously by sufficient numbers of people, it could create a powerful momentum behind the Welsh language whose effects could be far-reaching.

This needs organising as well as the creation of solidarity, esprit de corps, among the participants, who would themselves be members of the wider language community, partly territorial, partly institutional, increasingly networked and dispersed, for whose creation Ned Thomas called in his masterly introduction to the new edition of Tynged yr Iaith: the community of Welsh-speakers within the wider national community of a multi-cultural Wales.

Arddel has been launched by Iaith Cyf (Language Ltd), the Newcastle Emlyn- based language planning centre. The website is up and running and further developments will follow.

What then is the future of Cymdeithas, celebrating its fiftieth anniversary this year? Its leaders are adamant that it will remain faithful to its ‘revolutionary’ origins, by which they mean retaining illegal methods as a core principle, while campaigning also on many issues such as the closure of small rural schools, and Welsh-medium radio and television.

Nigel Stapely’s persuasive Click on Wales article last Friday about Jamie Bevan’s unsuccessful efforts to get a Welsh-language summons and court-proceedings, articulates the case in favour of Cymdeithas’s stance. My view is that such unfinished business, as well as a more dynamic approach to the promotion of the language, are now better pursued through Dyfodol and the Arddel initiative.

I conclude with an instructive anecdote. During the Eisteddfod I had a conversation with a charming teenager outside the Dyfodol stand. When I explained that the new movement would operate strictly within the law, her response was, “Oh, but there’s no fun in that!” Which is really worth thinking about, but not perhaps a valid argument for a continuing revolution.

Cynog Dafis is a former MP and AM for Ceredigion.

23 thoughts on “Reinventing the Welsh language movement

  1. There are two things that I would like to say about Cynog Dafis’s piece… one is that it should be publicised more widely just how little Welsh Language services are used rather than the present hiding of these statistics. And secondly it should be publicised that Welsh Medium Education is failing to actually educate pupils to speak Welsh fluently and well.

    Last week’s GCE A Level results show that only 303 pupils entered Welsh first langauge; a drop from 360 last year. Any analysis of Key stage assessments of Welsh first langauge ability shows that Welsh is poorly taught (when the socio-economic background of the cohort is taken into account.)

    After a brief skirmish with the BBC and the Information Commissioner, the BBC last week released to me the relative “Unique daily user” numbers for their digital Welsh News and the comparable figure for the Welsh Language “Newyddion”. Just 4% of users selected the Welsh version. No one can claim that they don’t know that Newyddion exists, no one is forcing Welsh speakers to ignore it. Freedom of choice invariably shows that only 4% of the population habitually use Welsh Language services.

    It is time that we started seeing Welsh Language pressure groups for what they are… trade associations for people working in the Welsh Language industry.

  2. Very informative article from Cynog Dafis. I’m aware of Jon Jones’ consistent line of argument but I think what he doesn’t address, and indeed never addresses through his comments, is the level of support for Welsh-medium education firstly amongst parents (as evidenced by continuing strong demand), and secondly amongst the Labour party as the main party of government in Wales. Labour’s new strategies completely recognise the value of Welsh-medium education. Is the “Welsh language industry” that Jon Jones bemoans really exerting such a massive influence on the Welsh Government? Or is it in fact a matter of political and cultural sense that Welsh-medium education remains at the heart of Government policy in Wales? Freedom of choice may well demonstrate a low level of take-up of Welsh language services, but if that is true, that same freedom of choice is demonstrating a growing take-up of Welsh language education including in what would previously be considered unusual parts of Wales. I think Cynog Dafis recognises the low take-up of services in his article and identifies this as a challenge to be addressed. My suspicion is that Jon Jones doesn’t want the challenge addressed but wants the services to be ignored or indeed stopped.

  3. Speaking Welsh is one thing, but writing it is another. Alas far more people claim to be able to speak Welsh fluently than can write it and, unfortunately, the standard of much spoken Welsh is not that good. Until this divide is bridged – it could be described as a gap between formal and informal usage – then the low takeup and use of all sorts of documents, including web sites, is going to remain very low. I monitor a web site which has to have a Welsh side. In the past month the number of clicks on the Hafan page was 25 and nothing registered within it. But the translation cost to the owner remains in money AND time, both of which could be used to translate into a more international language like Spanish.

    I was at a party the other night and the Welsh speakers there were lamenting the standard of Welsh forms. There is a suspicion that the attitude of the translators is that since nobody reads them they don’t have to bother too much as to what is written. Reminds me of the attitude I encountered a few years ago at an event attended by S4C. My wife and I were approached to appear and answer some questions regarding food. We demurred saying our Welsh wasn’t good enough, to which the young man replied, ‘Oh don’t worry, nobody watches the programme’.

  4. Martin, I would never shy away from any discussion of Education in Wales. Your first point is that there is widespread support for Welsh Medium education as evidenced by the increasing demand for Welsh Medium schooling from parents. (Have I put that fairly?)

    Firstly I will state the obvious; the demand is increasing outside the Welsh speaking areas to the greatest extent. This is because large areas of the Fro Cymraeg don’t provide English Medium Schools for parents to choose and where there are still dual medium schools the English streams are being removed. Whereas the law states that all counties with less than 25% of the population speaking Welsh must survey parental preference for Welsh Medium Education, in the Fro Cymraeg LEAs are free to ignore the need to survey parents for English Medium Education. It is evident then that in those counties where some parents would like English medium provision that desire will never be recognised by providing EM schools.

    The next problem is the motivation of parents in sending pupils to WM schools. If it is an overwhelming desire to see their child speak Welsh then that is a fair and proper basis for choosing WM schooling. If it is because the parents have been misled about the benefits of WM schooling on the other hand, or have some other motivation for sending their child to WM schools then the growth in popularity of those schools is based on a misconception.

    Take Powys for example. In 2011 they contracted with ORS to carry out their mandatory Parental Preference survey in order to establish future demand for WM schools. Along with the questionnaire they sent this document:- http://www.straightstatistics.org/sites/default/files/attachments/welsh_language_en.pdf

    Now as you see this “Survey” becomes less of a fact finding mission and more of a propaganda exercise. Lists of Welsh speaking Welsh public figures and sportsmen? What has that to do with an unbiased survey? What about the claim that pupils in WM schools do better in exams? It’s not true of course when you take into account the socio-economic background of respective EM and WM cohorts but why spoil a good story with the truth? Pupils in WM schools do as well in English as pupils in EM schools…? Once again, completely untrue when like with like is compared.

    So you see the problem as far as I am concerned; if parents are told that WM schools are an un-alloyed benefit to their children then parents will choose those schools. As more discerning parents are misled then more parents will follow suit. Already every middle class household in Cardiff knows that WM schools are “Nice” schools with less of those poor kids in them and certainly a lot fewer ethnic minority children.

    It is truly remarkable that there is not one single Welsh Medium Secondary school in Wales that has more than the average (17.4%) of pupils eligible for free school meals. This is an amazing situation. Wales, with a quasi-socialist government, creating the most divisive education system in the UK.

    How much influence does the Welsh Language industry have? Well Wales just keeps on giving that industry more and more influence; backed up by the law of course in the shape of a Welsh Language Commissioner. How, I wonder, did the Welsh Assembly contrive to give Welsh speakers redress for any perceived “inequality” but failed to recognise the injustices of a system which routinely penalises non Welsh speakers?

  5. Ok Jon, yes you correctly understood my point. Your argument then is that the growing demand for Welsh-medium education is because parents are being “misled” by a “propaganda exercise”. I’m just sorry they haven’t seen the light like you have. It is a national policy goal across all political parties to increase Welsh-medium education. Your side has failed to make its case coherently and lost the argument.

  6. The demise of the Welsh language can be likened to leaves withering on a tree – there is no purpose in expending precious energy on restoring the leaves if the tree is being poisoned through its roots – in the end, it will ALL die, and the leaves will disappear anyway.

    Since Saunders Lewis’ “Tynged ir iaith Gymraeg” was broadcast in the sixties we have had successive generations of our people persuing the cosmetic exercise of restoring the language to it’s righful place, by token protest and gestures. An admirable effort, but one that can be likened to putting sticky plasters on a ruptured artery. It is utterly futile in the long term.

    What Saunders Lewis (a deeper thinker than most of those who have, since his lecture, persued a more superficial exercise in ‘saving’ the language) had in mind was a root and branch effort – not just a tokenistic exercise in addressing the symptoms, rather he wanted to put right the cause of the problem.

    For a clearer understanding of what I am trying to convey here, please click on the link below to view an essay I wrote on the subject back in 2002.

    http://sccambria.com/essays/erth-add_saesneg.htm

  7. “The fact that Welsh-speakers these days commonly find themselves in mixed language communities and situations.”

    I would be really interested to know how you propose to solve this little ‘problem’?

  8. Gwilym ab Ioan:

    An excellent essay! I agree with much of what you say. We have been and are being ‘educated’ out of being Welsh.

    I too am cynical about the approaches Cynog Dafis favours.

  9. Martin,

    You seem unconcerned that in Wales every political party is signed up to a course of action that is divisive, harmful to education standards and dishonest. That is what I would expect. I do want to make it clear though that I believe that every parent in Wales should have the option of Welsh Medium schooling for their child. Similarly I would like every parent to have the option of sending their child to an English medium school on exactly the same basis as parents wishing for a WM education. What could be fairer or simpler?

    The next strand of the argument would be….why should Welsh speaking ability be seen as a necessary or preferable job qualification when, as both Cynog Dafis and I point out, so few people want services in Welsh?

  10. I enjoyed your essay Gwilym; very well written and coherent. I was familiar with the quote about the “Welsh Stick”…it always seemed to me that the author was incredulous of the conditions that he found in Welsh schools at the time and that appears in the quote. It also shows that the Welsh Stick was a Welsh invention by teachers who were often given the job of teaching because they had lost a limb and had become unable to follow any other profession or were otherwise unfit for any other work. The impossibility of actually educating children when the teacher himself is unable to translate or provide appropriate texts is similarly touched on:-

    “Every book in the school is written in English; every subject of instruction must be studied in English, and every addition to his stock of knowledge in grammar, geography, history or arithmatic must be communicated in English words; yet he is furnished with no single help for acquiring a knowledge of English.”

    I always thought that the school inspectors were actually thorough and sympathetic to the plight of the children in Wales and that they portrayed graphically and appropriately the problems of education in Wales at the time.

    “Any person who is supposed to understand the English language better than his neighbours is encouraged to undertake the office of schoolmaster.”

    Sadly the wheel has come full circle. Your wish is granted and the children in Welsh medium schools are taught about the “Welsh Not”, not once, not twice but in every single year group through primary school.

    To my dismay my young daughter explained this to me as “English people came to Wales and stopped all the children from speaking Welsh. If they said anything in Welsh then they had a piece of wood put round their necks so that they could be beaten by the English at the end of the day.”

    Something lost in translation perhaps? Nevertheless my daughter’s understanding of an ignorant invention by ignorant “teachers” is pretty close to the version held so dear by Welsh Language activists today.

  11. The only way to ensure the future of Welsh is to ensure the future of Wales. Either Plaid start pushing for full independence now or Wales will be gone within a couple of generations.

  12. Welsh not British: “Either Plaid start pushing for full independence now or Wales will be gone within a couple of generations”. You have hit the nail on the head. Sadly, many people in our country, and some who post on this site, would be delighted to see the back of Wales, so that their “EnglandWest” dream can become a reality.

  13. “Plaid start pushing for full independence”. They can push all they like. Since their share of the vote is 15 per cent and falling what good do you think that would do? Plaid need a programme that will appeal to the majority of voters under the current dispensation. Then they can explain what they would do with independence if they had it. At the moment they don’t have the programme and can’t say what they would do with independence anyway.

    Jon Jones is right about Cardiff and wrong about Gwynedd. In Cardiff parents opt for Welsh often because Welsh language schools are middle class and not ethnically mixed. This does create a divisive system. In one area of Cardiff you get English schools where 60 per cent of the pupils are ethnic minority and Welsh schools where 1 per cent are ethnic minority. That can’t be right. How then to promote Welsh education when Welsh language tuition in English-medium schools is so dire? I don’t know but we need to integrate the two systems somehow. The present system is no good.

    Gwynedd, however, is the only place on earth where the majority community language is Welsh. It’s no good saying you favour preserving the language and then opposing the means necessary. If you live in Gwynedd you get educated in the majority language – just as you do in France or anywhere else. Everyone is the same, there is no divisiveness and no middle-class ghetto-isation. If you don’t like it, don’t live in Gwynedd.

  14. Thank you for your kind words everyone.

    The main point of the essay is:
    It is not the SPEAKING of Welsh or the ability to understand it as a language through Welsh medium education that is necessary. It is the use of the English curriculum taught through the medium of Welsh in these Welsh medium schools that is a waste of time. Teaching our children about Alfred the Great and his cakes or the second world war holocaust is a British (English) slant on the world. Ask any child in Wales who Alfred the Great, Edward the first or Adolf Hitler was and they can probably answer you. Ask them who Gerallt Gymro, Hywel Dda, Owain Glyndwr or even our patron saint Dewi Sant was and you get a vacant look.
    Our culture, history and heritage is what needs to be taught through a purely WELSH curriculum. I am convinced that once children understand these things a desire to learn the language is an automatic thing that they will naturally desire – like icing on the cake.
    Never mind another tokenistic waste of effort to revive the language, what the Cynog Dafis’ of this world need to do is focus their efforts on a Welsh curriculum for our children.

  15. If only the situation in Gwynedd was that straight forward R. Tredwyn! Gwynedd is relatively successful in delivering good educational standards. Right next door is Ynys Mon where Welsh Medium schooling delivers quite appalling results. Can the Menai Straits make such a great difference? All the primary schools in Gwynedd are Welsh Medium (except a small Catholic primary in Bangor which is English with significant Welsh). All the primary schools in Ynys Mon are Welsh Medium (except for one small Catholic school in Caergybi… one school is dual stream.)

    So how do they deliver at Key stage 2, year six, the end of primary education? In 2012 these are the percentages of pupils who are taught Welsh as a first language who attain level 4+ (the age appropriate level):-
    Gwynedd – 84.1%
    Ynys Mon – 74.2%.

    The all Wales average is 84% and Ynys Mon has the highest failure rate of any county in Wales. The best results are in Swansea with 90.6% attaining level 4+ and Denbighshire with 90.0%. Cardiff is 85.7%.

    Gwynedd is the most successful county in Wales in teaching Welsh on these figures because, of course, nearly 100% of pupils are in Welsh medium primary schools. For Swansea and Denbighshire the percentages in WM schools are much smaller and any child failing in those schools can drop out. This is true in most counties in Wales and the result is that the profficient move on to Key stage 3 Welsh L1 whilst the ones who fail move to English medium streams.

    The question is why do pupils succeed in Gwynedd and fail in an identical regime in Ynys Mon? The answer is that the majority of pupils in Gwynedd are learning through their FIRST language, 58% have Welsh as the language of the home and of course a greater percentage will have one parent who not only speaks Welsh but who is a fluent Welsh first language speaker. For the great majority of pupils entering primary school in Gwynedd the language of school is the language of home; there is no “immersion” element to Key Stage 1 and English is learned gradually throughout KS2 and improved in KS3. Nevertheless there is a failure rate of 15.9% for Welsh against 13.4% for English. All good figures.

    In Ynys Mon 40% of pupils come from homes where Welsh is the first language but because of inmigration since the 1960s far fewer of the children in the remaining 60% of homes have a parent who is fluent in Welsh. The profile of Welsh fluency in the two counties’ Primary schools is this:- Gwynedd 64.46% fluent in Welsh. Ynys Mon 45.66%. In which county do you think learning through the medium of Welsh is most successful?

    In Ynys Mon the difficulty encountered by teachers teaching KS1 is far greater because there is a variable mix of Welsh L1 and English L1 pupils. My feeling is that many schools are overwhelmed with the task of teaching “Immersion” and “L1 Maintenance” side by side. Literacy in both Welsh and English suffers. It is under these circumstances that it is important that the OPTION of moving children to an English medium school is vital.

    I would also point out that “Gwynedd” is not homogenous as far as home language is concerned; Arfon, particularly the Bangor area, has deprived communities that are English home language. Tywyn, too, would benefit from English medium primary provision.

    I would emphasise that bringing choice of English Medium primary schools to the Fro Cymraeg is a win-win situation. Spoken Welsh is often too simplistic in schools where there is a high percentage of English L1 pupils. The necessary sophistication in vocabulary is missing from the tuition of Welsh L1 pupils. For English L1 pupils, particularly those who enter school with poor English oral skills, intensive English tuition at KS1 is vital rather than a sudden switch to a new language.

  16. Mr Dafis,

    Firstly, thank you for labelling my previous piece ‘persuasive’; it’s a long time since anyone said that about me.

    What so much of your essay looks like to me however, especially in its use of an awful lot of what I term “MBA-speak”, is the assimilation of pressure for full rights for the language and its speakers into the – for want of a better word – bureaucracy. Think tanks and groups ‘working within the system’ certainly have their value, and I would not seek to claim otherwise. But the overall impression I get is of the subsuming of activism into an ever-widening network of what your colleague Mr Iwan famously referred to as “pwyllgorau saff, di-ri'”.

    As we have seen only too well recently, there are not so much lacunae in rights and provision vis-à-vis the language, but gaping holes; some as a result of deliberate omission, others (perhaps the majority) as a consequence of insufficient thought in creating or amending statutory and other measures – a lack of foresight, if you will.

    Whilst I agree that the types of groups you advocate here are best placed to provide remedies for those – either by forewarning or by suggested changes ex post facto – it is clear at least to me that there is still a vital need for organisations such as Cymdeithas Yr Iaith to be what used to be called a ‘ginger group’ (a term probably now outlawed as a slur on redheads, although people still seem free to use the verb “to Welsh”). In the array of weapons we can use to bring about the situation we would wish to see, such an element is essential in drawing the public’s (and the media’s) attention to the problem in the first place. There is a danger in your view that non-violent direct action campaigning (which, let it be remembered, has only ever been one fairly small part of what Cymdeithas has done in fifty years) may be dismissed and marginalised. I don’t think we can afford to do that.

    (Disclaimer: I have never actually been a member of Cymdeithas, not even in my student days, as I couldn’t be sure that I could successfully refrain from “violence of the fist, the tongue or the heart”. It was better I stayed out for their sake).

  17. Good of Nigel Stapeley to show concern for our Ginger folk but fear not; The “Ginger” in “Ginger group” refers to the root which unscrupulous horse dealers used to insert into the rear end of knackered horses to make them look more lively at horse sales. The irritaion caused made the horse look more lively and caused it to “Buck up” .

  18. I recognise the force of Jon Jones’ arguments about bilingual education in the Bro Cymraeg but there is a weakness in them too. His policy means that any Welsh speaking area can be diluted to extinction by immigration without any pressure on the immigrants to accommodate themselves to the native linguistic culture. Given the relative population sizes and house prices, that is a recipe for fatalistically accepting the gradual extinction of Welsh as a community language. The present system certainly has its rough edges but means anyone going to live in the areas concerned has to accept their children will be educated in Welsh. That should have some effect in biasing immigration towards those people ready to accept if not participate in the continuation of the language. When the proportion of Welsh speakers falls too low, it obviously ceases to be justifiable to have only Welsh medium education. But it is hard to define ‘too low’ and you can’t announce it in advance without undermining the status quo.

  19. I think that you can define “Too low” by how successful Welsh medium education is in an area where there is no alternative. If all children learn Welsh but also perform in assessments and examinations up to the standard that a similar group of pupils would if they had been educated through their first language then clearly there is no reason to provide English Medium education.

    When the performance of English L1 pupils falls below what could be expected if they were in English Medium schools then I don’t believe that we should continue without bringing in an English medium option. It’s an OPTION, R. Tredwyn. I am being told constantly that there is no demand in the Fro Cymraeg for EM education. If so, so be it! But the councils must be made to survey parents in the same way that Powys or Vale of Glamorgan have to do. If one of those Councils finds that 10% of parents want a WM school; a WM school is provided.

    I have to say that I find the idea that the absence of EM schools is being used to block the inmigration of young English families a bit distasteful. Also counterproductive. You may not have noticed but the number of WM schools is falling. New young families coming in help to keep facilities open…or is it a case of a Welsh school or no school at all? Because one thing is certain, if young Welsh speaking people want to move out of the Fro Cymraeg then nothing is going to stop them.

    Ynys Mon was made all Welsh Medium when it was part of Gwynedd. I think it was about 1974. But at that time schools were less than rigorous about the language of the classroom. That is not the case now; in recent years efforts have been made to reduce English medium provision in secondary schools and primaries have become more dogmatic about using the Welsh language at all times. Education standards have suffered but, of course, it is difficult to establish whether it is language politics or just the couldn’t care less attitude of the Education Authority and Council in Ynys Mon that is most responsible.

  20. Jon Jones, I think your definition of ‘too low’ is a good one if the assessment is a consistent one over a few years. Time has to be allowed for a ‘couldn’t care less attitude’ to be identified and addressed first. But thereafter I would accept your criterion. Ynys Mon may be too far gone to maintain the current system; you know the area, I don’t and have no view.

    The idea is not to ‘block young English families’ it is to preserve a community language. There is free movement of people but incomers should accept the nature of the language community they are entering. I took a young family to live abroad. We all had to learn to cope in another language and we are none the worse for it. I fear you underestimate what is required to keep a minority language and culture alive in an era of mass movement and mass communication. Studies have asked the question: if you have two groups of schoolchildren all able to speak one language, a majority of whom speak another language, how big does the majority have to be for the minority to learn that majority language and use it in the playground? The answer, typically, is something just over 70 per cent. If 70 per cent or fewer speak the majority language, the minority language will “win” because everyone already speaks it. The first wave of immigrants into the South Wales coalfield in the 19th century learned Welsh because it was the local majority language but with the second and successive waves the community language changed. One hundred years on Welsh was spoken by fewer than 10 per cent of the inhabitants of the eastern coalfield. All we have to do to ensure the elimination of Welsh is nothing.

  21. Of course, R. Tredwyn, we are talking at cross purposes to a certain extent. You, as I understand, are looking at Welsh Medium education as the best way to attain what, to you, is all important; survival of Welsh as a community language. I was rather looking at Education in Welsh Medium schools, in the Fro Cymraeg in particular, and commenting on the standard of EDUCATION that they are attaining. There is some overlap in our arguments in that I see the level of Welsh being attained as being very poor in WM schools. But when the medium of instruction is poorly taught the situation is serious because it has an impact on all subjects.
    For instance, I was just looking at the Key stage 3 attainment figures for 2011. As everyone is probably aware there are no Welsh medium secondary schools with above the average percentage of pupils on Free School Meals, and pupil deprivation levels are all important when comparing the success rate of schools since pupils on FSMs perform so poorly. There are 87 EM schools with above average FSM percentages.
    Comparing like with like (Schools with up to 18% on FSMs):-

    At Key Stage 3 in 2011 Welsh medium schools underperformed English medium schools in English, Maths and Science by 2% in each case. Welsh first language was the poorest score (joint with English) in Welsh medium schools. But there is another clear indicator that general literacy in WM schools is poor; where extensive written answers are needed in assessments (geography and history) WM schools show a marked weakness.

    But there is more worrying news; the general measure of success for schools is the percentage of pupils that attain the age appropriate level at each Key stage. The age appropriate level at KS 3 is level 5 or higher. It may seem to some that an underperformance of 2% in core subjects in WM schools is a price worth paying for “Saving the Language” but when we look at the percenatges of pupils attaining higher than level 5; level 6 or better (those that will go on to do well at GCSE and A level) what do we find?

    In WM schools there is less strength in depth, a smaller percentage excelling in core subjects.

    Level 6+ 2011
    ………….WM…………….EM
    English……39…………….44
    Maths……..51…………….56
    Science……43…………….49
    Welsh L1…..38
    Geog………43…………….49
    History……44…………….49

    Now we are looking at a 5% point underperformance in core subjects and subjects requiring extended written answers. Remember that it is from this pool of pupils in 2011 that Wales will draw its newly qualified Welsh Medium teachers in 5 years time.

    The decline in standards in WM schools has been slow but you can easily see how it has come about. Above all no research or analysis, let alone criticism, of WM education is allowed in Wales. How stupid must a country be to refuse to acknowledge a problem for fear of political repercussions? Meanwhile gullible parents put their children in WM schools where they will learn Welsh to a poor standard and underperform their own abilities in vital subjects.

    Can you see what I’m getting at R. Tredwyn? Welsh medium schooling is the new “must have” in the middle class South Walian household but there is only one place in Wales (that I can see) where WM schooling actually WORKS and that is Gwynedd and, so that I don’t mislead you, by “works” I mean that schools reach a good (not superior) standard of education in comparison with similar EM schools overall. But even in Gwynedd there are pockets of pupils who would be better off (educationally) in EM schooling from day one.

  22. At least you accept the argument for WM education as the norm in Gwynedd. That is progress from my point of view. On the standards of education in Wales and the tendency to complacency in both languages you are preaching to the converted. Parents are not gullible for putting their children in WM schools in South Wales; they have two motives, one good one bad, neither deluded. The good one is they want their children to have access to a heritage denied to them. Not easy to quantify but important to some people. The bad one is to avoid a school where many of the fellow pupils would be deprived. The raw data shows Welsh schools outperfrom EM schools on average. I take your point about comparing like with like but not all parents have a choice of a “good” EM school. Then WM might be the best option for them. As I have already said, I deplore the class division this creates.

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