Mirain Rhys looks at the issues around Welsh medium education for children where Welsh isn’t spoken at home.
The ever-present argument that children from non-Welsh speaking backgrounds can’t reach their full potential in Welsh medium education has yet again come to the fore. Recent statistics obtained by the BBC under a Freedom of Information Act indicate that children who are taught through the medium of Welsh but don’t speak Welsh at home are less likely to overachieve by the time they reach the end of their primary schooling (i.e. obtaining a ‘Level 5’ or higher at key stage 2 (KS2) in the core subjects of English, Welsh First Language, Mathematics and Science).
Despite this, the statistics also indicate that the majority of children from non-Welsh speaking homes (over 90%) reach the expected ‘Level 4’ outcome in all core subjects by the end of KS2, and these results are very similar for children who are from Welsh speaking homes, as well as children in English medium schools.
In recent years, the Welsh Government has been keen to project their continued support for the future of the Welsh language, illustrated in the current Welsh language policy document ‘A Living Language, a Language for Living’. Welsh medium education plays a vital part in Welsh language development and maintenance, where the goal is to develop children into bilingual individuals, whatever their home language – but is this happening?
The benefits of bilingualism have been investigated worldwide (E. Bialystok, O. Garcia, J. Cummins, V. Cook etc.) and recent research from Wales has indicated that children who don’t speak Welsh at home performed within the expected norms when assessed in Welsh for vocabulary and reading. They also performed on par with children from English medium schools when assessed in English for vocabulary and reading (Rhys & Thomas, 2013). Despite this, the research also indicated how their home language was the language in which children were strongest, be that Welsh or English, indicating that although they might become proficient in both languages through school, the use of their stronger language was, however, preferred outside the classroom.
Although the current governmental statistics are not surprising, they fail to highlight this evident gap between the increasing number of children receiving their education through Welsh, and the levels at which the language is used outside the classroom – arguably the real issue facing the future of the Welsh language. Of course, there will always be a small percentage of individuals who live their lives through the medium of Welsh, and who are lucky enough to be able to use it daily. But for the majority of children learning through Welsh, this is not a reality.
We already know that there are more children from homes where Welsh isn’t spoken than there are from homes where it is spoken who attend Welsh medium education. Research also suggests that Welsh language transmission within the home is at a critical point, with the likelihood of a child using Welsh diminishing if one adult does not speak the language.
Despite an overwhelming level of support from non-Welsh speaking parents/carers for the continuation of Welsh medium education, many often have valid reservations and concerns about their child(ren) being educated in a language they don’t speak. These include concerns regarding their capacity to support their child with their homework, the level of immersion in the Welsh language and the extent to which learning through the medium of Welsh might stunt their overall academic development and well as their English language proficiency and development, to name just a few.
The store of research supporting bilingual education is broad, and this may go far in dispelling many worries parents/carers may have. In addition, the Welsh Government has put in place policies to encourage the use of Welsh language services and there is, in addition, a small, but existing number of organizations tasked with increasing awareness of the Welsh language as a tool (e.g. RhAG, Mentrau Iaith, Twf). Despite this, the reality is that many still feel like they have nowhere to turn for support relating to their child’s minority language education.
Professor Colin Baker has often argued that a minority language cannot survive without efforts made to maintain the language within the three realms of society; education, the community and the home. Despite the current statistics indicating that by the end of Key Stage 2, the vast majority of children attending Welsh medium education are fully bilingual individuals, it seems that the development of informative, attractive initiatives for using the language outside the classroom need further development and promotion.
Funding for the Welsh language is always under threat, and re-visiting this long and trodden road cannot be the only solution. The Welsh language is a part of every Welsh citizen’s life in one way or another, and its survival depends on each individual’s attitude towards it. Everyone can be responsible for its future, from the odd ‘Bore Da’ on the bus or wearing the orange ‘I can speak Welsh’ badge to indeed making that decision to send your child(ren) to a Welsh medium school. As with most things in life, it is in our hands – and with better links between research, policy and practice the future for the Welsh language could be a bright one for all.
139 thoughts on “The trouble with bilingual education: The ever increasing gap between research, policy and practice.”
Normalising the use of Welsh in society would be something. A few BBC Wales presenters are now using “Bore da” “Hwyl” etc but more needs to be done.
Why do the supermarket chains not have policies that at least encourage their staff to use these greeting and thanks words especially to customers who are using them with their staff.
Welsh speakers really need to use Welsh when they meet others. Switching to English if the person does not understand. Assume that a person understands Welsh rather than assume that they don’t. Assume that their reaction to being addressed in Welsh will be positive or at least a neutral experience for both or either of you rather than assume it might be a negative one.
This is a very timely article in view of the recent headlines in the Welsh media and good to see it being given a considered approach. And clearly Mirain’s call for a coordinated approach is to be welcomed. There is little suggestion in the article about possible answers to this question but it is early days; the research has only recently been published.
There is another context here which will no doubt bring out the naysayers if the above article hasn’t done so already, but I can’t think of a better place within which to raise it. Being bilingual is becoming an advantage in the workplace and therefore access to Welsh language education is an essential factor in this, including Welsh for Adults. If children from English-speaking backgrounds are not currently achieving their full potential, then this will have an impact on their job opportunities in later life. I have experience, for example, of adult learners who did a Welsh as a 2nd language A level but were unable to hold a conversation in Welsh, which led to them turning to adult education to rectify this. In fairness, Professor Davies’ report acknowledged that Welsh as a 2nd language in secondary schools was a bit of a disaster.
However the implication is that those who come from Welsh speaking backgrounds will be more likely to gain access to the top jobs than those who are not. Most English speaking parents would expect an education system that would give their children a fair crack of the whip at those jobs providing they had reached their potential. If the system is not delivering that, then as Mirain says, that situation requires further research and further discussion regarding educational policy and practice.
That said, the Welsh language education system continues to enjoy a good reputation for the quality of its work, rightly in my view, but the above article indicates that the time has come to focus on new issues if the system is to continue to retain that reputation.
Erthygl dda. Cytunaf fod y bwlch rhwng ymchwil, polisi a defnydd yn cynyddu, a chytunaf a’r hyn a ddywedir yn yr erthygl, ond am y paragraff olaf.
Yn yr erthygl, tynnir sylw at wendidau’n polisïau iaith. Er enghraifft, mae yna sefydliadau sydd i fod i hybu ac egluro addysg Gymraeg, ond eto i gyd, mae yna rieni sy’n teimlo fod yna ddim cymorth iddynt ynghylch addysg Gymraeg. Yn ogystal i hynny, nodir bod angen mwy o gynllunio i ddatblygu defnydd y Gymraeg tu fas i’r dosbarth.
Ond yn y paragraff olaf, yn lle manylu ar ffyrdd i wella’n polisïau a’n cynllunio, dywedir y dylem edrych am ddatrysiad arall, ac nid cyllido yw’r ateb i bopeth. Troir y sylw at y cyhoedd a chyfrifoldeb unigolion am ddyfodol yr iaith. ‘Gall pawb fod yn gyfrifol’. A dyna’n union safbwynt y Llywodraeth: yn lle ymrwymo i sicrhau dyfodol y Gymraeg drwy bolisi a chyllido effeithiol a manteisiol i’r Gymraeg, tyn y Llywodraeth y sylw at ‘gyfrifoldeb’ unigolion (e.e. drwy’r ymgyrch ‘Pethau Bychain’).
Er ei bod hi’n bwysig i ni wneud y pethau bychain, credaf mai polisi a chyllido sydd allweddol o hyd, ac ni ddylem tynnu’n sylw oddi arnynt. Dywedir bod dyfodol y Gymraeg yn dibynnu ar agweddau pobl tuag at yr iaith. Cytunaf, ond credaf fod agweddau’n deillio i raddau helaeth o’r polisïau. Er enghraifft, dylid canolbwyntio ar gynyddu y nifer o glybiau a chymdeithasau sydd ar gael yn Gymraeg (e.e. gwersi nofio ac ati), gorfodi cwmnïau mawr y sector preifat i ddarparu gwasanaethau drwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg, ayb. Byddai hyn yn dangos bod y Gymraeg yn iaith fodern sy’n greiddiol i’n cymdeithas, a gobeithiwn y gallai hyn yn newid agwedd rhai tuag at yr iaith. Byddai hefyd yn fwy effeithiol o lawer na chanolbwyntio ar ofyn i Gymry ddweud ‘bore da’ o bryd i’w gilydd.
Felly, yn lle dweud yn syml wrth bobl “gwnewch hyn a’r llall yn Gymraeg”, y ffordd orau i bontio’r bwlch rhwng ymchwil, polisi, a defnydd, yw trwy gyflwyno bolisi cryfach, a thrwy fynnu cyllid teg i’r Gymraeg, sy’n rhoi’r gallu i ni ddefnyddio’r iaith tu fas i’r ysgol (yn fy marn i, wrth gwrs). Yn lle bod y Gymraeg ‘yn ein dwylo ni’, cynigiaf mai yn nwylo’r gwneuthurwyr polisi y mae hi yn bennaf.
I am genuinely fascinated by this article. Firstly, Mirain gives the impression that the BBC made a Freedom of information request that resulted in statistical data forming the basis for an article by Arwyn Jones and a “Morning Call” feature on Radio Wales.
The data sets are one of a long sequence requested by me over a number of years. For those who aren’t familiar with the system, FOI requests are blocked if they require so much work that the total cost is greater than £600. Similarly if a number of requests are made in a short space of time then the cost limit can be breached by those requests taken together.
The consequence of this is that to reach any legitimate conclusions, taking out variables, there has to be a history of data requests. For some years now, since 2007, it has been evident that, when socio-economic factors are taken into account, Welsh medium schools have underperformed in the core subjects.
Simultaneously the Welsh language Board, the Welsh Government, Estyn and people like Prof, Colin Baker have “sold” the idea that Welsh Medium schooling is in every way advantageous to children and particularly they have assured non Welsh speaking parents that their children will in no way be disadvantaged by going into Welsh medium schools.
This is dishonest.
Dr. Rhys rather gives the game away in this article. I had contacted her in good faith and given her both the original data and several sheets of analysis and the result of that is that she, like many before her, misrepresent the statistics.
So tell me Mirain what is “Overachievement” in terms of Education in Wales? I’m sure most readers of this piece will be amazed that we suffer from children who “Overachieve” at Key stage 2. So I’ll just give an example from the data:
For the sake of simplicity I’ve averaged the percentages of pupils overachieving at level 5+ at KS2 in 2014 across the three core subjects, Maths, English and Science and made a comparison between pupils who are in the Welsh streams of WM primary schools and do not speak Welsh at home and those pupils in similar EM schools. So that the figures aren’t distorted I have looked only at pupils who are NOT eligible for free school meals and I have grouped schools together at intervals according to a narrow range of school FSM eligibility.
So that no one is confused, the Welsh government, like the English department of education actually aims to maximise the percentage of pupils who attain at the highest possible level at key stage2. Below level 4 indicates an abnormally low level of achievement and few pupils fall into that category, 11.6% of all pupils and 8.7% of non FSM pupils (2013 data).
In EM schools with less than 8% eligible for FSMs, 54% of all non FSM pupils reach level5 or better.
in the comparable group in WM streams, of non FSM English L1 pupils, 43% reach level5 or better.
So in that group 11% of English L1 pupils would be better off in EM schools as far as core subject attainment is concerned.
So:- 0-8% FSM schools EM schools outperform by 11%.
8-16% FSM schools EM schools outperform by 7%
16-24%……………………EM schools outperform by 2%
24-32%……………………EM schools outperform by 7%
32-40%……………………EM schools outperform by 1%
40+…………………………..EM schools outperform by 5%
However, for the groups of schools with the majority of WM pupils (87%), more WM, English L1 pupils also fail to reach level 4 compared to the same groups of EM pupils.
It’s evident then that for pupils from an English speaking background WM primary schools are the lose-lose option as far as the core subjects are concerned.
Now I have no objection to parents making an INFORMED choice of WM schooling. That should be their right but I do object to parents being lied to in order to further a political ambition.
Incidentally, some years ago, bemused by the failure of the Welsh Medium school experiment in Wales, I wrote to Prof Ellen Bialystock at York university in Canada. She was one of a number of authorities on immersion teaching and bilingualism that I corresponded with over the years.
The question that I asked was this: If immersion schooling is so advantageous why don’t the counties where immersion schooling is compulsory stand out as beacons of high academic achievement and multilingualism? The answer that I received was simple….there is no such thing as compulsory immersion schooling. The advantages of Immersion schooling are only evident amongst a self selecting group of willing participants. Compulsion is associated with “submersion” schooling; a wholly different and undesirable “ugly sister” to immersion.
For many of the early studies of immersion schooling the socio-economic status of the pupils in the comparisons was not taken into account. In later studies only “Natural” bilinguals were used. That is, pupils whose parents spoke both the target languages. It was also the case that the “mechanics” of literacy and numeracy acquisition were gained in the “first” or Home language of pupils from monoglot households who took part in studies. That is, immersion was a second phase.
In Wales, pupils who have Welsh speaking parents are natural bilinguals. They made up 53% of the pupils who entered GCSE Welsh L1 in 2013……78.6 gained an A*-C.
In contrast 47% of those sitting GCSE Welsh were English L1 pupils and 67.8% of those gained an A*-C.
It’s all very well saying that English L1 pupils are “fully fluent” at the end of primary school but at that point between 950 and 1200 per year drop out of WM schooling. Those who go on to sit GCSE clearly are not as competitive in the Welsh speaking job market as the natural bilinguals. Much of the vaunted bilingual advantage is a mirage.
For everyone who speaks Welsh regularly and fluently there will probably be ten or a dozen who speak it less often and less readily. Speaking Welsh first to strangers is a great advance as far as attitudes to the language go, but it won’t do much good if you instantly change to English if the other person doesn’t immediately give you a Welsh reply. Occasional users will need a few moments to mentally shift gears and change their internal ‘language setting’. So may need to repeat yourself or speak more slowly or simply while they ‘retune’. Otherwise the occasional speaker will never become a regular speaker and the pool of fluent speakers will in all probability shrink rather than expand. Do you believe you have the right to use your own language in your own country, or do you forever want to be doormats for the English to walk over?
We need a cheaper workforce here in the UK for many of less attractive manual jobs. Either that or the work invariably goes to immigrants.Those educated through the medium of Welsh fit the bill perfectly.
But please, no more talk about ‘a living wage’. You’ll get what we think you’re worth.
At the risk of being tedious I’ll point out that Dr Rhys (Phd in bilingual education?) has stressed a comparison between ability in English amongst pupils in WM schools and EM schools.
In fact English is the core subject where the figures are closest together. If we are entirely honest the key subject to look at is Welsh in WM primary schools. Welsh is not just another core subject, it is the means of accessing the other core subjects, including English.
For this reason we see significant differences in levels of attainment between English L1 pupils in WM schools and corresponding pupils in EM schools in maths and science. Put simply the question is: do English L1 pupils have the necessary Welsh language ability at every stage of primary education to readily comprehend new concepts in Maths, Science and Literacy? Do ALL English L1 pupils in WM schools have the necessary self confidence and Welsh language fluency to question teachers on areas where they have not fully understood instruction?
Firstly let’s look at the data on Welsh at KS2 in 2014. Once again it is the Non-FSM eligible pupils and the schools are subdivided according to overall FSM eligibility of the schools in the group:
Those failing to reach level 4 (expected standard at age 11) in Welsh:
…………………Welsh at home………No Welsh at home.
So we have a consistent pattern of under-achievement in Welsh at the low end of attainment for English L1 pupils.
At the high end of achievement the figures look like this (again non FSM pupils).
…………………Welsh at home………No Welsh at home.
In other words significantly fewer English L1 pupils in WM schools have the high level Welsh language ability needed to converse at a sophisticated level and to write extended prose. This is a major disadvantage in later schooling and has a significant effect on attainment in other subjects. Incidentally in all groups of WM schools percentage of pupils attaining level5+ is higher in English than in Welsh…..largely due to the under performance of English first language pupils in Welsh.
In Maths and Science, in every FSM group of schools, pupils in EM schools out-perform English first language pupils who are in the corresponding WM schools at level 5+.
In English (subject) all except one group of schools show this pattern…unfortunately that one group of WM schools has only 0.8% of English L1 pupils in it.
No matter how the figures are spun the story is clear; English L1 pupils in WM schools are disadvantaged by being taught through the medium of Welsh. No amount of quoting of limited, small scale studies into bilingual education elsewhere is going to change that fact.
I,as an English only speaker have always wondered why parents in similar situation wish to have their children educated through the medium of the welsh language,which is consequently not used in the family home. Both my children went to a)small village school and then b) to local comprehensive in Bridgend which at that time was recognised as one of best schools in UK!!. I can only state in that in my very humble opinion they had excellent education in the widest sense and it helped to be able to discuss matters/topics through the English language with them many years ago. As the first priority of any parent is to give their children the best opportunity to work and survive in pretty cut throat and competitive world then why do parents choose welsh medium educational schools,when non welsh speakers themselves??. Is it snobbishness as they think that as the children from the welsh speaking ‘elite’ who now run Wales,and in particular BBC Wales to go to such schools,and the ‘plebs’ don’t??. Before long all public service employees,including refuse/bin collection/grass cutting will need to speak welsh as the ‘lone nut’ will demand to be able to discuss ‘issues’ through medium of welsh language!!.
As a regular contributor upon the Welsh political affairs I’m often accused of being overly aggressive and intolerant to Welsh language imposition in Welsh education and public employment.
This may be so, but other than insults, intimidation, threats, damage to my car and so on by the Welsh Language Guardians, I’m never asked as to why I take such a stance?
Before I deal with more disclosures about the distortion and spin in Mirians article, I’d like to clarify my position and my motivation behind my drive to expose dishonesty that is abundant in Welsh Government and all sectors of Welsh education including Estyn.
My and the so called ‘political activism’ came through nothing other than simply being a parent to two lovely kids who are both currently in Welsh education and who like many other kids with no Welsh at home are underperforming to a significant extent in the core subjects.
I realised this long before J. Jones and others started debugging the Welsh education system and the detrimental affect of Welsh language on most of the children in Welsh education and my initial and exceptionally polite attempts to get some answers from the system (Welsh Government, LEA’s and Estyn) came to absolutely nothing.
The level of arrogance I had to face was truly unbelievable so with no other option I started voicing my concerns anywhere I could and to anyone who would listen and for no other reason but to bring sanity, democracy and openness about educational issues (Welsh language imposition) which are incredibly damaging and corrosive and are stealing good education rights from non Welsh speaking children.
As J. Jones commented above, Mirian was highly devious and selective in her disclosures of WG’s statistics and has minimised or tried to cover up the negative impact Welsh language and sadly Mirian is not alone in this regard.
Just couple of small but important points that Mirian raised ‘We already know that there are more children from homes where Welsh isn’t spoken than there are from homes where it is spoken who attend Welsh medium education’ – For starters this is a nonsense as Mirian fails to point out that in significant parts of Wales, parents have no choice and their children are compelled by the LEA’s to pursue WM education in primary years (Take these out and you’ll get a different picture)!
Then we have ‘‘A Living Language, a Language for Living’. Welsh medium education plays a vital part in Welsh language development and maintenance” – In other words a code for discrimination and creating less equals in Welsh society as far as the opportunities go in public employment and education.
I live close to Bangor in the so called ‘heartland’ of Welsh language territory and one would be hard pushed to live one’s life through Welsh and many other places too!
In conclusion and to keep it simple heard nothing from the Welsh language proponents about Parental Choices’ by all means promote Welsh language honestly and openly but do not impose it, or is this too much to ask for?
English speaking kids deserve a chance of a good education and if parents chose EM education those schools must be free of WL constraints that are currently used to employ school teachers and employ inspiring and good teachers outside of the very narrow and often blinkered Welsh luggage first selection pool!?
Another way to look at it is that using English at home is holding 1st language English children back.
What we need to do is have extra school activities (i.e. sport) in Welsh and therefore (I think what they says in English is -) incentivise this.
Also, when I went to skool in Cardiff English language lessons seemed to be based on “only teach them what they knows”. A waste of time. To make learning languages easier you must have a grasp of the structure and use of the language you’re leaning through. You must understand the grammar. Learning languages through English is so hard because nobody understands English grammar even to a modest level. Welsh grammar and spelling is so much easier.
So worried is Ysgol Morgan Llwyn, Wrexham they introduced the ‘English Not’ http://www.leaderlive.co.uk/news/117841/school-tells-pupils-speak-welsh-or-else-.aspx Progess? Bright future?
What is interesting Sioned is the almost complete support for Morgan Llwyd shown in the comments but one thing is telling this comment from the Head:
“Fluency in Welsh is an absolute requirement to enable our students to attain their full potential”
Of course this is just what I have said above in my post about Welsh Key stage2 results from Welsh medium primary schools. When it comes to scoring Key stage assessments Oral fluency is given disproportionate weight so that a pupil who has learned formulaic responses can attain level 4 while their Welsh reading comprehension is limited and Welsh composition (writing) is poor.
I am floating the idea (well supported by the statistics) that pupils from English speaking homes do NOT reach their potential for the very reason that this Head points out; they have not been taught Welsh to a standard that allows them to access Maths, Science and English.
Now in Wrexham those children had at least a chance to move to EM schools although usually there is a certain “inertia” which restricts movement, (pupils have their friends in school and fear the “new”). In large areas of Wales there is no option but WM primary schooling.
Do Estyn know that WM schools under perform and that it is English L1 pupils who cause this? Does Huw Lewis Know these things? The answer is YES. There are no data sets that I have analysed over the last few years that I have not shared with Ann Keynes at Estyn and the Minister in the WG.
So why is there no thematic report from Estyn looking at just this problem? Why has Huw Lewis not reined in the extravagant claims made for WM education by his own Welsh in education department?
You should really see some of the fatuous replies that I get from the department of education!
So….can I just ask this question; Does Estyn or Huw Lewis CARE about tricking parents into sending their kids to WM schools? Do they care that we in the Fro Cymraeg have no choice but to see our children fail to reach their full potential?
Sioned, a good point – All WM schools are struggling to stop kids using English once away from wagging teachers ears and in most cases in schools who have majority of pupils from Welsh speaking homes.
Some interesting findings by Bangor University’s research on children’s attitudes to Welsh language – Gwynedd primary schools: http://www.gwynedd.gov.uk/ADNPwyllgorau/2010/Is-Bwyllgor%20Iaith/2010-10-12/english/06_02_Appendix%201.pdf
Welsh Government, Estyn and so on aren’t listening to the kids as in their little world and in most cases Welsh language has no relevance, but the system is hell bent on destroying precious educational years for the majority of children in Welsh education, through draconian measures to make them ‘Bilingual’ in the Welsh language context!?
Separate Welsh medium education in Cardiff is fostering a system of social apartheid and should be rethought. Welsh medium education in the Bro Cymraeg is natural and essential to maintaining Welsh as a community language. One Size does not fit all. I sympathize with complaints in Cardiff but going to live in Gwynedd and complaining about the language of the education system is like going to France and complaining the kids are taught in French. Expats in France accept their kids will learn slower but balance that against them acquiring another language and access to a different culture. People like Glasnost do not take that attitude in Wales because they don’t think Welsh is a real language and they are dismissive of Welsh language culture. Your snobbery is your problem.
Two points, one arising from the article, and the other from the comments:
We must remember how recent a thing Welsh-medium education is.Ysgol Glan Clwyd was established in 1956, Rhydfelen in 1962, and for much of the period since they were very much beacons in the darkness. It is only very recently that Welsh medium education has become widely available and demanded outside the so called ‘heartlands’. You do not reverse three centuries of linguistic shift in less than a generation. While it may be true that at the moment, 53% of Welsh-medium pupils come from English-only homes, and may face additional hurdles in their education because of that, that proportion will decrease as those pupils become parents themseslves and (for the most part, one would expect) send their own children to Welsh-medium schools. Like English-medium education in monoglot Welsh Wales from the 19th century onwards, Welsh-medium education is a long-term investment that will take generations to fully ‘mature’.
As for comment that there are ‘significant parts of Wales’ where it is not possible to have English medium education, I trust the commenters are referring to that small corner of north Waest Wales called Gwynedd (conveniently ignoring Friars English-medium school in Bangor near where you live). Sorry, but if it bothers you so much, why on earth chose to live in the one corner of Wales/Britain/the globe where Welsh remains a strong enough community language for it to be considered essential for all schoolchildren to be fluent in it. Seriously, why?!
I never cease to be amazed by the mythical extrapolations of Homerian proportions that our noble Welsh speaking brethren come up with from time to time.
‘The Welsh education system continues to enjoy a good reputation?’ So the PISA and Estyn conclusions this year, are all fanciful smears made up by the wicked English again, are they?
‘Being bilingual is becoming an advantage in the workplace?’ Is it now? In the sparsely populated hinterlands of North Wales perhaps, but certainly nowhere in the south or anywhere else in the world for that matter.
What hasn’t been mentioned above is the fact that the internet and social media will finally do for the language, like it or not.
School children don’t talk outside the school gates, they tap tap.
The Welsh language is dying in spite of billions of taxpayers’ money having been thrown at it (Census 2011), so get over it and say ‘Hello’ to the new English speaking world order.
You’ve obviously looked into the detail far more than me and I don’t disagree with what you have observed vis-a-vis EnglishL1 pupils in WM schools. I’m more interested in the implications you draw from it. In your other comments you seem to suggest that Huw Lewis personally and the Welsh Government more generally are lying to parents. This you base on the idea of pupils reaching, or not reaching, their ‘potential’.
I think there may be a valid argument there somewhere, but I dont think that you can express it, or indeed use data to try to investigate it, unless you have first set out exactly what it is that you presume an education system should be doing in the first place. As it is you are subjecting your analysis to a prescription of what a good education is and suggesting that Welsh Medium Education is preventing some English speaking pupils from reaching it. I’m not trying to be obtuse, but I’m almost certain that some language campaigners and educators would suggest that learning a language that is relevant to your history and/or culture is a central feature of education, not a distraction from it. What exactly is it that you would have us learn if not these things?
I was one of the first pupils to receive a bilingual education in South Wales. I was taught in Rhydyfelen in the 60`s. My children have also had bilingual education in Glantaf. Our education differed in one particular respect. I studied science through the medium of english whilst they are/were taught in welsh.
I understand that some welsh medium schools continue to teach science in english but most do not.Are there any comparative studies on the benefits or otherwise of this choice? Such data should be very good evidence, at least with respect to science education.
I asked my daughter’s teacher why can’t she do French instead of welsh ? The answer was “if the pupils had a choice then the welsh teacher would have nobody to teach” my daughter is self taught in Japanese now and intends to go to Japanese uni.
This is a multicultural society now and we’ll done for people ‘wanting’ to speak welsh but don’t waste money on forcing others to speak it. Maybe they need to spend more time studying science or engineering.
Btw why is the welsh government setting up a welsh language tribunal ?
@Julian Ruck- I assume from reading your overtly aggressive post that you given up trying to win people to your cause. In response to your Welsh language is dying quip, the census of 2011 showed that more children were able to speak the language than in 2001, the reasons for that are numerous and not all of them will use Welsh in the future. The fact that the demographics of the language are swung in favour of the younger generations however disproves your baseless comment that ‘the Welsh language is dying’. As for the billions of tax payers money nonsense, are you genuinely that deluded to think that a Labour government would spend that on a ‘separatist language’? In terms of technology, from what I know you’re well past middle age and so you probably can’t even use a phone, so before foraging into modern technology I’d do some research. From my own experience people who use Welsh write Welsh on Facebook, Twitter and in texts. More people speak Welsh in Wales than have read or will read your novels too, bear that in mind,
Who exactly is forcing whom? I understood that demand for WME was outstripping supply. If that’s not “by popular demand” then what is? The same appears to be true for immersion education in Scotland and Ireland too btw.
Seems this post has proved to be a real troll-magnet for the astroturf brigade.
@ Ben Screen
Rather than pull your post apart in its entirety, lets just focus on one of your comments….
Julian says “billions of pounds have been spent”, correspondingly and unlike any good acedemic, rather than quantifiably dispute this- you dismiss it as nonsense. Therefore, allow me to furnish you with facts:
public funding for S4C is just shy of £100 million a year. That means S4C alone has taken a billion pounds in the past decade. Think about that for a second…. Just S4C!! Not including every council and public body in Wales’ translation budget, not including the Welsh Government, not including Welsh medium education and all its QUANGOs, not including bilingual signage on highways and public buildings but just S4C!
Therefore what are we to make of your credentials when you dont even know the basic nuts and bolts of what you are attempting to comment on.
Consider this an open invitation to you or anyone else who comments here: Please could somebody quantifiably refute the the statement “billions have been spent on the Welsh language”. No bluster, no burrying of heads in the sand…. just quantifiable evidence as to why the statement is “nonsense”.
Perhaps when we have some honesty on the subject, the rest of us can start to give the Welsh language the respect you feel it deserves.
Having worked abroad in a number of countries my experience is that the ability to speak Welsh in addition to being able to speak English is an advantage. Of course none of the jobs had “Welsh speaker” as a condition or quality for carrying out the job. To think that Welsh is only useful across the world if it is specifically asked for just draws attention to how unimaginative and facile a commentator is being.
I’ll pass on the detail why being bilingual helps with learning additional languages, it’s an accepted fact and is not unique to a Welsh English combination. However our “ll” “ch” “ng” and vowel sounds definitely give a Welsh speaker a head start in pronunciation across the globe.
Being able to speak a minority language such as Welsh can be used to advantage when working overseas even if English is the lingua franca.
– English becomes a common language both parties use for their advantage rather than the language of one party who might then be seen to have an advantage.
– In many (most) countries there are minority languages. It’s possible to develop mutual empathy when working with speakers of minority languages elsewhere.
– There are places where Britain (England) and the USA are not flavor of the month even if those you meet can speak English well and appear to have bought into a local version of the American dream. Not being a monoglot English speaker ie English person(American) despite coming from “England” again can help with the empathy.
@SeamorBytts – or whatever you have childishly decided to call youself, as far ac S4C is concerned and the cherished ‘British Tax payer’, remember that S4C is paid for partly out of the TV license fee budget, and that also the half a million Welsh speakers in Wales alone pay that as well income tax. Welsh speakers are just as British as anyone else and contribute to the cost of the services some of us enjoy the native language of this country. As far as education is concerned, Welsh schools teach the curriculum, regardless of medium. Therefore no ‘extra’ money is spent on a WM school, a school is a school and would need to exist regardless of the medium
Since Ross raises his usual objection to my saying that there is no choice of EM schooling for parents in Gwynedd (or Anglesey) little in Ceredigion or Carmarthenshire and since he makes his usual statement….”if you don’t like it why come here?” I’ll try to address that issue.
Firstly we are talking about pupils who are 11 years old and have just completed 7 years in Welsh medium Primary school. They have no option about where they live, any more than I did when I came to Ynys Mon in 1957.
If we look at Keys stage 2 outcomes in Gwynedd ( and you will understand that level 4 is the age appropriate minimum level) then, averaging the last 5 years from 2009, 10% of pupils from Welsh speaking homes failed to reach the age appropriate minimum level in Welsh.
If we look at pupils who come from non-Welsh speaking homes 29% fail to reach the age appropriate level. Those pupils who do not speak Welsh at home make up 33% of all 11 year olds in Gwynedd.
So how successful has Welsh Medium schooling been for these children in terms of preparing them for a life in Gwynedd? Of course they won’t stay here, or, if they do, they will be employed in the private sector or unemployed.
At the other end of the scale how many pupils from non Welsh speaking homes reach the higher level of 5+? Well that’s 14%.
Pupils from Welsh speaking homes, in the exact same schools, the same county?……37% reached level 5+ on average over the last 5 years.
But as I have shown in the national data, that’s not the end of the story. Not only do pupils from non Welsh speaking homes in Gwynedd fail to attain in Welsh…..their attainment in all the other core subjects are also poor in comparison to their classmates who speak Welsh at home.
Now will there be an outcry on behalf of this minority group? Will anyone in high office or academia put their head above the parapet and cry “outrage” at this discrimination?
Of course not…only one minority really counts in Wales.
SMBytts. S4C’s annual accounts are not secret but published. Total expenditure rose from £86 million in 2000 to some £105 million in 2009 since when it has been cut back steadily and will be down to £76 million in 2015. The total over ten years has been rather less than the billion you cite. Note that broadcasting is not devolved so this money has been met from UK taxation and latterly the licence fee, not from the Welsh government’s budget. The BBC’s expenditure on English language television last year was about £2.4 billion. So UK public expenditure financed English programmes at 30 times the level of Welsh. Considering there are five or six English speakers in Wales for every Welsh speaker, 30:1 does not seem a bad ratio and you have nothing to complain about. The ratio of Welsh to English speakers in England is a lot less than 30:1 so English tax payers are being generous to the Welsh language. They are even more generous to BBC Alba which broadcasts in Scots Gaelic. Funnily enough you never hear about Scots complaining about broadcasts in a language that almost none of them speak. They recognize it as part of their cultural heritage and distinctiveness. But then ?Scots don’t have the inferiority complex that the Welsh do, especially the Monoglot English-speaking Welsh.
Dear R Tredwyn,
Thank you! that long-winded, vitriolic rant – despite my specific request for “no bluster” – confirms that the phrase ‘billions have been spent on the Welsh language’ is perfectly legitimate and 100% factual. That is all I wanted thanks… no need for tangent rants!
I was amused to see you half-heartedly attempt to disprove it because S4C had only received circa. 990 million pounds in the past ten years though 🙂 despite the fact S4C has been running for decades and is by no means the only Welsh language expenditure.
@ R Tredwyn – And don’t forget the economic contribution S4C makes. According to independent research, the channel contributes £2 million to the Welsh economy for every £1 million it receives; find report here:
SMBytts My vitriolic rant was neither vitriolic nor a rant. It was politely expressed and contained facts, most of which you ignored. May we hope that your future contributions will be equally polite and factual?
The conversation is drifting somewhat but the main point of the data sets for KS2 in 2014, and several other key stage data sets, is that Welsh medium schools under perform and the reason why they under perform is that pupils in them who come from an English speaking home do not reach their full potential.
So far in Wales the establishment has covered up this uncomfortable truth in two ways; comparisons of WM and EM attainment always leaves out the very different socio-economic status of the two groups of schools.
Narrow studies of cognitive advantage within natural bi-lingual study groups are used to justify immersion schooling and even forced immersion schooling. However, large scale data analysis in Wales has never found that immersion and Welsh medium schooling has replicated the advantage shown in small sample studies.
In Academia in Wales we have whole departments of universities staffed by people who have gained their doctorates by writing papers on the advantages of Welsh medium education. They are themselves the product of WM schooling and they are often Welsh L1 speakers for whom survival of the language is a religious passion.
What I would ask is this; Is the Welsh government well advised when there is no honest analysis of a vital part of the school system?
@ SeaMor Bytts
The reason that the Welsh language receives the money it does is because it is Government policy.
@ Julian Ruck
For a novelist, broadcaster and columnist, your remarks are considerably ill-measured. The fact that WL education enjoys a good reputation, particularly among parents, does not mean that we should not take the reports of PISA and Estyn seriously. PISA by the way is an international organisation based in Paris and Estyn is funded by the Welsh Government. Why you connect those two bodies with the ‘wicked English’ is a puzzle.
Regarding employment opportunities, I have recently registered with Cardiff Works, Cardiff Council’s temporary work agency, and one of the questions is whether you are a Welsh speaker. There are a considerable number of jobs advertised as having Welsh speaking desirable so your view that it is only happening in Gwynedd is simply incorrect.
As for your English uber alles rant, the majority of the world’s population is bilingual and Welsh speakers are simply taking their place in the new multi-lingual world order.
@ R Tredwyn
Right so getting so worked up that you finish your missive by claiming that all monoglot english speaking Welsh people have an inferiority complex does not constitute a vitriolic rant? Fortunately you cant delete or edit what you write here on Clickonwales so your nasty comments are there for all to see
“Narrow studies of cognitive advantage within natural bi-lingual study groups are used to justify immersion schooling”
this is a key point that you make J.Jones! ‘natural bilingualism’ is also referred to as ‘simultaneous bilingualism’ which is what occurs when you have a Welsh speaking home in an overwhelmingly English environment (which is what Wales and 99% of its media really is).
This is completely different to ‘sequential bilingualism’ which occurs when a speaker of one language learns another as a subject/hobby at a later date. The concepts of ‘simultaneous’ and ‘sequential’ bilingualism are absolute key terms in global research on bilingualism… with cognitive benefits being demonstrated to be significantly reduced for the latter.
The 2 terms are the absolute basics of bilingualism as a research topic…. nuts and bolts stuff when subject is discussed by leading acedemics outside of Wales. To discuss the benefits of bilingualism without using these terms would be like discussing the area of a circle without referring to pi. However, that is what happens here in Wales! We have the education of an entire generation being potentially damaged without any robust research to back up the present social engineering project.
Here’s a challenge for the language enforcers commenting here:
point to a link on Welsh medium education benefits that makes use of the terms ‘simultaneous’ and ‘sequential’ bilingualism in any way (no matter how briefly) and I’ll vote Plaid Cymru next year!
It’s quite understandable that Mirain Rhys wants more research done on this subject. Academics employed to do research to encourage support for bilingual education and the use of Welsh outside the classroom (Mirain’s raison d’être) want more of what they do, paid for by the public purse. It’s not true though that “Funding for the Welsh language is always under threat”. WL funding is sacrosanct under Labour (it has grown every year, after all, it’s a key policy commitment). Nor is it credible to conclude tendentiously that “with better links between research, policy and practice the future for the Welsh language could be a bright one for all.”
The real-life, real-language dilemma for Wales that ‘one cannot orchestrate nor mandate the private and social freedom of preferred linguistic expression’ cannot be framed within parameters of more state spend or commissioned study or rethinking. Welsh as a living language as opposed to Welsh as a Govt sponsored medium of statutory school instruction is a nexus of issues well beyond the scope of governmental influence or academic rationalisation. That’s why the spread of more Welsh is now hitting the wall, as it were; 15 years of state-sponsored impact has come to its natural end. Money and law can only do so much. I don’t know if the future for WL is bright or not (I hope it is brighter, languages are central to my good life) but I do know for certain that there are thankfully natural limits to public policy reach -and family, community and trade vernacular is way, way out of statist sight or grip. That’s called plurality and democracy by most people. It’s clearly upsetting and unacceptable for some other citizens and politicians who give variant meanings to these
This is all just common-sense in essence. People exercise freedoms vigorously nowadays- and we tend towards ease and comfort. They speak and message how they prefer to speak and message and care greatly about how their children are to communicate and how they are to be taught. It may suit the likes of Leighton Andrews to suggest otherwise (see below) that somehow choosing Welsh-medium education represents some sort of moral or political superiority, or worse still brings us in doing so closer to a deeper sense of fatherland or connection with our local communities, but I just don’t buy that level of arrogant and highly politicised double-think, which lays out an astonishing new Llafur boundary for family choice:
“I believe in a Welsh Labour party comfortable with its Welshness; and that means, comfortable with the language. In my experience most Labour party members are supportive of the language and a high proportion of members who do not speak Welsh send their children to Welsh medium schools. Welsh medium schools across Wales reflect the social context of their communities.”
Andrews in ‘Ministering to Education’ 2014.
Sorry, Mirain, there may very well be more work coming your way but it will all come to nothing in outcomes, unless clever and articulate people like you start to rethink your starting point and conceptual frames of reference. Spend much more time talking to and taking more seriously those millions of folk who have come to the perfectly rational and respectable position that bilingualism Welsh-style just ain’t for them. They deserve respect. Treating them as if they are somehow second-class or lacking understanding about how language works and what’s best for their children goes down very badly. The dogmatic pragmatism of spend more/legislate more/incentivise more/research more/find that damned golden key always ends in tears of frustration and sometimes harmful social division.
J.Jones claims to have analysed Canadian research into bilingual education viz. English speaking parents sending their children to French medium schools. He will, I assume, be familiar with the research of Jim Cummins who has spent the ;last thirty years or more at Toronto University analysing the progress of these pupils in comparison with pupils in the English medium sector. Ability and socio economic factors are taken into account. Bilingual and Multicultural Education: Canadian Perspectives- Shapson and D’Oyley]
In September 2013, he addressed a conference on Bilingual Education in Carmarthen and was quite adamant that there are cognitive and educational advantages:-
– greater “executive control” – ability to focus attention and wed out distraction
– awareness of language and how it works [metalinguistic awareness]
– faster and more effective learning of additional languages.
I would suggest that these are not only educational advantages but have implications for any workforce.
It is obvious to most [if not everyone] that bilinguals can speak two languages. It is unfortunate, that we have not used this advantage to develop other languages at an early age. I apologize to primary school teachers for advocating further reform, but all the research from Canada, the Basque country and elsewhere shows that early, total immersion is the best way to learn languages which would open people’s minds to different cultures.
J. Jones mentions Ellen Bialystok – she concluded that “for bilinguals/ multilinguals the age of onset of dementia was 4 years later than for monolinguals”. I will resist the temptation of commenting further on this point!
This doesn’t mean that we should not analyse the figures at 11 years of age but they may well not be the complete picture. The wider gaps in performance must make one pause for thought, but some of the performance gaps may not be statistically significant and may be rectified over time. After all, the Canadian research acknowledges that there may be a time lapse before the bilingual advantage emerges.
“There may be a temporary lag……………Children taught through a second language quickly catch up. Indeed the Canadian research tends to suggest that some bilingual children surpass their monolingual peers in performance in the curriculum, perhaps due to the advantages in thinking and self esteem that two languages gives” [A Parents and Teachers Guide to Bilingualism – ed. Colin Baker]
If the bilingual advantage takes some time to develop is there evidence in Wales of this happening?
In the late 1980’s I worked in a department linked to the WJEC. A research officer looked at the GCSE results of pupils who had taken the Welsh first language examination, which would include many natural Welsh speakers as well as second language students with the national average in ENglish and French.
In English, the Welsh language 1 students did “at least as well as the national average”.
In French, the WJEC officer thought the difference was “statistically significant” in favour of those who had taken the Welsh 1 examination
1988 Cumulative Grades A [Welsh 1 25.8% National Average 19.7%
B Welsh 1 49.6% National Average 36.1%
C Welsh 1 67.9% National Average 75.0%
1989 Cumulative Grades A Welsh 1 39.1% National Average 24.8%
B Welsh 1 62.2% National Average 44.2%
C Welsh 1 78.6% National Average 63.2%
Two swallows may not make a summer , but these figures support the evidence that bilingual pupils, at 16, have an advantage in learning another language. I would suggest that this is a worthwhile aim for parents and that it is the monolingual pupils who are suffering.
The banding system had its flaws, like many other assessment s. However, the 2013 results painted an interesting picture of the performance of pupils in Welsh schools in 2013, Welsh medium and bilingual schools comprise just over 25% of Wales’s secondary schools. Yet in Band 1 41% of the schools fitted into this category.
On the other hand, in Band 5, English medium schools made up 84% of this lowest group. It seems that it is the EM experiment which is failing.
Despite the challenges faced by pupils from English speaking homes in Welsh medium education they seem to be coping better than their monolingual peers.
Parents choose Welsh medium education for a variety of reasons:
” I wasn’t taught it in school” was a comment I often heard when I taught in a WM school in the Rhondda. It would be unwise of those who criticize WM education to belittle these sentiments. People feel an attachment to their language and culture.
“It’s a good school ” was another comment I heard quite often. Of course there are good EM schools. What parents were often referring to were the extra curricular activities associated with the Urdd, Eisteddfodau and associated activities ,rarely available in EM schools.
The critics of WM education are in danger of creating serious divisions and unfortunate consequences in our society:
– they are negative and advocating a cant do/ wont do attitude rather than respecting those who feel they can and at least try;
– not respecting our unique culture [ not created by us but by centuries of people before us] whilst advocating respect for other cultures is both hypocritical and demeaning to those of us who can appreciate both our cultures;
They have options. At 11, pupils in Gwynedd can attend EM schools or schools with an English stream. In other parts of Wales the choice is there from the beginning.
By all means analyse the progress of English language pupils in WM schools. By all means assess the language balance of subjects taught in Welsh or English in the secondary school, but don’t denigrate the wishes of parents and pupils who in this corner of the globe wish to keep their culture whilst embracing English culture and hopefully reach out to others.
@J Jones – as someone who is actually writing a doctorate in a university in Wales, and who knows a little more than you in terms of said staff, your assumption that ”In Academia in Wales we have whole departments of universities staffed by people who have gained their doctorates by writing papers on the advantages of Welsh medium education. They are themselves the product of WM schooling and they are often Welsh L1 speakers for whom survival of the language is a religious passion” is total and complete nonsense. Can you name such departments?
JJones. I understand your point about the potential disadvantages to English native speakers of a Welsh medium education and the fact that any underperformance is masked by the higher socio-economic status of the intake to WM schools. I also believe that the dualistic system in places likes Cardiff reinforces socio-economic filtering since the appeal of WM to parents may be as much the more middle-class nature of the school as the language of instruction. I would favour a unified system in such areas. If the Swiss can get their primary school kids trilingual why do we have to segregate ours to get them bilingual? However, the corollary is that elsewhere in Wales where Welsh is the community language with no particular social cachet it is perfectly reasonable that the primary language of instruction is Welsh. English speaking kids will learn more slowly but they have the compensation of immersion in a different culture that would otherwise be closed to them. If we were talking about French or Portuguese no-one would complain, accepting the trade-off. It is only an issue because Welsh is held in such low regard by many English speakers who know nothing of its rich literature.
Noticed the usual denials on the part of Welsh nationalists of the immense harm and damage inflicted upon non Welsh speaking children in Welsh education but nothing ever tangible, valid or coherent is said by them to justify such a horrendous practice by the Welsh Government who continuous to use deceit and outright lies to promote a failed policy that is damaging majority of children and all evidence based.
When enough is enough and when sanity will prevail in Wales and when Welsh parents will be given a freedom of choice to choose EM education for their children and be fee from Welsh state compulsion and dictate or do we need to damage even more generations of young lives before those blinkered and unworkable Social Engineering policies are removed?
In conclusion is the system blind and deaf to the plight of our children who in most cases have no interest in learning or using Welsh, even Simon Thomas Education spokesman for Plaid Cymru had the guts to admit this – When Enough is Enough?
It is utterly predictable that defenders of the Welsh medium school system will always point to small scale international studies of usually natural, balanced bilingual pupils. These studies have nothing to do with attainment in Welsh medium schools. The data is what it is. All that I have done is to take out the socio economic bias that is ignored by people like W. Thomas.
What my data analysis shows is that there is a socio-economic hierarchy in Wales and at the top are first language Welsh speaking pupils.
For instance, if you look at the cohort of pupils who were assessed in Welsh at Key stage 3 then you find that, of pupils who spoke Welsh at home, only 8% were eligible for free school meals.
The pupils from the exact same schools, also assessed in Welsh, but who did NOT speak Welsh at home….13% were eligible for free school meals.
Pupils who weren’t assessed in Welsh in English medium schools 19.4% were eligible for free school meals.
This is evident at every key stage and particularly at key stage 4. Those pupils who take Welsh L1 are a socio economic elite and the first language Welsh speakers amongst them are a super-elite.
When you look at groups of schools, arranged according to the percentage of pupils within those schools who come from a disadvantaged background, (FSM%) you see a clear trajectory of performance So, if I were to look at Maths performance in schools in 2013 I would find that the average performance of pupils in schools with less than 6% of pupils eligible for free school meals was higher than the performance of pupils in schools with between 6% and 9% eligible for FSMs…who in turn outperform pupils in schools with between 9% and 12% eligible for FSMs. Depressing though it may be this rule holds true for every subject at every key stage. I once fondly believed that maybe ART would break the pattern…but no, just the same. Modern foreign languages are no different; when you compare WM cohorts with EM cohorts you are not comparing like with like.
So when W Thomas compares performance between all pupils who take Welsh first language against all who do not, all he is saying in reality is that pupils from Welsh speaking backgrounds and pupils whose parents choose WM education are much less likely to be poor.
The problem is that when we compare attainment in WM schools against EM schools within narrow FSM bands then the EM schools have better average results in core subjects.
So for 2013 GCSE Maths.
So you get the picture; there are no WM pupils in schools with high levels of deprivation therefore if you make the simple mistake of comparing ALL WM pupil’s results with ALL EM pupils results you get the sort of figures that the old WLB, Estyn, Welsh government and of course W.Thomas love to quote.
The Late unlamented banding system aimed to take socio economic levels in each school into account. Unfortunately there were major flaws in their algorithm. One related to the premium put on improvement. So if a school with 54 pupils in the cohort had 45 of them score in the level2 inclusive of Maths, Eng/Welsh then they have 83%. They also score 83% or more in another measure for maths and Eng/Welsh combined. The following year 46 pupils attain and the percentages go up by 2%.
The only problem is that in schools with 250 pupils in a cohort one extra pupil gives them only 0.4% improvement.
Welsh medium schools have small cohorts on average. In 2013 the average cohort size was 123 in WM schools and 165 in EM schools. Two of the top performing schools in Wales came from Gwynedd, they had cohorts of 54 and 80 respectively.
The second major snag relates to that “English/Welsh” part on several measures used. In 2013 in the level2 inclusive figures alone this gave Welsh medium schools a 3.2% advantage. Multiply that advantage across all relevant measures and you see why it was virtually impossible for EM schools to compete even though in Maths, English and Science separately the EM schools always outperformed WM schools on average when FSMs were taken into account.
@ Ben Screen
The Wales Governance Centre
game, set, match!
@Glasnots (a.ka. Jaques Protic), as someone who went to a WM school from an English speaking home, as did nearly all my Welsh speking friends, can you explain the following :-
A. I am a doctoral student, therefore far from ‘academically disadvantaged’ as a result of my WM education
B. A friend of mine is a teacher, hardly therefore ‘academically disadvantaged’
C. Every, and I mean literally every, one I know who has had a WM education has either gone to university here or elsewhere, or is in full time work. Hardly ‘academically disadvantaged’.
D. I assume when you say ‘parents have no choice’, that you are in fact referring to Gwynedd and Anglesey, where incomers have not yet managed to force themeselves into education by Anglicising it. You could have stopped home, if you don’t like it here?
E. Welsh medium schools consistently outpeform or do as good as EM schools, as reported by the BBC (hardly a bastion of Welsh Nationalism, only deluded fools think otherwise) see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-29727935
F. If ‘nationalism’ and the WG is behind the growth in WM, then please explain how Labour are a Welsh nationalist party despite advocating for Wales to stay in the UK, and how WM education is poplar in South Wales, hardly Plaid Cymru stongholds traditionally.
The fact is, you detest the very idea of WM education and any use of the Welsh language. You use bogus statistics and peddle crackpot theories to try and justify this hatred, which is why you totally ignored a post by a previous employee of the WJEC and his excellent post above.
Whatever the undoubted merits of a bilingual education, the situation in Wales is very different from places like Switzerland where there is already a multilingual society. This does not exist in Wales and the resources need to turn that around are huge. It is both very questionable as to whether that can be done and in what manner. If the quality of the language teaching is poor that may merely accelerate the decline instead of improving, and it certainly won’t improve attitudes to it.
Glasnost’s remarks make my last point for me and are evidence of its truth.
@Seamorbytts, negative. I said name the imaginary university departments filled with Welsh language nuts who have all done their PhDs on on WM education. Shame you never read my comment properly. The Wales Governance Centre, although based at Cardiff University, does not do research on language or education or any relationship between them. It is an institution for political science and research on governance.
Ben Screen, PhD Student in Translation Studies, Cardiff University:
(Gosh that’s a long name) Can I call you Ben? Read the data sets linked above…..if you can do the sums you will see that WM schools are very much under performing EM schools. Arwyn Jones is hardly neutral; he worked really hard to find any positive from the data and, as I explained to him on the phone, he only managed that by ignoring the Socio-economic imbalance between the sets of pupils, something I had gone to some trouble to neutralise.
As for yourself and your successful friends from WM schools….it makes no difference to the averages and the general rule to pick out the high performers; you have to look at the whole spectrum of performance. The data shows pupils from English speaking homes failing to do as well as pupils from Welsh speaking homes within WM schools and failing by even more in comparison to pupils in EM schools.
There is a simple remedy: WM schools could become much better at teaching Welsh but I suspect that sequential bi-linguals will always fare less well in their second language and, unless they can escape the WM system they will not reach their full potential in key subjects.
Colin Miles. Switzerland is a nmultilingual society but most small children learn one language at mother’s knee. They learn others because that is the social expectation – and they adjust to it quite easily as their parents did before them. No doubt there were a few German language chauvinists who moaned that this was “nationalism” and “social engineering” and the kids would be better off learning more Maths or Mandarin Chinese because the majority spoke German and the other language minorities could adapt. Fortunately for the Swiss the chauvinists were ignored and with luck the Welsh will ignore naysayers like you. The Swiss wanted to preserve Switzerland and the majority of the Welsh want to perpetuate Wales.
There is indeed a link between a child’s socio-economic background and his or hers educational performance. However, you are using that as a stick to beat WM ecucation with; you throw numbers and percentages around in order to sound objective, when you are in fact biased towards EM education. You use Gwynedd as an example, due to increased immigration not all children come from Welsh speaking homes, yet two of the best performing schools in Wales are where? In Gwynedd. You can agree or disagree with banding, but the fact is that WM schools come out on top, with socio-eonomic factors considered in those bandings. You use language like ‘escape WM education’, and the pupils ‘are an elite’. You are far from unbiased and neither are children able to change their parents economic situation so calling them an elite shows your clear dislike to members of the Welsh speaking community. You have a closed mind and have no interest in availing yourself of the context in which WM exists.
R. Tredwyn. I am not trying to be a nay-sayer, just that I fear that the more the Welsh language is pushed in the way it seems to be, the more counterproductive that will turn out to be with the silent majority. The end result could be that what is already there, and indeed what could be achieved, will be lost. There comes a tipping point beyond which it could go either way – that point may have already been reached.
@Colin Miles – who is this ‘silent majority’? I do not doubt there people out there who agree with you and disagree with me. I do not dispute that. You must think that there the 560,000 + Welsh speakers in this country all live on an island, completely unconnected to the rest of Welsh society. We all interact with each other through family and work and so many of this ‘silent majority’ will have Welsh speaking colleagues and family members, and as a result will agree with or be indifferent towards Welsh Government policy. As far as education is concerned, a recent poll carried put by Yougov showed that many people in Wales, Welsh speaking or not, actually believe that the use of Welsh in the education system should be increased. Here is the story regarding said poll;
As I said, many people disagree with current trends in Welsh language planning and policy, but this mythical ‘silent majority’ does not exist on the scale you believe it does.
Just for the record those who promote the Y Fro World above all and including the Welsh speaking Labour Party leaders are damaging Wales.
These are the issues that should feature large in the Welsh media and the Assembly too and the debate must not be buried or silenced as there is so much at stake -Social Engineering can’t work or last long in any ‘Democratic Society’!!??
Despite the diatribes from the usual suspects, there is an important issue regarding culture and the Welsh language to be explored here. The prevailing culture within the world of Welsh language education is that of Cymreictod, having as its focus both the National Eisteddfod and the Urdd Eisteddfod. What has also occurred recently is the retreat of S4C from the capital back to the Fro in Carmarthen. There are good language planning reasons for this. It’s clear that areas such as Ceredigion and Sir Gâr are feeling the strongest effects of the decline in the numbers of Welsh speakers. It makes sense therefore to locate one of the language’s most prestigious institutions in those areas in order to help turn the tide and strengthen the presence and profile of the Welsh language.
However, it also seems to me that there is a cultural aspect to this which does not get discussed. As i said, the culture employed to support the language has traditionally been that of Cymreictod. The difficulty that arises from this is when we are trying to promote the language in areas where Cymreictod is not the prevailing culture and, more importantly, has very little prospect of becoming so. I have lived in Cardiff for some 25 years and taught Welsh to adults for some 22 years of that, and my family connections with Wales are with Cardiff. For that reason, I never felt a part of Cymreictod culture since it’s not the culture of the city that is my home. This is not something to be derided. Cymreictod is a part of Cardiff largely through the presence of families with their roots in the Fro. But it is far from being the only culture of any note.
My concern is that, in investing in language planning and seeking a national status for the language that is something more than just an official legal status, we are investing all of our language eggs in one cultural basket. This strikes me as a policy that runs contrary to the nature of modern democratic societies which seek to encourage a multi-cultural basis to our society that is inclusive.
And by multi-cultural, I don’t just mean the inclusion of people from ethnic minorities, but the recognition that white Wales is also multi-cultural whether that be based on class, geography, political views or social identification. I can’t help wondering whether part of the problem of Welsh pupils not speaking Welsh beyond the school gates, is that the culture of the schoolyard does not accord with what’s happening on the outside.
Not having attended a Welsh medium school, I’m not in a position to comment authoritatively on this matter but I would be interested in hearing the views of those who did, even if only to prove me wrong.
Ben Screen – I am aware of the poll that you refer to, but I don’t really think that it tells the whole story. Yes – it would certainly be nice if everyone communicated in Welsh, but how to do it and the practicalities, that is another set of questions which might get a rather different answers. As to numbers, the majority in Wales do not speak Welsh and I think that you will find that even when they do have an opinion of this, they are often reticent about expressing it. To disagree is not PC and why should we upset those who are passionate about the subject?
Yes – it might be nice if more ‘proper’ Welsh could be used in the education system, but do you really think that there are sufficient resources and fluent Welsh speakers to achieve that? The danger is that poor teaching and paying lip-service to the ideal may merely result in turning youngsters off. To become fluent in a language you need total immersion both in school and out of it and the earlier you start the better.
Ben Screen – What I am trying to say is that you need to be realistic about what can be achieved regarding the extent to which you can make Wales bilingual. Unless there is some catastrophe which physically isolates Wales you are not going to stop immigration and emigration. And without a sudden vast increase in the number of fluent Welsh teachers and isolation from the English media, the chances of children from non-Welsh speaking homes becoming even moderately fluent in Welsh are similarly very tiny. There is goodwill towards the language, but there is also a danger that pushing too hard will lose that goodwill. What people say to pollsters is one thing, what they really think and feel may well be very different. And despite the protestation of several on this forum, it is a difficult language for anyone beyond a certain age. No language is a problem for toddlers, but once the brain has pruned away the sounds it doesn’t need becoming fluent in a new language becomes much harder. And, as I pointed out in an article a year or so ago, there are inherent problems and difficulties in the language itself, and the attitudes and way in which it is taught to mature students.
Glasnost UK is correct. The Welsh speaking fanatics have taken over the Labour Party. It is now difficult for an English speaker to join Labour, and take part in discussions. Social engineering has now gone mad. It is very difficult to get on in Wales as an English speaker. Only UKIP can sort out this terrible situation, and make us proud to be British once again.
Whilst not exactly the counsel of despair, Colin Miles does offer the counsel of anxiety. No-one involved in trying to develop a living future for Welsh is unaware of the fact that it will happen in a bilingual society where English is the majority language. For me, this is the context within which we operate, for Colin it is a source of anxiety. This also indicates a particular view of language learning based on learning a majority language. Were someone to learn French in France or Italian in Italy (or even English in England) it would be a process of being assimilated into a majority language. Learning Welsh is socially different. It requires a certain degree of determination to speak a minority language. There is an element of standing out from the majority about it. That can bring with it its own anxieties.
However Colin goes beyond this. He states that, “… the chances of children from non-Welsh speaking homes becoming even moderately fluent in Welsh are similarly tiny.” One would expect research to be cited for such a sweeping claim but that is not necessary when opinion based on anxiety is more important than fact. Fortunately, we do have research on which we can draw with confidence cited in the article above. It shows that children from non-Welsh backgrounds under-perform less in Welsh schools than in English ones. This would suggest that all children in Welsh medium schools are getting a good basic education. This clearly answers Colin’s point but I’m pretty sure it will be ignored. However the same report shows that children from NW backgrounds were less likely to overachieve. This is an important educational issue since it impacts upon the life chances and employment prospects of children from NW backgrounds. But it is an educational issue that needs to be discussed in educational terms. Is there a way of changing or adapting the teaching methods to overcome these differences? However what is clear is that Colin’s view bears no relation to reality.
As Colin says, he has made negative comments about Welsh for adults before as well as disparaging and inaccurate remarks about the nature of the Welsh language itself. However the evidence is that the majority of adult learners are able to thrive using the current educational methods for adults. When I was teaching, we use to retain about 7 out of every 10 that started. Of those that left, the reasons were many and various. One of the more common ones was the commitment of time required to undertake the learning method. There were a few who simply did not take to the methods employed but they were few and far between. Most people trusted in the ability of the tutor to do his or her job and they also understood the importance of practice.
I have no doubt that Colin gives us a very sincere perspective on his own circumstances but it would be misleading to accept this as representing a commonly held view or experience of the Welsh language and that, in itself, damages attempts to overcome the difficulties that the Welsh language faces in seeking a more secure future for itself.
Hyder nid pryder* has to be the basis for analysis and future action.
(*Confidence not anxiety)
@ Ben Screen
Ah yes we can all trust a poll by Cymdeithas yr Iaith Cymraeg cant we! It was a loaded question in that it asked ‘should it be taught effectively’ and not ‘should it be taught at all’… which is pretty fundamental given that Welsh is already and has long been compulsory to the age of 16. Answering no suggests that you desire those (already) compulsory Welsh lessons to be a waste of time where the language is taught ineffectively and the kids just muck around.
Also, you didnt quote all of the poll did you? You didnt quote the part that found that the majority did not want some other subjects to be taught through the medium of Welsh in English Medium schools. In other words, the public (if you can call a sample in a cymdeithas poll that) were very clear that they did not want English medium schools ‘Cymreigified’.
@ Colin Miles
“There is goodwill towards the language, but there is also a danger that pushing too hard will lose that goodwill.”
It’s not difficult to interpret a pronouncement of this type as a form of passive aggressive threat. Be still little dragon or the silent Lion that indulges you now might wake up and swat you. Someone, sometime probably published a cartoon.
“And despite the protestation of several on this forum, it is a difficult language for anyone beyond a certain age.”
Didn’t the protestations come from linguists and professional language teachers. but then wot they no eh.
“And, as I pointed out in an article a year or so ago, …”
You my have pointed it out but then weren’t you writing your article from the viewpoint of a learner who had struggled with learning the language. Attitude and motivation count for a huge amount when learning a language. This is not to cope with what you rationalize are “inherent problems and difficulties in the language itself” but to compensate for the inherent problems and difficulties associated with the attitude and motivation that some monoglots of advancing years might bring to the learning a new language.
I am concerned that the PISA results are clearly showing Welsh education is going down the pan compared to the rest of the World. PISA is an international organisation based in Paris and are not connected with the wicked English so what are we going to do and who in Wales is going to be accountable if we carry on going down? If our education was a private business it would of gone out of business by now so let us work on the real problem and make people accountable.
If the answer is…
“Presiding Officer, I have to say that I am not familiar with the particular freedom of information request to which the Member refers, but I am very happy to take a close look at the problem that she has raised and write to her with some conclusions and thoughts about that.”…..
Then what is the question?
Minister, freedom of information request figures obtained by a constituent of mine, highlighted a discrepancy in outcomes at the key stage 2 level in Welsh-medium schools, particularly among those who come from English-speaking homes but attended Welsh-medium education. All of these data will have been reported to your department. What have you done to look at why that gap is there and to ensure that these pupils achieve their potential, regardless of which language they are taught in?”
It has always worried me that, when there is such a blatant injustice to children in Wales as that perpetrated under the compulsory Immersion system used in the Fro Cymraeg, no one in authority EVER seems to acknowledge that injustice. It is almost as if the EU “Rights of the child” legislation applies only in favour of pupils from Welsh speaking homes and the right of pupils from English speaking homes to choose to be educated through the language of their home is of no importance.
The question asked above by a Conservative AM is the first occasion that I am aware of where an AM of ANY persuasion has dared to raise the issue of under performance in WM schools. Mss Sandbach did so at my request after I had already written to the Minister.
What was my question to Huw Lewis……?
Questions that I would like the Minister to address:
Is the Minister aware that, when Socio economic profiles of schools are taken into account (free school meals eligibility), Welsh medium schools perform at a lower level than English medium schools in the core subjects on average at all Key stages?
Is the Minister aware that pupils who have English as their home language fail to reach their full potential in WM schools?
Does the minister think that it is appropriate for his government to encourage parents to send their children to WM schools without openly telling them that those schools are likely to disadvantage their children in many ways?
Is the minister aware that parents in several authorities have no option but to send their children to WM schools?
Does the Minister consider that, when they employ specialist Welsh language education advisers such as ********, they are unlikely to get impartial, objective advice on Welsh Medium education and strategy?
Will the Minister assure me that he will initiate proper academic analysis and analysis from Estyn that looks at the performance of WM schools (taking FSMs into account) and looking at how English L1 pupils achieve in WM schools in comparison with Welsh L1 pupils and EM school pupils?
The answer given to Antoinette Sandbach seems to confirm one thing at least: NO, the Minister knows nothing , but does he CARE is the biggest question.
: “. Fortunately, we do have research on which we can draw with confidence cited in the article above. It shows that children from non-Welsh backgrounds under-perform less in Welsh schools than in English ones. This would suggest that all children in Welsh medium schools are getting a good basic education.”
That interpretation is wrong Rhobat. The problem comes from the imbalance in numbers of pupils in schools with very high levels of deprivation.
In WM schools with over 32% of pupils on FSMs there are 247 pupils and this is 3% of all WM pupils. The average FSM percentage amongst that 247 is 36%.
In EM schools with over 32% of pupils on FSMs there are 5,722 pupils and this is 23% of all EM pupils. The average FSM percentage amongst that 5,722 is 40%.
Mirain treats each FSM school group as though they have equal value in the calculation when almost all WM pupils are actually in the groups of schools where the English L1 pupils under perform (more pupils fail to reach Level4) the corresponding English medium schools.
Virtually all that the Welsh Medium school supporters are ever saying is “We come from better off families therefore we are superior.”
Doesn’t sound so good put like that does it?
Capt]M – “And, as I pointed out in an article a year or so ago, …”
You my have pointed it out but then weren’t you writing your article from the viewpoint of a learner who had struggled with learning the language. – I am sorry but I was – don’t know why you thought otherwise. There were actually a couple of articles if I remember correctly. Perhaps you didn’t see the very first one. That only appeared because the then director exactly agree with the sentiments expressed.
And ‘“And despite the protestation of several on this forum, it is a difficult language for anyone beyond a certain age.”
Didn’t the protestations come from linguists and professional language teachers. but then wot they no eh.” Well exactly. The problem is that teachers and pupils do rather see things in a different light. And so often they have difficulty in truly understanding the problems that learners have.
Rhobat Jones – ‘When I was teaching, we use to retain about 7 out of every 10 that started. ‘ I think you are being a bit optimistic regarding the numbers, certainly in this part of the country. And as for the fluency of those learners, from what I see and hear the best way to describe it would be semi-fluency, and only in the spoken language.
But if you are all happy with the current situation with regard to teaching then so be it.
This is a discussion that needs to be had – and it must be based on robust research and reliable data.
@ Colin Miles
“The problem is that teachers and pupils do rather see things in a different light. And so often they have difficulty in truly understanding the problems that learners have.”
When someone is learning a language new to them they basically have to accept the new language’s rules, its defining characteristics, its idiosyncrasies. That’s the case for any language being learnt including English.
Choosing to put effort into “improving” the “learnability” of the new language based on a rudimentary knowledge of it rather than develop proficiency in it is an interesting choice.
Attitude to the language being learnt and motivation to learn it must surely contribute to the decision made even if the age of the pupil is taken into account.
@ Colin Miles
There is no optimism regarding the figure I quoted. It is based on a yearly tracking exercise to see how far students progress in their studies. The figure of 7 out of 10 relates to those progressing from Mynediad/Sylfaen to Canolradd (GCSE). The figure for those progressing from Canolradd to Uwch was much lower. There are a number of possible reasons for this. It could be that the commitment involved to get to Canolradd was enough (it does take commitment like any learning) and that they didn’t fancy another two years of study. Equally it could be that the level of fluency achieved at Canolradd was sufficient for their needs. Therefore to progress any further would have been unnecessary from their point of view. With regards fluency, my experience suggests that this is more to do with the frequency of practice rather than the education offered.
With regards tutors having some sort of partisan view, it is the job of the tutor to see things from the student’s point of view. A good tutor will seek to establish in what way the members of his or her class learn and then seek to connect that with the class method. This includes adapting the class method to accommodate individuals. Every individual has their own learning method so understanding this is the basis of a good education, adult or otherwise. The idea that a tutor simply dispenses knowledge in the hope that students will catch some of it in passing is unsophisticated, to say the least.
When assessing any individual having learning difficulties, it’s important to have some ideas to start with as to what the problem may be. This is part instinct, part reason and part experience. However this is not enough on its own. It’s important to discuss with the student what their perspective on the situation is. To impose theories or solutions without hearing from the person having the problem would be damaging.
In general, Welsh for Adults has adopted the Wlpan method of teaching which has proved successful over a period of 40 years, for the majority of adult students. However one size does not fit all. I have often argued that there needs to be educational research into alternative language learning methods that could be used as the basis for offering other courses. Unfortunately all of that takes time and money which is not very forthcoming. It is only in about the last 10 years that Government policy has treated WL adult education seriously and there is still a long way to go. The main focus has been on WL medium schools and, to a lesser extent, Welsh as a 2nd language in EL medium schools, though the latter has turned out to be pretty disastrous, despite the efforts of some very committed individuals.
If there is a proto-political agenda to be discerned here, it is the perception that 2nd language learners are receiving an education less adequate than that offered to 1st language speakers. Given the growing importance of Welsh speaking as a job skill, everyone would want to ensure all attain the same level of achievement and the focus should now shift to level of ability, rather than the 1st and 2nd language model that we have inherited.
But if that discussion is to be constructive and useful, it needs to happen, as Carol O’Byrne, implies within the terms of an educational discussion using verifiable data and not used as a stick with which to beat WL education over the head or exercise the usual anti-Welsh rhetoric from the usual suspects.
If I might return to W.Thomas’s remark:
” J. Jones mentions Ellen Bialystok – she concluded that “for bilinguals/ multilinguals the age of onset of dementia was 4 years later than for monolinguals”. I will resist the temptation of commenting further on this point!”
The problem is that W Thomas is cherry picking particular studies. In all this research there were significant confusion factors and later studies either failed to replicate the work of Bialystock or found that the bi-lingual effect was limited to particular groups of bilinguals. Particularly later Canadian and American studies found no bilingual advantage amongst established English L1 bilinguals although immigrant bilinguals did show an advantage. Similarly tests involving second generation bilingual Japanese-Americans found that monolingual Americans in the study outperformed this bilingual group and were later in showing signs of dementia.
In Wales the evidence is that there is no significant bilingual advantage with regard to the age of diagnosis of dementia and that cognitive degeneration was more advanced amongst Welsh/English bilinguals at the time of diagnosis. In other words bilinguals were later in seeking professional help.
In other tests monolinguals showed significant advantages over bilinguals. As I understand it the general consensus emerging is that immigrant populations of bilinguals are actually disproportionately “Healthy Stock” and exhibit traits of energy, invention and vigour that are themselves beneficial to cognitive function.
In Wales the latest research was published this month by Bangor University. The study lead by Prof Linda Clare concludes thus:
The study did not provide evidence for a bilingual advantage in executive control
tasks involving inhibition and management of response conflict, or in other aspects of
executive function, in Welsh/English bilinguals, whether healthy older people, people
with PD, or people with AD. In the healthy older group, there was a tendency for
monolinguals to perform better. The study did not provide clear evidence for a
significant delay in onset of AD in Welsh/English bilinguals, and the findings
suggested that bilinguals are diagnosed somewhat later in the course of the disease
when they are more cognitively impaired. A possible explanation for the absence of
any bilingual advantage may lie in the nature of the sociolinguistic context in Wales
and its influence on cognitive processing in the bilingual group. “
CapM – ‘Choosing to put effort into “improving” the “learnability” of the new language based on a rudimentary knowledge of it rather than develop proficiency in it is an interesting choice.’ i was taking the example of the Israelis who did just that with the development/redevelopment of modern Hebrew and also looking at the later surveys which showed that Wplan didn’t actually work for them as intended. As for motivation, I did 6 years of classes and still ‘keep my hand in’, if you will forgive the expression. One of the more off-putting aspects of learning Welsh is being in situation where you are trying to learn and use the language but are faced with too much Wenglish.
CapM – To add to my last comments, even if you don’t want to/can’t ‘improve’ or modernise the language I would suggest that it might be helpful to know why learners have difficulties. It might even help with the teaching of it, or maybe not. And as I said to Rhobat if teachers are happy with the current situation then so be it.
I really wish people would stick to the core issue here which is the significant damage being done to L1 English kids in WM schools but since the massive red herring of ‘dementia protection’ has been raised again by the author of this article it is probably worth mentioning that the study published from Bangor Uni this month by Linda Clare also includes amongst its co-authors Ellen Bialystok and Enlli M Thomas who is also a co-author of Marain Rhys, so her inclusion of the ‘dementia protection’ myth in this article arguably takes some swallowing in the first place!
Bilingualism, executive control, and age at diagnosis among people with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease in Wales
We have to link the analysis of school performance at KS 2 with relevant research though John. The number of increasingly hysterical claims for bilingual advantage in Welsh medium schools do need to be challenged. Most particularly the Welsh Government’s own “Department for Welsh in Education” makes extravagant claims on behalf of WM schools and goes unchallenged. You would think that studies from Prof Gathercole did not exist:
” a recent study by Gathercole et al. (2014), who tested a large number of Welsh children and adults in different tasks (n = 650 in a card sorting task, n = 557 in the Simon task and n = 354 in a grammaticality judgment task). The different groups tested included English monolinguals and bilinguals coming with different degrees of use of Welsh and English (i.e., bilinguals who only spoke Welsh at home, bilinguals who used both Welsh and English at home, and bilinguals coming from English-speaking homes). Importantly, Gathercole et al. found no evidence for a bilingual advantage. No differences were found in the switch cost or overall performance in the card sorting task. Similarly, negligible differences were found in the Simon task. The grammaticality judgment task also failed to reveal any systematic bilingual advantage.”
I cannot comment on the literature on the cognitive effects of bilingualism in general. I believe it is less controversial, however, that bilingualism makes subsequent language acquisition easier. Whether that is for neurological reasons or is simply a matter of confidence I don’t know. It seems to me a missed opportunity in Wales that our bilinguals are not taught other languages in infancy. The English are notoriously poor at languages in general – for cultural not neurological reasons – and the Welsh are missing the chance to be the UK’s linguists and interpreters.
Rhobat – ‘The figure of 7 out of 10 relates to those progressing from Mynediad/Sylfaen to Canolradd (GCSE). The figure for those progressing from Canolradd to Uwch was much lower. ‘ This would explain our differences. I wouldn’t regard getting to Canolradd as indicating any real sort of fluency. If you can’t go beyond the level of general, rather mundane conversation and idle chatter and have to revert to English for the expression of more complex ideas then I don’t and didn’t regard that as being in any way fluent, or even semi-fluent. And yes, 2 more years of study is a commitment.
“To add to my last comments, even if you don’t want to/can’t ‘improve’ or modernise the language I would suggest that it might be helpful to know why learners have difficulties. It might even help with the teaching of it, or maybe not.”
Taking heed of learners’ difficulties is important. I don’t see any disagreement on this thread on that.
The frustration you appear to have experienced in learning Welsh is nowhere near unique. Every minute of every day across the globe those learning a new language experience the same type of frustration that encountering a language that does not conform to the language “norms” they might attribute to their first language brings.
I would have thought that your take on the solution is rather more unique. I don’t know, maybe Spanish Guitar tutors are regularly being told by students that there would be a lot more Spanish guitar payers if only they got rid of a couple of strings on the instrument.
CapM – I think by interpreting what I wrote as being merely my frustrations rather those of learners in general – that’s why the articles were published – you are ducking the issues, namely that for English speakers Welsh is a difficult language to learn and that there are problems with the way it is taught.
Total immersion in a language for several months seems to be the only sure way that an adult can hope to become fluent in it. But this sort of language isolation is exceedingly difficult to do in Wales where English is the main language. And how many adults have the time and money to do this? As for school-children, isolating them from the English language is even more problematic.
Shutting ones eyes to the problems won’t make them go away if you wish to save the language. And then there is the question, what sort of language are you saving? Just the spoken language of the ‘ordinary’ folk, or the more literary written language, etc.? Or maybe you want to bridge the gaps and save everything. If so, how?
Fluency in a language should mean that one has the ability to largely live your life in that language without recourse to another.
” I think by interpreting what I wrote as being merely my frustrations rather those of learners in general – that’s why the articles were published – you are ducking the issues, namely that for English speakers Welsh is a difficult language to learn and that there are problems with the way it is taught.”
Firstly – Improving teaching methods, increasing the number of Welsh speakers and raising the level of fluency is not why I’m not having this discussion with you. The reason is because you advocate modifying the Welsh language to make it easier for English speakers to learn.
Secondly – Congratulations on having had your articles published on IWA’s clickonwales website. However an expert on language teaching it makes you not. Neither am I by the way,
My experience attempting to learn new languages is that every occasion the – this language is unnecessarily complicated/difficult – frustration surfaced in pretty much every pupil including me. In discussion with other learners it’s clear to me that it occurs with the learning of many other languages including English. It’s a universal whine of learners. For some learners it’s a brief (recurring)phase for others it becomes a perpetual excuse or even it seems the logic for modifying the language itself.
Perhaps we are at cross purposes and the point you’re getting at is that rather than can’t, English speakers won’t learn Welsh unless it is made easier for them. If so I’d say we need to address that attitude in addition to the teaching of Welsh.
I am always looking for an opportunity to agree with you Ross and it may be that there is hope on the issue of learning a third language in Welsh Medium schools.
The problem is that so few pupils in WM schools actually study a third language at GCSE. The lowest uptake of modern foreign languages in Wales is often said to be Merthyr with 11% of pupils taking a GCSE in a MFL in 2013. Unfortunately this is wrong; Ynys Mon is lower with 10.5%. Gwynedd not much better with just 14% taking GCSE in a MFL. However, if you look at just the 13 WM schools in Gwynedd only 11.6% of pupils take a MFL. The one EM school, Friars, has the lions share of linguists.
As I have said before uptake of MFLs is mostly confined to schools with low percentages of pupils on free school meals and almost all WM schools fall into this group. Merthyr on the other hand is very poor and consequently MFLs are not popular.
It’s just not possible to say that pupils taking Welsh first language are outstanding in a third language…..but you can say that MFLs are not widely pursued in WM schools. We in Wales have just 22% of our pupils taking a MFL at GCSE; England is back up near the 50% mark purely by making a MFL essential to the English Bacc qualification. If we want to be a nation of linguists we have to make a MFL part of the Welsh Bacc.
I would tend to agree with you on one point however; I think that having Welsh and English spoken in schools (particularly WM schools of course) normalises the idea of speaking another language and, hopefully, removes the stigma of “making mistakes” in speaking another language which is a turn off for many pupils.
CapM – yes I do think that the language needs modernising rather like Hebrew was, but I fear it is too late even though there has been some tinkering. And yes, all learners whine about the difficulties of learning a new language. Changing attitudes? If you can suggest any sensible ways then I am sure that teachers and learners will be ever grateful to you, but again I think you are passing the buck.
The trouble is Colin that you base your view of modernisation on making Welsh similar to English, turning a Celtic language into a Germanic one. Never going to happen, is it?
@ J Jones
Apologies for the delay in replying to your post.
I think my reason for the delay is that I found it hard to unpick the information you presented. That probably says something about the speed of my intellectual faculties these days.
Let me take one paragraph as an example.
“In WM schools with over 32% of pupils on FSMs there are 247 pupils and this is 3% of all WM pupils. The average FSM percentage amongst that 247 is 36%.”
I don’t understand what the figure of 247 pupils is meant to represent. Clearly it does not represent the number of pupils on FSMs since in the second half of your sentence, you state that figure as being 36% of 247 which is 89, rounded up. Is this a figure per school? Does this figure represent primary schools and secondary schools or just one of these levels? I would be grateful for some clarification.
Rhobat – ‘The trouble is Colin that you base your view of modernisation on making Welsh similar to English, turning a Celtic language into a Germanic one. ‘ Not really. But all languages evolve and change. The direction they take is determined by those who use it and the environment in which they are used. As English is the dominant language it is probably inevitable that it will influence Welsh in some way. In fact it already does. Just look at word order not to mention the words that are used. And of course there is Wenglish.
Yes I’m aware that languages develop. The only influence that English has on Welsh is in terms of vocabulary. You cite changes in word order that has been caused to Welsh by English. Perhaps you could supply an example; I’m not aware of any.
Yes it is all very confusing and when the BBC and Mirain simplified it they changed the data so that it looked as if pupils in Welsh medium schools were less likely to under-achieve.
The figures I am quoting relate to Key stage 2 Assessments in 2014. My FOI responses are linked to in the article.
Pupils who come from a deprived background (usually measured by eligibility for free school meals) do not do well in school assessments therefore any school which has a high percentage of pupils eligible for FSMs is very likely to have poor achievement levels.
The Welsh (and all other) departments of education recognise deprivation as a significant challenge in any school and therefore to compare schools they are arranged in groups with similar FSM percentages.
Those people who want to compare WM schools favourably with EM schools only have to ignore FSM benchmarks and group all WM schools and compare them with all EM schools and……BINGO! WM schools look very good.
If you look at the government education statistics sites you can see WM-EM benchmarked comparisons:
Look at KS2 benchmarks. Take a look at the number of schools in the group:-” Welsh medium with more than 32% eligible for FSMs” in those schools. Just 16 Schools, so, very few, and I have used the figure for pupils in those schools and calculated the actual percentage of them who are eligible for FSMs. Now look at the number of schools which are EM amongst the most deprived groups….212 schools and many of them a lot more deprived than any WM schools. Consequently there are a far greater number of pupils actually eligible for FSMs in that group of EM schools and the average overall percentage is actually higher. As I said 36% of pupils (WM) against 40% of pupils (EM) actually eligible for FSMs.
Therefore it is an unfair comparison in those groups of schools since the level of challenge in the WM schools is far less.
At all the other benchmarks that I calculated the actual percentage of pupils eligible for FSMs within the groups was identical in both WM schools and EM schools and so those comparisons were fair.
There is no completely fair way to come up with a single figure in the way that the BBC did. Perhaps the closest that you could get is to take a matched sample at each benchmark….which I might try to do later…but even then the EM schools would be unfairly treated. However bringing their most deprived schools down to 3% of their total instead of 23% would make the disadvantage much smaller.
@@ Colin Miles
Changing attitudes? If you can suggest any sensible ways then I am sure that teachers and learners will be ever grateful to you, but again I think you are passing the buck. ”
Back to my first post – a start would be to normalize the use of Welsh so it’s heard numerous times a day by everyone. Simple phrases on the BBC and supermarket checkouts etc would be an easy step.
The idea that some may have and some may promote that Welsh is an archaic, inaccessible language becomes untenable.
Then hopefully the attitude that can manifest itself in a self appointed modernizer (or probably more accurately advocate of de-Welshifying the language ) evaporates.
The buck’s with you, no returns.
OK I’ve done a balanced comparison for all pupils in WM schools at KS2 in 2014 against all pupils in EM schools at KS2 in 2014.
That’s ALL pupils remember….pupils from English speaking homes in WM schools would do much worse in a similar comparison.
In ENGLISH 8.8% of pupils in WM schools fail to reach level 4.
In a similar sample 8% of pupils in EM schools fail to reach level 4
In ENGLISH 38% of pupils in WM schools reach level 5 or higher.
In a similar sample 43% of pupils in EM schools reach level 5 or higher.
in MATHS 8.8% of pupils in WM schools fail to reach level 4.
In a similar sample 7.7% of pupils in EM schools fail to reach level 4.
In Maths 39% of pupils in WM schools reach level 5 or higher.
In a similar sample 43% of pupils in EM schools reach level 5 or higher.
The irony is that it is not only pupils from English speaking homes who under perform in WM schools; there is evidence that the pupils from Welsh speaking homes would progress much faster if they were not being fed dumbed- down work suitable for the non- Welsh L1 pupils. WM schools are a lose-lose fudge that no one dares to criticise.
CapM – ‘Back to my first post – a start would be to normalize the use of Welsh so it’s heard numerous times a day by everyone. Simple phrases on the BBC and supermarket checkouts etc would be an easy step. ‘ Alas such a simple approach is unlikely to work in this day and age. People haven’t the time or patience to put up with that – indeed it might well irritate. And simple phrases is one of the problems with the teaching of Welsh to adults. It might seem a good idea but people end up reverting to English to express more complex ideas because they haven’t either the vocabulary or the grammar to do more.
Not sure what ‘The buck’s with you, no returns.’ is meant to mean.
Rhobat – sentence order – look at the construction of sentences which are translated from English to Welsh and those in Welsh written by English speakers. Maybe I am wrong but I think the English order is becoming more prevalent. David Bellos in his book, ‘Is that a fish in your ear’ noted the same kind of thing with Swedish.
Rhobat – To add to my last comment, it is not only Swedish, but also French and other languages showing the influence of English word order. Not surprising really as this kind of this has no doubt occurred throughout history. What I found with Wplan was that it didn’t give me the tools and understanding to develop my use of the language and go beyond the stock phrases that they teach. I could cope with the vocabulary and even some other aspects of the language but I, like many others too often ended up saying, or if not saying thinking, ‘how do you say this in Welsh?’
And of course to do develop real fluency would have meant much greater time and effort. But that is true of all languages if any sort of real fluency is to be developed. I can remember as a youngster that over the ages of around 10 to 12 my understanding and use of English developed enormously, mainly through reading – but obviously there was also total immersion. That is difficult in Wales and not helped by the standard of spoken Welsh. For a learner to be met with a mixture of dialect Welsh sprinkled with English words can make one wonder whether there is any point in learning the language.
The announcement today of a further £800,000 towards the language to create new learning centres may help, but I fear that it will merely turn out to be more wasted money.
@ Colin Miles
“Alas such a simple approach is unlikely to work in this day and age. People haven’t the time or patience to put up with that – indeed it might well irritate.”
So “Bore da” or “Diolch” should not be uttered for fear of irritating non-Welsh speakers.
If you are as you say you are, someone with the interests of Welsh speakers and language at heart then I think you really need to think through why you contribute to the discussion in the way you do.
Unfortunately I’m finding it difficult to differentiate between what you say and similar comments said by those who have demonstrated an unambiguous antipathy towards the Welsh language.
I think you’re confusing two things, standard Welsh and oral Welsh. If anything the structure of standard Welsh has been strengthened by the establishment of an education system up to postgraduate level. Oral Welsh comes in all shapes and sizes. To start with there is a wide range of dialects available in Welsh which, in my view, has helped to enrich the language. To quote one example, the word ‘yn’ meaning ‘in’ is followed by a nasal mutation, thus yn Caerdydd becomes yng Nghaerdydd. In the Swansea Valley, yn is followed by a nasal mutation, thus yn Caerdydd becomes yn Gaerdydd. Which is correct? Well neither. The first is standard Welsh and the second is the Cwm Tawe dialect. Both are correct.
I have also heard of schoolchildren who, when acquiring the language, make use of English patterns such as ‘wi’n cael pensil’ (I’m getting a pencil) when they mean to say ‘Mae pensil gyda fi’ (I have [possess] a pencil). The fact that people misuse patterns because they are translating literally from English does not change the structure of the Welsh language. With time, the child simply learns the difference between the two meanings and adjusts accordingly.
With regards the use of English vocabulary in Welsh speech, this usually comes from a generation of Welsh speakers that did not have the benefit of a Welsh education to strengthen their knowledge. My personal favourite was heard on Radio Cymru from a West Walian who, when talking about a friend, stated, “Mae e wedi reito bwc.” The influence of English can be seen in the verb ‘reito’ from to write and ‘bwc’ from book. However the structure of the sentence is clearly Welsh: Verb (Mae), Subject (e) Object (bwc).
Which brings me to my final point about vocabulary which is that it does not define a language, the structure is what gives a language its identity, as outlined in the example above. Another good example is English. If you take out the Greek, Latin and Norman French vocabulary from the dictionary, you’re not left with very much. The strength of the English language has been its ability to absorb vocabulary from all languages whilst retaining its essential structure which makes it identifiable as English. It has absorbed words such as ‘bungalow’ from Gujarati, ‘beef’ from French and ‘dad’ from Welsh. The Welsh language is no different in that respect. Over time however, new words are coined to take the place of English. Teledu is a comparatively new word which emerged from a radio competition in the 1970s to find a Welsh word for television, if my memory serves me correctly. Another example is gliniadur which has emerged in the last 20 years or so and means laptop.
Welsh therefore has nothing to fear from the vocabulary of other languages. Its strength will lie in its ability to absorb them.
J.Jones you are a breath of fresh and reasonable air with an opinion based on sound evidential research. I implore you to maintain your fight for justice and an equitable education service. Michael Fullan a renowned educationalist in a recent discussion regarding ‘Technology, Pedagogy and Change Management” talks of the world’s most successful education systems being equitable.
As the world looks to improve pedagogy in individual education systems, Wales wallows in it’s battle with the benefits of bilingualism; I feel vindicated that I left to teach in a system that takes individual learning seriously. I have written this a number of times and will continue to do so; I am Welsh. I do not speak Cymraeg. I do not need to speak Cymraeg to be Welsh. It sums up succinctly the dichotomy in Wales. Labour education policy is a one size fits all approach for teachers and more importantly students. The one size fits all will always prevent students from reaching their potential as they can not choose the direction they want to specialise in because someone somewhere has decided children need a ‘balanced’ education and an empathy for Cymraeg.
It is quite wrong to make claims that children are free to choose an English stream in WM schools. In Carmarthenshire when Ysgol y Gwendraeth was merged with Maes a 2B school where parallel streams operate was not even offered to parents even though there were parents asking for it! Absolutely disgusting, intolerance.
Bilingualism is NOT THE ONLY FRUIT. Other domains of learning contribute significantly to expanding a students abilities in other areas of the curriculum. Researching ‘bilingualism’ is quite a waste of time and money in my opinion, there is plenty of evidence to support bilingualism as a method to improve language acquisition. There is also evidence to support claims that bilingualism helps you learn other subjects. BUT is there any evidence to support learning Cymraeg helps you reach your potential? How on earth can being coerced to study Cymraeg improve my student’s ability in maths?
If you want to do better in something you practice that skill… So learning Cymraeg and the curriculum Cymreig are not about bilingualism, the are about nationalism and Cymru nationalism at that. In 21st Century Wales Cymru-ism is a part, but it is not the only part, it is certainly not worth spending so much time and effort to indoctrinate people to assimilate one party’s perception on Wales.
At no time have the ‘government of Wales’ ever asked individual children in English medium schools whether they want to study Cymraeg. At no time have the ‘government of Wales’ ever asked individual teachers in English medium schools whether they want to regurgitate Cymraeg words.
I, for one, am not sympathetic to the plight of Cymraeg. Aesop’s fable of the wind and the sun springs to mind. Until such time as my Welshness is celebrated and tolerated by Y Fro I shall decline to take any part in promoting Cymraeg. I refused to regurgitate Cymraeg words at a professional development session run by a local authority member whilst teaching at a school in Wales. I resent the imposition that Wales belongs to us all, it’s akin to claiming a baby born in Germany this week is responsible for the horrors of the WW2. Welsh history does not belong to us all. We do not have the same history. Welsh history is being made to day, right now, by people objecting to Cymraeg Coercion. These are the silent majority, with no voice in the media (run by Labour) no voice in the assembly (Labour dominated) but every intention of ignoring social engineering and remaining Welsh and British.
The Welsh education system is not equitable.
Freedom to choose is the basis of an equitable education system. When you have so much unpopular coercion and so much social dependency – how can you ever have a top ten education service.
I am not some who has a linguistic bent, Throughout my life I have never had the necessity or desire to be bi-multi lingual., other than using the usual phrases of social politeness.
I have no idea of what the academic standard is for being fluent/bilingual but to me it is the ability to think in another language not go through a silent translation process, those people who do that to me can use another language but are not bilingual in the true sense.
I have always believed that totally educating someone in a language that is not their or their households mother tongue just must be disadvantageous to them and have a deep scepticism of WAG reports stating otherwise. so read this debate with interest.
Having read through all of the comments these are the contributions I found to be of note.
J.Jones seems to have put a huge effort over some time to factually establish his argument and try to hold WAG to account, and in most posts backs up what he says with numerical analysis. Well done to him on his efforts.
To read he had contacted the report author Prof Bailystock regarding (what I now know to be often misquoted ) report on Immersion teaching showed his determination to establish his facts and the quote from her reply was new information to me.
Posted Nov 5 8.45pm.
“The question that I asked was this: If immersion schooling is so advantageous why don’t the counties where immersion schooling is compulsory stand out as beacons of high academic achievement and multilingualism? The answer that I received was simple….there is no such thing as compulsory immersion schooling. The advantages of Immersion schooling are only evident amongst a self selecting group of willing participants. Compulsion is associated with “submersion” schooling; a wholly different and undesirable “ugly sister” to immersion.
For many of the early studies of immersion schooling the socio-economic status of the pupils in the comparisons was not taken into account. In later studies only “Natural” bilinguals were used. That is, pupils whose parents spoke both the target languages. It was also the case that the “mechanics” of literacy and numeracy acquisition were gained in the “first” or Home language of pupils from monoglot households who took part in studies. That is, immersion was a second phase.”
Surely that is something our academics and politicians should have been aware of!
Then jumping virtually to the end of the comments he has three good summaries of his facts, the first two repudiate the false claims for bilingual advantages (interestingly both quoting studies carried out in Wales).
a) Nov 26 9.18am >
In Wales the latest research was published this month by Bangor University. The study lead by Prof Linda Clare concludes thus:
The study did not provide evidence for a bilingual advantage in executive control tasks involving inhibition and management of response conflict, or in other aspects of executive function, in Welsh/English bilinguals, whether healthy older people, people with PD, or people with AD. In the healthy older group, there was a tendency for monolinguals to perform better. The study did not provide clear evidence for a significant delay in onset of AD in Welsh/English bilinguals, and the findings suggested that bilinguals are diagnosed somewhat later in the course of the disease when they are more cognitively impaired. A possible explanation for the absence of any bilingual advantage may lie in the nature of the sociolinguistic context in Wales
and its influence on cognitive processing in the bilingual group. “
B) Nov 26 3.02pm
The number of increasingly hysterical claims for bilingual advantage in Welsh medium schools do need to be challenged. Most particularly the Welsh Government’s own “Department for Welsh in Education” makes extravagant claims on behalf of WM schools and goes unchallenged. You would think that studies from Prof Gathercole did not exist:
” a recent study by Gathercole et al. (2014), who tested a large number of Welsh children and adults in different tasks (n = 650 in a card sorting task, n = 557 in the Simon task and n = 354 in a grammaticality judgment task).
The different groups tested included English monolinguals and bilinguals coming with different degrees of use of Welsh and English (i.e., bilinguals who only spoke Welsh at home, bilinguals who used both Welsh and English at home, and bilinguals coming from English-speaking homes). Importantly, Gathercole et al. found no evidence for a bilingual advantage.
No differences were found in the switch cost or overall performance in the card sorting task.
Similarly, negligible differences were found in the Simon task. The grammaticality judgment task also failed to reveal any systematic bilingual advantage.”
Together they seem to conclusively demolish the bilingual cognitive and health outpourings from WAG.
c) the final one is this on Nov28th 7.27pm which clearly and simply demonstrates the failure of WM where it matters most, the results the pupils gain, many of whom are the future of Wales
“OK I’ve done a balanced comparison for all pupils in WM schools at KS2 in 2014 against all pupils in EM schools at KS2 in 2014.
That’s ALL pupils remember….pupils from English speaking homes in WM schools would do much worse in a similar comparison.
In ENGLISH 8.8% of pupils in WM schools fail to reach level 4.
In a similar sample 8% of pupils in EM schools fail to reach level 4
In ENGLISH 38% of pupils in WM schools reach level 5 or higher.
In a similar sample 43% of pupils in EM schools reach level 5 or higher.
in MATHS 8.8% of pupils in WM schools fail to reach level 4.
In a similar sample 7.7% of pupils in EM schools fail to reach level 4.
In Maths 39% of pupils in WM schools reach level 5 or higher.
In a similar sample 43% of pupils in EM schools reach level 5 or higher.
The irony is that it is not only pupils from English speaking homes who under perform in WM schools; there is evidence that the pupils from Welsh speaking homes would progress much faster if they were not being fed dumbed- down work suitable for the non- Welsh L1 pupils. WM schools are a lose-lose fudge that no one dares to criticise.”
A phrase we used to hear in Wales in a different context years ago, was well done JJ, seems appropriate here/
All in all an enjoyable and enlightening read but on the downside I did find one contributor who seemed to be out of touch with the general ethos of the discussion was far too emotive rather than objective, even appeared to use the old cliche “if you don’t like it move away” to one contributor, also the reply to another were ageist, dismissive and offensive.
However, great debate.
“In the Swansea Valley, yn is followed by a nasal mutation …”
“In the Swansea Valley, yn is followed by a soft mutation …”
Since when did children up to the age of 14 ever had a choice about the subjects they study? Since when did children ever have a choice about studying English and Maths up to the age of 16?
Rhobat – ‘ If anything the structure of standard Welsh has been strengthened by the establishment of an education system up to postgraduate level. ‘ I am sure you are right about this. However,it is not the higher levels that I am thinking of, but the lower canolradd and what I would assume to be the level reached in schools by the majority of students, particular those from non-Welsh speaking homes. Don’t really think that this is sufficient to qualify as the sort of fluency that will maintain or increase the number of speakers and users of the language.
As for dialects, yes of course they enrich the language, but you don’t normally, as far as I aware, try to teach English using Geordie, or Brummie, or any other dialect. And the north/south attitude is not helpful.
CapM – I have no objections to the kind of simple phrases you mentioned. I was thinking you were advocating more than that. One problem that learners have is that if you reply in Welsh too often the response is to assume that you are Welsh speaking and be met with a ‘torrent’ of words you don’t understand.
I am trying to offer what I hope are constructive comments and to get people to think a little more deeply as to what the problems are. Like wake up and smell the coffee before it is too late. It is not a matter of being for or against.
It’s worse than that Whistleblower; Welsh medium education falls down at education and fails to teach Welsh effectively to the key target group.
The myth has always been repeated that any one can learn Welsh and that children will learn it easily if they are immersed in the language from entry into school. On completing school, the theory goes, all those Welsh medium schooled pupils will have access to the growing number of Welsh essential jobs and will, critically, provide the WM teachers of the future.
The data sets above show the failure to teach pupils from English speaking homes to a high standard and we already know that there is a consistent 18% drop out rate before key stage 3. Those dropping out are pupils who have failed to thrive in a Welsh medium environment. They will be disproportionately English L1, disproportionately from disadvantaged backgrounds and disproportionately boys. So much for “anyone can learn to speak Welsh”.
If you look at the WM schools outside the Fro Cymraeg they all have a gender imbalance towards girls. The average percentage of girls in all secondary schools is 48.6 at KS4. The average WM school population has 52.3% girls. At GCSE 2014 the entry was 52% girls but the A*-C pass percentage was 82% girls and 64% boys. At A level only 252 pupils took Welsh first language…..200 were girls.
The Welsh medium system is just a “sorting” scheme which drops failing pupils by the wayside and leaves English medium schools and streams to pick up the pieces. And even then, with a super elite of pupils, the WM schools under perform.
So what of the next generation? Clearly the ones who are thriving are Welsh L1 pupils from advantaged backgrounds and they (mostly girls) will go on to become the teachers and academics of the future. What they won’t be is science and maths teachers though because matching competence in A level Maths/Science with competence in Welsh amongst girls is difficult.
I have to ask, has Wales no shame? Have out politicians no sense? They already know that for each WM Primary teaching position there are 11 applicants but 33 for every EM primary school position. They already know that in WM schools subjects like Maths are more likely to be taught by non specialist teachers than in EM schools.
The WM school system has expanded too fast and has attracted pupils who shouldn’t be there but no one wants to confront this uncomfortable truth.
J.Jones “They already know that in WM schools subjects like Maths are more likely to be taught by non specialist teachers than in EM schools.”
When you say non Specialist does this mean they :-
a) they don’t have a degree in the subject
b) they have not been taught to teach the subject
Is using non specialist teachers for a subject in senior school allowed in England or in EM in Wales, or is this just a thing that happens in WM due to possible difficulties in finding a teacher who is competent in Welsh and a subject specialist in one of the sciences/maths.
There’s various evidence for the under provision of specialist teachers in Wales in particular, see;
Page 26: “PISA 2012 showed that 17% of principals reported the lack of qualified mathematics teachers hindering
their school’s capacity to provide instruction. For English principals the figure was 10%
(Wheater et al., 2013).”
The figures that I quoted above for number of applicants for each position showing that there is three times the number of applicants for each teaching job in EM schools as in WM schools come from last years data on teachers on statswales. A data set no longer collected unfortunately.
Comparison between EM and WM schools regarding non specialist (not none teacher qualified) teachers in subjects comes from a study by GTCW.
“Comparison of teachers working in Welsh medium and English medium primary and secondary schools”
Page 7. Overall 57.3% of teachers in WM secondary schools are teaching the subject in which they were trained. Overall 59.5% of teachers in EM schools are teaching the subject in which they were trained.
However in some subjects the difference is more marked: WM schools are short of trained Maths and English teachers and very short of IT teachers but have more trained science teachers than EM schools.
Welsh schools overall are short of particular subject trained teachers but with a gender imbalance favouring girls in GCSE Welsh, WM schools will struggle to find teachers in male dominated disciplines like IT and Maths. Shortage of choice also leads to lower quality.
Rhobat – You mention that 7 adults out of 10 get to the canolradd stage. I would be interested to know what the actual numbers are for adults learning Welsh for the whole of Wales. A few hundred maybe at any one time?
@ Colin Miles
The best people to provide that information would be the Department of Education at the National Assembly. But, if memory serves me correctly, we used to have about 2,000+ in Cardiff alone.
J Jones do you have any data on the question I asked on the 8th Nov. Which was that Science teaching in Welsh Medium schools used to be through the medium of english but now it rarely is. Has this led to any difference in outcome? This should be a very valuable comparison as it eliminates a number of variables.
Thanks for reply JJ.
Don’t happen to have stats on teacher/quals/ pre devolution do you.
Overall will do as I doubt if there were separate WM figs then.
I don’t know about that John Owen Jones. You assert that science teaching in Welsh medium and bilingual schools is now rarely through the medium of English but I haven’t seen the statistics for that assertion so I have no starting point from which to make a judgement. Science is an odd subject to do a study on because when you make a scatter graph of the results from all schools a trend line for both WM schools and EM schools looks much flatter than trend lines for maths or English. I think that 5 schools had 100% A*-C pass rate in 2013 and one of those schools had relatively high free school meals percentage (Flint High school with 19% FSMs).
Normally the lower the FSM percentage the higher the percentage pass rate on average but for science in 2013 you have normally high performing schools with few pupils from a deprived background (Bro Myrddin, FSM 3.2%, Science A*-C 77.4% or Cowbridge, FSM 4.1%, Science A*-C 74.2) being out performed by schools like Fitzalan, FSM 36.9%, Science A*-C 90.5% or Llanwern, FSM 37.3% Science A*-C 88.9%.
All in all It would be difficult to draw any conclusions.
The Cymraeg establishment will be delighted that your uncomfortable data is tucked nicely away here… at the bottom of a month old article.
Rhobat – thank you for your reply. I haven’t found that information yet but in the course of looking found the following – you may be aware of this anyway.
A rather long report (324 pages) but very interesting reading and it does highlight the enormous difficulties that Wfa faces. And I think that many, if not most of these problems will be similar to those faced by non-Welsh speaking youngsters in school. In particular the first comment below may well explain why there are the differences that J Jones has found in educational attainment.
Extracts have been shortened as much as seemed sensible!
CapM – you might find some of this of interest as well.
‘Most WfA practitioners and learners singled out the differences between WfA and the Welsh taught in schools, and favoured a closer correspondence. The main reasons given were that the variation was an obstacle to communication between parents and schools as well as being an additional complication to parents in their attempts to support their children with homework and other schoolwork using contrasting forms of Welsh
Some learners suggested that adult learners who had previously studied in school may not realize the correspondence between forms and that learners might be confused as to which form is most ‘correct’
It was noted by one director that some regions probably felt the contrast between WfA forms of Welsh and those forms used in the statutory education sector more acutely than others, depending on the tendency for parents of Welsh-speaking children to be adult learners of Welsh. However, recent research conducted in North Wales suggests that the issue of variation in the forms of Welsh between parents who are adult learners and their children, who are acquiring the language in school, may very well be manifest throughout Wales.’
‘Language distance – The current WfA materials take little notice of the linguistic distance between Welsh and English and the implications of it for how learners respond to the language. Unlike other languages that learners may have previously studied (e.g. French, German and Spanish), Welsh offers relatively few cognates, and Welsh words on the page can be very difficult to recognise and decode. ‘
‘The linguistic distance between written and spoken Welsh is quite substantial. Also, contemporary spoken Welsh is quite different to the language of the 1970s. ‘
‘Regarding language variety, a wide range of varieties exist in the Welsh language and local and regional dialects are highly prized by Welsh-speakers. Also, unlike many larger languages, no simple, single version of standard Welsh is recognised.’
‘In English, the majority of the most frequent vocabulary is consistent across texts and styles but with the Welsh language the distance between written and spoken forms is much greater. ‘
‘The matter of linguistic variation in Welsh is complicated by the fact of substantial distance between written and spoken forms of the language and also by the substantial influence of English. The linguistic norms of L1 Welsh-speakers include significant borrowings from English and regular code-switching between Welsh and English.’
‘WfA teaching has the challenge of low levels of existing knowledge of, and confidence with, grammar—particularly terminology—in both learners and tutors. A first step may therefore be developing the grammatical knowledge and confidence of tutors.’
‘Opportunities for interaction with native speakers – The difficulties that learners can experience in trying to use their Welsh with native speakers are often cited as a matter of concern and regret. Learners may find they are navigating a confusing path in their study, as they pay attention to learning how to undertake various exchanges and transactions in Welsh that they never have chance to undertake without a switch to English. The social aspects of language use are complex and it would be inappropriate simply to dismiss the response of native speakers as motivated by deliberate unhelpfulness to learners. Newcombe (2009: 62) points out that native speakers can also have difficulty in persuading strangers to speak Welsh to them, suggesting that many Welsh speakers may simply not be accustomed to talking to any strangers in Welsh. ‘
‘The current national definition of intensive teaching may be engendering false expectations among learners and even tutors.’
Yes SeaMor…..but the genie is out of the potel. The WAG has my uncomfortable data and analysis over some years …so does Estyn.
What is happening now is the deliberate misinforming of parents to persuade them to put their children in schools that will disadvantage them. What would happen if an irate parent decided to sue I wonder?
Ultimately we in Wales have been subject to a massive confidence trick where a select part of the population has “sold” a product,(WM schooling) not to benefit the recipients, (the children) but to benefit those providing the service…..First Language Welsh speaking teachers. Just 252 pupils took “A” level Welsh this year…..the Welsh teachers of the future. How many came from Welsh speaking homes do you think? We are looking at a hereditary elite.
J Jones thank you for your response. My assertion is more than that. When I took science in Rhydfelen the medium was english as was also the case in all the other WM schools in the 60`s and 70s. It now taught in welsh.
The statistics you quote for science going against trend for deprivation is fascinating and surely worthy of study. However are you reflecting all science results or only those for general science(generally thought to be easier).If you have omitted the separate sciences the reason for the apparent anomaly becomes clear.
Jon Owen Jones. I do think that you have put your finger on where the anomaly lies with regard to the atypical results for Science. GCSE Science results are reported as any Science and there are a number of different examinations. Schools with more able pupils enter their cohort for Chemistry, Physics and Biology separate Sciences. Schools with less able pupils (usually higher FSM percentages) enter pupils for additional science and general science. It may be that the separate Sciences were difficult to pass at level 2.
The anomaly occurs in smaller schools where the cohort is between 50 and 80 and having three classes and specialist teachers is not practicable. In those schools very able pupils are taking a Science exam that is easy (for them) to pass at level 2. I did raise this with the Dept of Ed. and they acknowledged that they would have to standardise more rigorously. This is happening next year I believe with a change in the Science curriculum and marking scheme.
As to making a comparison between when you were at Rhydfelyn and now….it’s not that easy. There isn’t a single date when all Science in all WM schools was suddenly taught through the medium of Welsh and, contrary to your assertion, where I live there are still English only Science teachers in the bi-lingual schools.
J Jones, I can see why comparisons of cohorts over 30yrs is difficult and it opens a can of worms over exam grade inflation however you point out that some WM schools still teach science in english so why cant their results be compared with those that do not?. If the samples are large enough it would seem to be a better test of your hypothesis than comparing english medium and welsh medium.
Following on from my discovery re Wfa I looked for something similar with regard to Welsh teaching in schools but so far have found nothing. Maybe someone else can point me in the right direction or maybe this just doesn’t exist. If so that is a great pity since this kind of study would be invaluable in discovering how effective the teaching and use of the Welsh language is in our schools. Or am I expecting too much?
” however you point out that some WM schools still teach science in English so why cant their results be compared with those that do not?”
That’s an impossible ask Jon. Consider the variables involved and the difficulty of collecting the data. It will always be the case that the socio-economic status (SES) of the school and the pupil will have the greatest impact on academic outcomes in any subject.
There is some evidence from an Estyn study that Science subjects are the most likely to be taken through the medium of English from the WM schools of the Fro Cymraeg.
So, for instance, Geography GCSE amongst non-FSM pupils through the medium of Welsh:479 pupils. Geography through the medium of English:299 pupils. History Welsh:612 history English:263. Drama Welsh:132 Drama English:50.
When it comes to technical subjects most likely to be taught in English; Biology Welsh:166 Biology English:313. Chemistry Welsh:182 Chemistry English:297 Physics Welsh:166 Physics English:310. ICT Welsh:109 ICT English:126.
I think that it’s an approximate indication that technical and science subjects are still predominantly taught through the medium of English in WM schools therefore pupils notes are in English and they are more likely to opt for the GCSE English medium exam. I would expect (though I don’t know) that examinations taken through the medium of Welsh would have a bias towards girls. That is more girls would take exams through Welsh because they are more successful at learning Welsh and more likely to have higher language performance.
Colin; you might find some data on the teaching of Welsh second language in schools but you will not find any criticism of the teaching of Welsh first language in schools. The myth that everything is rosy on the WM school front is sacrosanct.
@ Colin Miles
The situation regarding W2L in schools was reported on by Professor Sioned Davies to the Welsh Government. As far as I’m aware, the report was published.
J Jones thank you for your reply. I am sorry that you think its too difficult to do but I respect your view. I was a science student and I have often wondered whether i picked the subject or the medium.
Rhobat – thank you. The report is at
and the impression I gain is that the gap between the aspirations of Welsh language activists (also parents) and reality grows ever wider. If anything the situation is worse than with WfA.
J Jones – yes, if even a fraction of the problems with W2L are replicated with W1L …….
Some comments from the report for those who won’t read it all – it’s only 57 pages.
‘The cost implications of the recommendations have not been considered in this report, but the consensus view is that the key recommendations should be implemented from within existing budgets at a national, regional and local authority level. ‘
‘Estyn reports for several years have indicated that there is less good practice in the learning of Welsh as a second language compared with other subjects. The main reason given for this at Key Stage 2 is that teachers are not confident enough and lack the knowledge to teach Welsh to an appropriate level. At secondary level, there are insufficient opportunities for pupils to improve their ability to use Welsh other than in Welsh lessons. ‘
‘The percentage of pupils achieving the expected level (Level 5 or above) in 2012 was lower in Welsh second language than any other subject at 68.2%. The percentage achieving the expected level in modern foreign languages (MFL) in 2012 was 74.5%. There is no obvious reason why learners should achieve higher levels in MFL than Welsh second language as language skills and level descriptions in the subject Orders are comparable. In addition, in most cases learners begin learning Welsh second language earlier in their school career than MFL.”
‘In 2012 girls performed better than boys in all non-core subjects. However, the gap was greatest in Welsh second language (19.5 percentage points). There has been no improvement in this gap between girls and boys’ performance in the past six years. ‘
To get back to the main theme….how well do children from English first language homes do in Welsh medium schools?
I now have the data for linguistic continuity between Key stage 1 in 2006 and the same cohort in Key stage 3 in 2013. Of pupils from Welsh speaking homes; 6% who were assessed in Welsh in 2006 do not appear in the cohort when they are assessed in Welsh in 2013.
Of pupils from English speaking homes; 22% who were assessed in Welsh in 2006 do not appear in the cohort when they are assessed in Welsh in 2013.
Pupils from English speaking homes form the majority of the cohort in 2006 but are in a minority by 2013.
All of these statistics point to the abject failure of WM schools to actually teach Welsh to a high standard but the response to the problem is novel; instead of acknowledging the failure and addressing it the WG has preferred to launch a propaganda campaign to persuade parents to leave their children in WM schools and streams where their best interests will be ignored.
Comparison Welsh medium- English medium GCSE 2014 data has been released by the WG. You can see it here:
It’s interesting how gender dictates outcomes in Welsh particularly. Rather begging the question; if “anyone can learn Welsh…” and if “Kids just lap it up…” as the propaganda tells us, why don’t boys do as well as girls?
Welsh is like all other subjects; subject to aptitude and attitude.
@ J. Jones
“why don’t boys do as well as girls?”
I suspect it has a lot to do with the political correctness (read fear!) which has driven male teachers out of the teaching profession – especially in FS and KS2. Boys just don’t have enough of the kind of role models they want to work for any more… The rot sets in long before they reach GCSE…
Gary Wilson has produced an excellent resource for tackling boys underachievement. In the book there are a number of strategies that can be used to engage, challenge and praise boys by addressing a plethora of situations. The data J.Jones has linked is eye-opening but will be ignored once again. I fear for the education bill in front of ministers … “There are no powers to ensure learners across Wales take the same version of a qualification by restricting this to only one form provided by one awarding body.”
Why should children living in the UK and also Wales be denied access to versions of qualifications that can be sat in other parts of the UK and in private schools in Wales? This is a political aim not for the benefit of the children.
Professor Graham Donaldson from the university of Glasgow has responded to the Welsh government and reported on the building blocks for a new ‘Welsh’ curriculum. Am I the only one to notice the similarity to the Scottish ‘building blocks’ http://wales.gov.uk/docs/dcells/publications/141009-update-to-minister-en.pdf (Donaldson’s letter to the WG) and http://keyconet.eun.org/c/document_library/get_file?uuid=4e84983c-084e-4b8a-986f-fbd656d2e790&groupId=11028 (last but one slide) the Scottish curriculum review : An holistic approach Brussels Nov 2014.
THE WORDING IS IDENTICAL bar one word “Authentic: rooted in Welsh values and culture” as opposed to the Sottish version Authentic: rooted in agreed values and culture…
So we will have a Scots curriculum model. Perhaps the word ‘agreed’ has been removed because there is no agreement over the adjective “Welsh” .
“Just 252 pupils took “A” level Welsh this year…..the Welsh teachers of the future. How many came from Welsh speaking homes do you think? We are looking at a hereditary elite”.
The crachach lives on?
It’s very likely that most come from Welsh speaking homes because schools usually suggest only pupils who achieve A*-A at GCSE enter for A level courses.
The figures for GCSE Welsh 2014 by language spoken at home and FSM entitlement are on the disclosure log:
As you can see, pupils who speak Welsh at home make up 72% of all A*-A students. This ties in nicely with the Welsh Language Use survey that found that 79% of all Welsh Essential jobs were held by people who had at least one fluent Welsh speaking parent.
We therefore do have a privileged hereditary elite.
1)The Idea that the Welsh Language is the preserve of the elites doesn’t hold water. 10 out of Gwynedd’s 14 secondary schools have more than 60% of their pupils from Welsh Speaking Homes, and their pupils’ parents are normal locals, not middle class intellectuals.
2)Schools whose intakes are both deprived and more than 80% WFL do better than deprived schools with are English speaking in instruction and intake . Let’s look at two schools, Ysgol Dyffryn Ogwen in Bethesda and Ysgol Y Moelwyn in Blaenau Ffestiniog. Both are secondary schools in deprived former slate mining areas. According to the latest Estyns in 2012, 85% in Dyffryn Ogwen were from WSH, and 82% were from such homes in the latter. In DO 17% of pupils have free school meals while Y Moelwyn is an objective one area when it comes to deprivation and has 37% of its pupils having special needs. Both schools were graded ‘excellent’ and there was no mention of the English speaking minorities falling behind. They, like Holyhead high school (English medium and majority non-welsh speaking), are deprived but Holyhead is a failing school. Thus genuine bilingualism must be a benefit.
3) However, it is only when the children of English speaking incomers form higher percentages that things become a problem. The language of the playground switches to English and thus they don’t learn ‘playground welsh’. Thus problems with attainment start occurring . In the secondary in Tywyn, Gwynedd, an area anglicised by in-migration, there are problems with pupils’ welsh, and in Ysgol Y Gader in Dolgellau, a catchment area in which only 29% are from welsh speaking homes, pupils prefer to write in English. When they are a small minority however, they pick welsh up from the playground and become fluent.
Abraham. It’s always risky picking just one or two WM schools, asserting they are “good” and then saying that that “proves” that WM schools are better than EM schools. You have used Gwynedd as an example of an area where the pupil population are not from middle class homes, but they aren’t from deprived areas either. The average free school meals eligibility percentage in Welsh secondary schools is 17.5%. The average free school meals percentage in Gwynedd is 12%. Of the 22 local authorities in Wales only Powys (9%), Monmouthshire (11.2%) and Ceredigion (11.5%) have lower free school meals percentages. The secondary school with the lowest free school meals percentage is Ysgol Gymraeg Bro Myrddyn with 3.1% FSM pupils followed closely by Ysgol Penweddyg with 4.1% FSM pupils.
If you were, for instance, to compare the two Welsh medium secondary schools in Cardiff however you find that, in a local authority with 20% of its secondary pupils eligible for free school meals Ysgol Glantaf has 7.7% and Ysgol Plasmawr has 5.8%.
To return to your two examples, Ysgol Dyffryn Ogwen and Ysgol Y Moelwyn, Ysgol Dyffryn Ogwen entered just 62 pupils for GCSE in 2014 and only 5 of those were eligible for free school meals which means that 8.1% of the cohort were classified as being from a deprived background. Even Dyffryn Ogwen’s long term (three year average) for the whole school is only 15.3%. Remember the all Wales average is 17.5% and a deprived school is one with more than 20% of its pupils eligible for free school meals. Needless to say there are no Welsh medium or bilingual secondary schools with that percentage of deprived pupils the highest percentage (three year average) is Ysgol Aberteifi with 19.5% EFSM.
As for Ysgol Y Moelwyn, once again a very small school with a three year average FSM percentage of 13.9% so quite low, only 11 out of 80 pupils sitting the GCSE were from a deprived background. In Maths 51.3% of pupils passed at A*-C and in English 56.3% passed at A*-C. If you compare that to English medium schools with the same percentage of pupils from a deprived background (schools at 13.8% up to 14.3% FSM) you find that for Maths the average pass rate was 70.7% with the lowest at 64.3% and the highest at 76.2%. Similarly for English the average is 73.7% with a high of 86.7% and a low of 67.2%.
As I said, picking one or two schools and trying to draw inferences from them is risky. If you look at Primary school KS2 figures for 2014 you can see that pupils from non Welsh speaking homes are a lot more likely to be living in poverty in the fro Cymraeg than those pupils who are Welsh first language. In Anglesey 12.6% of Welsh first language pupils are eligible for FSMs. For children from English L1 homes the figure is 29.9%. In Gwynedd the figures are Welsh L1 11.3%, English L1 23.5%.
Well said Abraham.
The Welsh language is the best educational resource we have. We should be moving to all education being primarily Welsh medium. English is best learnt as a second language, simply because it seems to carry with it an attitude that if children speak it, however badly, they don’t need to be taught any more.
You make teaching other languages infinitely more difficult if the pupils don’t have a grounding in linguistics and the structure of their base language.
Also, the Welsh language has been sustained by the ordinary working people against the English elite and their supporters. The Labour party sold us out and continue to support right-wing English Imperialism.
“The Welsh language is the best educational resource we have. We should be moving to all education being primarily Welsh medium. English is best learnt as a second language,”
Actually, the phonemic complexity of English means that it is better to learn English from Day-1 or to start as early as possible. This is particularly true when the L1 is a relatively regular language like Italian or Welsh. Learning the simple language is a hindrance to learning English. This is recognised in countries like Italy and Portugal where there are growing calls to use English immersion from the beginning of their schooling because they have recognised that English is a fact of life and that learning it works better before kids’ minds are limited by the regular phonetics of their own languages.
This was carefully explained to a bunch of education people in Gwynedd, including the LEA’s then head of education Dewi R Jones, in a lecture at Bangor Uni on 17 April 2012 by Prof. Janet Susan Twyman but it clearly fell on deaf ears!
It was the same language development stuff I vaguely remember from the education theory that used to form part of teacher training when it was a 3-year course… Not news but in Wales it is useful information which has been selectively briefed against by the Welsh language industry to the detriment of a significant minority. That’s on top of the outright linguicism of some LEA’s discriminative damaging social engineering language policies which are failing kids from L1 English homes to a degree which ought to be actionable.
But I would agree that kids in the UK need a much stronger grounding in grammar.
@Gwyn. I think you should seek help if you think that the English have any ‘imperialistic’ ambitions as far as Wales is concerned. The English people I meet when ‘over the border’ couldn’t care less about us,or the Scots as they can trade with the world,and earn their living. The welsh NATS are very dangerous in that some people might take them seriously,and particularly in welsh media that is riddled with them. The most hostile people I know to the welsh language are from the south east who grew up in totally anglicised areas and dislike the ‘welshification’ process and funding S4C out of their TV Licence Fee!!
John R Walker you’re wrong.
English sounds are getting weaker and weaker, which makes it a poor base. It also has a bazaar grammar which thinks it’s a case structure but isn’t. How many English people are aware that the verb includes the preceding “to”?
A recent survey of western literacy found England and the USA at the bottom. Why? Because the used English! It’s not just the fact that English is weird it is also the high-handed attitudes that go with it. Usually a hang-over from the evil empire.
@ J Jones, the fact that in Anglesey, L1 English pupils are more likely to be poorer and deprived is due to geography alone. L1 English people in Anglesey are much more likely to be from Holyhead, which is more deprived than Llangefni, which is 80% welsh speaking (2011. Thus it is a coincidence.
“@ J Jones, the fact that in Anglesey, L1 English pupils are more likely to be poorer and deprived is due to geography alone.”
Abraham:- Gwynedd……Welsh spoken at home, 10.1% Eligible for free school meals. No Welsh spoken at home, 19% Eligible for free school meals.
Ceredigion…..Welsh spoken at home, 4.4% Eligible for free school meals. No Welsh spoken at home, 14.4% Eligible for free school meals.
Carmarthenshire…..Welsh spoken at home, 4.6% Eligible for free school meals. No Welsh spoken at home, 14.1% Eligible for free school meals.
All figures refer to just pupils who were assessed in Welsh first language and therefore don’t take into account pupils in EM schools (just one school in Gwynedd) or English streams in WM primary schools.
The overall difference for the WM schools in the Fro Cymraeg….Welsh spoken at home, 8.1% Eligible for free school meals. No Welsh spoken at home, 16.8% Eligible for free school meals.
The difference isn’t geographical.
Hello, J Jones, we remain keen for you to write for our magazine. Please get in touch
Are your stats sayng that not speaking welsh at home is correllated with an increased eligibility for Free School Meals. It appears that speaking Welsh at home reduces financial hardship – it’s amazing what stats can show..
“John R Walker you’re wrong.
English sounds are getting weaker and weaker, which makes it a poor base. It also has a bazaar grammar…”
I rest my case!
@Aled or perhaps those that speak Cymraeg eat less. Or those that don’t speak Cymraeg are hungrier. Or those that speak Cymraeg threaten to eat less when s4c is mentioned along with frugality. Amazing, as you say, what stats can uncover.
You are quite right in many ways Aled; there are multiple consequences to political actions and there are various other supporting studies such as the WLB (Hywel Jones) study of migration from Wales to England amongst Welsh speakers and non Welsh speakers. That study showed that non Welsh speaking young people living in the Fro Cymraeg were far more likely to have moved to England between the 1991 and 2001 census’ than Welsh speakers. Another study into migration from Gwynedd and Anglesey actually asked people why they had left and asked people who didn’t leave if they might move out of the area. A large number of leavers said they moved because they couldn’t get a job because they weren’t fluent Welsh speakers whilst analysis of those who stayed found that some would leave if they had marketable qualifications.
The over all picture is that Welsh fluency means employment with the largest public sector bodies whilst non fluency disproportionately means private sector employment or precarious low paid jobs or no work. The outcome manifests itself in child poverty…non Welsh speaking parents more likely to be eligible for free school meals for their children and their children under performing in school creating an underclass generated by language laws which encourage job discrimination….not just in the fro Cymraeg but most noticeably there.
If that is true, which is a big if, then surely parents in these areas who want the best for their children should opt for Welsh Medium education. In theory all parents should be able to select Welsh medium education if they so wish and if some of these parents have difficulties in getting WM education for their children then they should start to complain about it.
@Aled – define ‘best’ – why should parents campaign for more WM schools? They are well within their rights to campaign for better education in EM schools and equitable opportunities in local life. Welsh children do not HAVE to speak Cymraeg to be Welsh.
I wonder where you live Aled. There is no problem in parents in Anglesey and Gwynedd getting a Welsh medium education….indeed they have no option. It is touching that you believe that a Welsh medium education in the Fro Cymraeg is a ticket to employment in the public sector. The problem is that children from Welsh speaking homes; first language Welsh speakers, are the ones who fill the Welsh essential jobs. Welsh is not successfully taught to English first language pupils and even those who eventually take GCSE in Welsh L1 do not have a high success rate. For the whole of Wales (2014) only 39% of the entrants who don’t speak Welsh at home pass at A* to C, 1613 pupils.
No one wants to examine the myth that WM schooling is a passport to Welsh essential employment.
I am welsh lived here all my life but my kids are my priority not my language! I think they should be taught more business language,English Spanish Japanese. There are no jobs in Wales we should be opening door for our children not closing them. Welsh should be taught at home and if that’s not possible 1 hour per week at school. And the rest core subects in English and get the best grades and open those doors
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