Welsh-medium education for all, or just for the lucky ones?


Ffred Ffransis says Welsh language education for those attending English medium schools is failing.

In Wales today, our education system is creating second class citizens. Some, because of the school they happen to attend, will be deprived of an essential educational skill because of a postcode lottery, how wealthy they are, or their parents’ choice.

That’s the situation. The vast majority of our young people are very unlikely to be able to speak Welsh on leaving school, and so they won’t have the chance to communicate or to work in our national language: a language which should be a common inheritance for everyone who lives here.

I write as one of those people who didn’t have the privilege of Welsh-medium education but learnt the language as an adult – but I’m a rare exception to the rule. Of the thousands who start learning as an adult, only 1% succeed in becoming fluent. So, for over three-quarters of our children in the current education system, school is equivalent to a lifetime stuck with the inability to communicate effectively in Welsh.

At the moment, 21% of our young people in Wales go to a Welsh-medium school, they leave with the ability to communicate and work in two languages – Welsh and English. On the other hand, 79% of young people go to English-medium education, and those who succeed in acquiring the two languages through that system are very very rare.

The public wants to put right that injustice. According to a YouGov opinion poll, 63% of people in Wales agree with us that not a single pupil should be deprived of their inheritance and the educational skill of the ability to communicate and work in Welsh and in English. It’s not fair that the present system places the vast majority of our pupils under disadvantage.

Pupils in English-medium schools receive what is known as “second language Welsh” education – they learn the language as a subject, not unlike the way foreign languages are taught. It’s a system which has been harshly criticised in an independent report by Professor Sioned Davies, a report commissioned by the Welsh Government. Speaking about the way Welsh is taught in English-medium schools, the report says: “If we are serious about developing Welsh speakers, and about seeing the Welsh language thrive, a change of direction is urgently required before it is too late … It is undeniably the eleventh hour for Welsh second language.”

Some argue it’s right that only some get a fair chance to learn Welsh, those who are lucky where they live because a Welsh-medium school is the closest, or lucky enough o be able to afford the extra cost of transport, or lucky to have parents who know that Welsh-medium education is available. Groups of parents have fought the system for decades, with the help of that vitally important group RhAG (Parents for Welsh-medium Education), and, have succeeded on many occasions, against the odds.

But it’s time to pose questions – is this a just state of affairs? Should parents have to fight for the right for their children to learn Welsh? Is it right that children, because of where they live, their financial situation, or because of lack of parental knowledge, are shut out of the language for the rest of their lives?

Our answer is unequivocal – it is not right. It is not just.

We are excluding some of our most deprived communities of the chance of work, unique cultural experiences and our common inheritance, namely our unique national language. Welsh Government policy is clear: Welsh-medium education is the best way to ensure children acquire fluency in Welsh.

Some, including some in Government, argue that Welsh-medium education is a matter of choice. We in Cymdeithas yr Iaith disagree. We believe it’s a right for every child to be able to work and communicate in Welsh – it should not depend on a parent’s whim, or how much money a family has, or a postcode lottery. 

We agree with the recommendations of Professor Sioned Davies’ group, namely that schools need to be moved along one continuum of teaching Welsh, so that every child gets at least a degree of teaching through the medium of Welsh as well as being taught it as a subject – whatever school they attend. For example, by having IT lessons in Welsh. As a result, the term “second language Welsh” would be no more. Instead there would be a use of Welsh across the curriculum and Welsh would be used as a medium of instruction in English-medium schools. And targets would be set to ensure more Welsh-medium teaching in those formerly English-medium schools.

There are lessons to learn about how we teach other languages in schools as well. There is increasing evidence that, instead of being a fetter on progress, bilingualism is very beneficial in individuals’ cognitive development. The ability to speak several languages is beneficial in very many ways. We should expect our education system to build on the advantage we have in this country, by developing trilingual education as well. Wales can lead the way in terms of teaching our children more languages to a higher standard.

If we want the Welsh language to thrive over the years to come, we must transform the current situation, so that the language becomes part of the inheritance of all who choose to make Wales their home, not just the lucky ones.

Ffred Ffransis is Chair of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg's Education Campaign Group.

32 thoughts on “Welsh-medium education for all, or just for the lucky ones?

  1. Meanwhile, L1 English parents who don’t want their kids teaching wholly or partially through the medium of Welsh discuss the cost effectiveness of leaving Wales so they can put their little darlings back into a school in England where they can catch up on the typical ~1-2 year deficit they suffer at the end of KS2 in English and maths courtesy of being forced to use a WM or EW school compared with where they would have been in England in an EM school without the handicap of having to learn all or some of their English, maths, and science through the medium of Welsh when they clearly often fail to comprehend what is going on in the classroom.

    The stats for WM education benchmarked for FSMs are pretty damning – they have been presented on Click before – but the WG continues to ignore them and to market a vision of WM and bi-lingual superiority which is bogus in the extreme. A generation has already been sacrificed on the sacred altar of the Welsh language, with no end in sight…

    People I know have been happy to spend between £60K and £150K to get out of Wales for the sake of their kids’ education and maintaining family cohesion which is something else that frequently suffers in WM schools. Their kids catch up quite quickly and parents often say they have more friends and don’t get bullied as often. Quite often regaining the second salary that was ‘not available’ in N. Wales means that they make up the financial loss in just a few years and they have all the other benefits of leaving an increasingly devisive and broken society; never to return!

    Most of the people I know who have fled from Wales are the kind of skilled economically active people Wales needs to rebuild its economy and front-line public services. Tough – reap what you sow!

  2. After reading the above post I feel I have to repond.

    I did not attend a welsh-medium school, but left school with a very good level of welsh as a “second language”. I have continued to use the language and learn more through choice and with the help of my employer (I not work in the education sector).
    I have two children who attend the English Unit of a local school that also has a Welsh Unit. It was a very difficult decision for me but I chose for them to attend the English Unit and I am confident that they will be able to speak Welsh, like myself. My reason for this was due to the English language ability of many of the people I see who have come through the Welsh medium education system. Some of these people are family members, some are students age 16+ at my employment and some are colleagues. They will freely admit that they take a considerable amount of time longer to work out mental arithmetic in English, they have great difficulty with spelling in English and also English grammar. Therefore I have to disagree with your statement that those who attend a Welsh-medium school leave with the ability to communicate and work in two languages. Many leave with only the ability to communicate and work effectively in Welsh and it is to the detriment of their English skills.
    I also have to disagree with your point that there is an issue with some not being able to afford the extra cost of transport of obtaining a Welsh-medium education. At our school the children attending the Welsh Unit get free transport and those attending the English Unit do not. Due to this reason alone the ratio of Welsh Language to English Language children in the school is probably 3:1 and we are expecting in the near future that it will become a Welsh-medium only school. We are currently in a situation where we are fighting for the right for our children to learn through the medium of English.
    I most definitely do not agree with Professor Sioned Davies’ recommendations. To impose a degree of teaching through the medium of Welsh on every child, after the decision has been made not to attend a welsh-medium school would be wrong and unjust.
    To conclude I do believe that Welsh-medium education should be an option for all and it is the best way to ensure children acquire fluency in Welsh, but in the majority of cases it is to the detriment of their fluency in English.

  3. When will Welsh language groups such as Cymdeithas be happy? The people of Wales have shown good will towards the language and supported the development a two-tier/medium education system to be developed… which undoubtedly strains resources and English medium schools get neglected.

    When undemocratic groups demanded that every child in Wales be given the right to Welsh medium education, the people of Wales obliged. A parent can now demand Welsh medium education in Monmouthshire and it will be provided along with free transport, yet a parent does not have the same right to English medium education for their child in Gwynedd…. but still we go along with it.

    We even turn a blind eye to certain public sector jobs in Wales being restricted to ‘Welsh speaking only’ despite the fact we all know that the job could (and probably has been for decades) be done by one of the 90% of us who dont speak Welsh fluently.

    All of that is fine by me and everyone else by the looks of it…. but what I cannot stomach is having it thrown back in my face by the likes of Ffred Ffrancis as he demands ever more! He and Cymdeithas now want to erode our choice to have our children educated in English despite the people of Wales supporting his right to choose Welsh medium for his.

    How dare he suggest that a child who cant speak Welsh is a “second class citizen”, however much he would like to socially engineer a society where that was the case! We must be very careful to not allow the likes of Ffred Ffancis (who holds no democratic mandate) to disadvantage the majority of children in Wales.

    He may talk of “second class citizens” but certainly for those from English speaking homes, the evidence suggests that it is WM education which is holding back the potential of children:

  4. The only point I want to make is that the standard of Welsh teaching in very many English medium schools is so atrocious there is no point in doing it. ideally all our citizens would be trilingual but Ms Castaldi is not typical. I know young people who have had ten years of compulsory Welsh and can’t string a sentence together. In fact they can hardly count to ten in the language. There really is no point in tokenism like that. It just annoys everybody. Teach it properly with trained teachers or don’t do it at all. Perhaps all WM schools should have one day a week where all tuition is in English. Would that free up some time for Welsh language teachers to teach in EM schools?

  5. Other European countries manage to educate their children effectively in two or sometimes three languages, so what’s wrong with Wales? Welsh speakers will inevitably access English language media for information and entertainment and so can hardly fail to become entirely familiar with the language, but the opposite is hardly true for English speakers who generally ignore other languages even when they don’t show outright dislike and opposition. The present form of official bilingualism found in Wales is unstable. It introduces English into every Welsh-speaking community far more effectively than it brings Welsh to anglophone regions. The result is as we see, the slow continual and inevitable decline of Welsh. One solution, as suggested here, is for Welsh to be introduced much more extensively into English speaking communities, and the education system is clearly the first port of call. The only alternative I can see would be for a ‘Belgian solution’ where Y Fro Gymraeg becomes 110% Welsh and everywhere else, apart perhaps from Caerdydd, is entirely English. The problem then is that an important unifying element of Welsh national identity would be lost, which in the long run would no doubt have political consequences.

  6. @ Deborah Castaldi

    There are some interesting observations here. I’m sure that if we took a range of opinions we would also hear positive comments about WME. However, I sometimes feel that there are some involved in ‘the cause’ who are so willing for the project to succeed that they gloss over the comments you make.

    I still have difficulty with the distinction made between ‘first’ and ‘second’ language speakers. We do not make that distinction in English so why do so with Welsh? I’ve yet to hear a convincing answer. That said, the issue of educational attainment is a crucial one as it affects subsequent life chances.

    I found your comments regarding Professor Davies’ recommendations regarding W2L in English-medium schools interesting and I think its worth taking a back step to see the thinking at work here.

    WME appears to have adopted a particular approach to education which has achieved a good name for itself, particularly among parents. I know that this is not the whole picture and that there are statistical analyses that show that this is an over-simplification. But on the whole, WME enjoys a good reputation.

    My concern is that this approach appears to have been adopted as the answer facing all issues of WME, whether first or second language. Professor Davies’ appears to being saying that we already have a model that works in WM schools so all we need to do is extend that model to EM schools, i.e. extend the educational empire. There are a number of points here. The first is your point Deborah of the right to have an EM education in Wales. It’s interesting to note that part of the politics of the language has been channeled through the compulsory nature of the secondary education system.

    Secondly, there is the issue raised elsewhere on this website of whether WM education delivers for 2L learners as well as 1L. This is a matter of political concern since no parent wishes to think that their child will have their development impaired or inhibited by the nature of the education system. So it is concerning that a senior academic appears to respond to these issues by arguing that we just sail on regardless.

  7. Couldn’t agree more with Mr Ffrancis. No child should be deprived of fluency in the Welsh language.

  8. I can’t argue with Ross Tredwyn over the low standard of Welsh second language teaching but I will raise one other question: how successful is Welsh first language teaching?

    We are familiar with the hype: “Welsh? Kids just lap it up!” and the assertion that on leaving Welsh medium primary school all pupils are fluent (in the widest sense?) in Welsh.

    How true is this? One of the most frequent complaints of the Welsh in education department is that many pupils drop out of WM streams. This varies from year to year but I think it’s safe to say that pupils fail to carry on taking Welsh first language and studying through the medium of Welsh because they are handicapped by doing so…..they just aren’t good enough at the language. You can see the figures here:-

    As you can see, between 900 and 1200 pupils drop out between the age of 11 and thirteen (KS2-KS3). What isn’t recorded is who those pupils are; largely pupils from English speaking homes. Between Key stage 1 in 2006 and Key stage 3 in 2013 14% of pupils dropped out of Welsh L1 but only 6% of pupils who spoke Welsh at home dropped from Welsh L1 to Welsh L2 and 22% of pupils from non Welsh speaking homes left Welsh first language study.

    Just looking at the Key stage 2 statistics we can see that, although the Welsh medium pupils are an elite with only 9% eligible for free school meals (against 22% for pupils in EM primary schools), a smaller percentage of pupils reach level 5 in Welsh than in any other subject in either group of schools. In Gwynedd, on average, 29% of pupils from Non Welsh speaking homes fail to make the age appropriate level of attainment in Welsh at the end of primary school. That is in comparison to 10% of pupils who speak Welsh at home.

    If we in Wales continue to blindly follow the advice of Sioned Davies or Ffred Ffrancis without looking at the dire history of underachievement amongst pupils from English speaking homes placed voluntarily or forced into Welsh medium education then we will continue to blight the life chances of thousands of children.

  9. Where you change the language of instruction from the language of the hearth to an alien language, you force the students (children) to focus on understanding the language instead of the subject material. This makes critical analysis of the content difficult and discouraged critical thinking.

    For this reason the language of school should only reflect the language spoken at home and not be a political directive of government or pressure group.

  10. John Tyler @ “the language of school should only reflect the language spoken at home”
    And of course this rule would apply to all immigrant kids where the home language was not English, wherever they were from? At present they don’t even get their first language taught as a subject, as I’ve heard happens in Denmark.

  11. To make WME succeed, swathes of primary schools which are used by both first language Welsh speakers and second language Welsh speakers In predominantly Welsh language heartlands such as the Tywyn, Bala and Dolgellau catchment areas of Meirionnydd ought not to have been closed or marked for closure. Always shocked and surprised this was carried out by a Plaid led council. Believe will have a devastating effect on retaining Welsh language usage in heartlands. Language is community. Something which seems to have passed by the education portfolio holder who presided over this decision.

  12. I do feel that if only this whole debate could be placed in a European context, it would appear so absurd that it would effectively disappear. The continent is awash with examples which illustrate that there is no trade off at all – quite the opposite in fact – between children learning languages (properly) and their educational attainment. It is all about the way it is done (and here the UK , including Wales, though less so for Welsh mediium schools I expect, is the dunce of the European class by far.) On the continent, teaching subjects through a second language (usually English) is becoming increasingly widespread. The teaching of foreign languages begins early in PRIMARY school, not secondary. Have a look at the graph on page 28 of this publication and despair ..http://eacea.ec.europa.eu/education/eurydice/documents/key_data_series/143EN.pdf
    Multilingualism should be seen as a normal state of affairs- it is the UK which is the oddball – and the ability to speak another language such as Welsh shoud be seen as an immense enrichment for everybody concerned.
    Sorry for the rant, I probably spent too long on the continent …

  13. I’m grateful to David Hughes for that link and I’m enjoying reading it. Some things leap out however the old perennial “why learn a foreign language; everyone speaks English” is explained when you see that 74% of primary school and 90% of secondary school pupils are learning English as their second language within mainland Europe.

    This paragraph explains succinctly why Welsh is not more enthusiastically embraced by our own youth:

    “Motivation is a key factor in successful learning. Pupils’ perception of the usefulness of the
    languages they learn can clearly contribute to increasing their motivation. In the 15 participating
    countries or regions within countries, on average, the percentage of students who consider it
    useful to learn English for their future education, work or for getting a good job is higher than the
    percentage of those who consider English useful for their personal life. These percentages drop
    quite significantly for other languages”…….”In 14 countries or regions within countries, all students must learn English and, in most cases, it is the
    first language they have to learn”

    In Wales no one, and I include those of us in the Fro Cymraeg, actually needs Welsh and so motivation to learn is very low. It is an ongoing objective of the Welsh Government and the Welsh Language Commissioner to designate more high profile, well rewarded jobs, as Welsh essential ( See Mari Huws V Cartrefi Cymunedol Gwynedd and Mari Huws V WG regarding recruitment of Children’s Commissioner for Wales.) The reality is that since only 8% of adults in Wales have Welsh as a first language the real necessity for bilingual services are minimal and the people with the skills necessary to provide specialist services in Welsh are few. Within the Welsh speaking areas pupils are merely resigned to moving away if they are not first language Welsh speakers since even fairly good Welsh skills will not get them local employment in a contest against the many Welsh first language school leavers available.

  14. The difference is surely that on the continent the teaching of the ENGLISH language is seen as the window to the world,whilst teaching the WELSH language to mainly English speaking children is less ‘useful’. I was recently talking to ‘distant’ family members who live in Sweden and the useage of the English language which is almost universal amongst children/young people and they felt that ABBA had played a part in showing the impact of the English language on Swedish life chances. Prior to winning the Eurovision song contest in Brighton with WATERLOO,but sung in English they were a minority singing’group’,however they subsequently became one of the biggest money makers in ‘pop’ history.It all depends on whether we wish our children to be either a)outward,or b) inward looking??

  15. A fascinating contradiction emerges from these posts.

    Those who speak at least two languages are seen as inwards looking.

    Those who prefer to speak one language and oppose the teaching the historic language of the country they live in see themselves as outwards looking.

    Can anybody explain this?

  16. It’s a matter of who you speak to Mr Lloyd Owen. Those speaking English speak to the world; those speaking Welsh speak to Gwynedd.

  17. Re: “Those who prefer to speak one language..see themselves as outwards looking.”

    If I remember correctly, the historian John Davies labelled this type of thinking as ‘naive cosmopolitanism’.

  18. Ffred Ffrancis conflates the “opportunity” to learn Welsh with what would essentially be a “compulsion” for children to learn through the medium of Welsh.

    Speaking as a parent, I’d like my children to receive a good grounding in the language; I see it as an important part of their cultural heritage and their national identity. But – and again this is my personal preference – I also want them to be taught in their ordinary medium of communication, which in my part of Wales also happens to be the majority language of their local community and the wider society in which they live. I don’t want their formal education to be linguistically divorced from their other day-to-day life experiences.

    More practically, I want to know exactly what and how my children are being taught, I want to feel involved in their life at school and able to help them with their schoolwork. That’s part of the reason why I prefer to send my children to English-medium schools, as I don’t think I could do these things if they were being educated in a language that I cannot understand. Many other English-speaking parents take a different view, and are happy for their children to attend Welsh-medium schools; if it works for them fine, that’s the beauty of choice.

    While Welsh should be taught well as part of the curriculum, it shouldn’t be the ‘non plus ultra’ of education in Wales. Leaving aside the practical difficulties with these proposals, such as the availabilty of suitable numbers of trained teachers, I don’t believe that the teaching of other subjects – which are be vital to people’s future life chances – should be subordinated to the imperative of finding more time and space in the timetable to transmit a knowledge of the language.

  19. So, Welsh speakers may only speak to Gwynedd. This will be something of a challenge for my children at their Welsh medium school in the Preselis. Are they supposed to shout very loudly and wait for the echo from Clogwyn du’r arddu? Dr David Lloyd Owen.

  20. With the new traffic light grading system unveiled yesterday I have noticed a very interesting development…

    for secondary schools there is now an additional requirement that no school can reach the top ‘green’ classification if it failed to meet the 27.2% Wales average of FSM (free school meals) pupils gaining five A*-C grades at GCSE.

    This is going to make it almost impossible for any Welsh medium secondary school in the urban areas of South East Wales to reach the ‘green’ classification (for reasons we are all very much aware of). Certainly, there is no ‘green’ rated WM secondary in Cardiff based on the tables released yesterday (I didn’t look at all councils).

    I’m not sure if this is an oversight by the powers that be, but you have to laugh that because WM has become the education of choice for the middle classes in Cardiff, it is now unable to be classified excellent by the new classification system. A clever move by Huw Lewis?

  21. Nothing at all wrong with having the option of putting children into Welsh medium primary school. For children from Welsh speaking homes it should be the preferred option and it makes sense to have children educated through the medium of the language that they are most familiar with.

    Parents who are non Welsh speaking should think twice; is learning the language the most important thing for your child because there is no doubt that in other vital areas of education learning through a second language in an environment where the home language is denied prevents many children from reaching their full potential.

    You can see my FOI request here:


    What you don’t see is the response. I’ll help you out:

    English first language pupils in WM schools at GCSE 2014 underperformed similar pupils in similar groups of English Medium schools by 15%,8% and 6% in Maths and by 15%,5% and 10% in English.

    This mirrors data from Key stage 2 and Key stage 3.

    It is extremely disingenuous for people like Ffred Ffrancis to hide the pitfalls of teaching through the medium of the second language. Remember, Welsh speaking parents won’t put their children in an English medium school if they can help it and in Europe reading and maths skills are taught through the first language and a second language is taught as a subject before trying to teach other subjects in that medium. In Wales we are obsessed with “Immersion”. It is pernicious.

  22. “Those speaking English speak to the world; those speaking Welsh speak to Gwynedd.”

    A perfect summation of J.Jones’ blinkered attitude to the Welsh language. None so blind as those who won’t see.

  23. @J.Jones
    “It’s a matter of who you speak to Mr Lloyd Owen. Those speaking English speak to the world; those speaking Welsh speak to Gwynedd. ”

    Let me guess you’re one of those who are speaking to the world.
    What about those of us who speak English with ( “to” seems rather imperious) the world and also speak Welsh with “Gwynedd”?

  24. You misunderstand the target SeaMor. All Welsh schools have some pupils who are eligible for free school meals. The schools with the lowest percentage are Ysgol Bro Myrddyn with 3.1% of pupils eligible for free school meals and Ysgol Penweddig, Bishopston, Cowbridge and St Brigids all with 4.2% of pupils eligible for FSMs on a three year average.

    However the measure will be applied to the pupils eligible for FSMs who are in the GCSE cohort (2014 in this case).

    The school with the lowest cohort FSM percentage is Crickhowel with 0.9% of pupils eligible (one pupil out of 111 in the cohort) followed by Ysgol Penweddig with 2% (two pupils out of 101).

    If the one pupil in Crickhowel passes Level 2 inclusive then they have 100% of their FSM pupil(s) achieving the target…..they can be a “Green” school. If that one pupil doesn’t get 5 GCSEs at A*-C including Eng/Welsh and Maths then Crickhowel scores 0% on the measure and can only be a yellow school. This looks a little arbitrary to me.

    The other problem is that pupils eligible for FSMs actually perform better in schools where there are less of them, so, for instance, the top performing school in Wales at Level 2 inclusive is Cardiff high school with 86.7% of pupils. They had a cohort of 211 and 7 pupils eligible for FSMs. You would expect those 7 to do relatively well and in fact since 2008 they have never gone under 27% of their FSM pupils attaining Level 2 inclusive.

    At the other end of the scale is Dylan Thomas Community school with 43% of its pupils eligible for FSMs. They on the other hand have never had 27% of their FSM pupils pass level 2 inclusive.

    So, is it a fair measure?……nope.

  25. Are children from our most disadvantaged communities being deprived access to Welsh Medium education – is that what the FSM data is suggesting? If that is the case, then surely that is scandalous and there should be more choice and access should be improved. It is very conceivable that bilingual education might enhance the chances of our most disadvantaged pupils – I guess it would be hard to argue this point either way, since I suspect we simply don’t know.

    Also, with changing demographics and the increasing number of households where English or Welsh is not the primary language then perhaps we do need to consider how skilled our education system needs to be in the development of language skills. Improving literacy and communication skills are language issues – our schools in general need to be more focussed on language development as a central pillar for learning.

    It could also be argued that science and mathematics are also akin to the acquisition of new languages. We need our education system to be more language skill centric in every sense. I would argue that Welsh medium education is advancement on any form of blinkered mono-linguistic thinking. Welsh medium education by its very nature has to consider language as a core issue and that is not a bad thing. If anyone wants to find faults or failings in Welsh Medium Education then they will surely find what they are looking for, but we should be critically evaluating all of our education system, with the intention of finding our style of system that helps our consistent underachievers
    The old school systems used to put a lot of weight on Latin and maybe this unconsciously fulfilled a very useful linguistic role. I don’t think we have many native Latin speakers and even Latin experts would be hard to recruit these days, so perhaps we should consider a bilingual system that we know and work to develop and enhance the system that we know best.

    Purely English medium education is a dead end linguistically, The development of second and third languages is stifled in the main – forget about weaknesses in teaching Welsh as a second language, teaching of all second languages is impaired, by adopting a mono-linguistic ethos from the start. The English medium system offers limited prospects for further enhancement in that respect. We need to think beyond monolingual education – there is some evidence that dyslexics may benefit from learning a language like Chinese, but how can we move towards a day when that option can be explored. If as a nation we shared a love for other languages and stopped regarding these as foreign, then perhaps we would find it easier to incorporate a much greater depth of linguistics into the general educational experience.

  26. I wouldn’t say that pupils in disadvantaged communities are deprived of WM education. There have been numerous parental preference surveys that covered deprived areas and very few parents responded to those surveys to say that they wanted WM schooling for their child. On the other hand WM schooling was relatively popular in more well off areas. Consequently WM schools have become increasingly middle class.

    If you look at Educational achievement and eligibility to free school meals:


    You can compare the difference in FSM rates between WM schools at age 11 (KS2) and age 14 (KS3). You will notice that in 2007 the gap between WM and EM schools was 5.8% and 8% respectively (WM schools had a smaller % of pupils eligible for FSMs by those margins). By 2014 the respective difference was 10.4% at both KS2 and KS3.

    As time goes by EM schools are increasingly coping with more pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds and WM schools are increasingly the destination of the educated middle class. Unfortunately, as I have explained, WM schools only SEEM to give a good education. When like with like comparisons are made then you see that WM schools under perform what we would expect.

  27. So are the educated and affluent increasingly choosing Welsh medium education? I’m not sure that they are, but if so why? Also are pupils from Welsh medium education becoming increasingly educated and affluent? Data like this can be used and interpreted in so many ways and tend to pose a lot more questions than answers.

    If Welsh medium schools are only SEEMingly better than English medium schools then the SEEMingly part needs to be studied, since perception can be a powerful tool that creates its own reality in terms of school and parental engagement; community engagement with the school ethos is a always a key driver in School attainment.

    If parents in many areas do not express positive survey responses to Welsh medium education, then we should also level those responses by questioning how happy and positive parents are with education and life in general. Are these responses well informed, do they arise out of fears of the unknown, or are they the consequence of general apathy towards the system in general. Whenever there are strongly positive or negative responses we should look to probe a lot deeper.

    We should ultimately have politicians that have the wit and guile to be able to make decisions that may beguile their electorate, but will be rewarded if they ultimately lead to improvements. We have the opportunity to compare two effective education systems (few countries have that luxury) – switch more investment and effort into Welsh medium education and analyse the outcomes – the end result will benefit both systems in the long run and we may be surprised by the outcomes. Who knows, perhaps school improvement has more to do with school ethos and parental engagement than the language, but whatever the outcome we will be moving things forward.

  28. I’m all for keeping the language alive but, forcing schools to teach in the medium of Welsh is utterly ridiculous.

    We’ve got enough problems as it is with funding being syphoned off and ploughed into WM schools in Cardiff. Parents have genuinely bought into the whole marketing spin that they’re children will be some kind of superiors academic if they attended WM schools. It’s simply not the case. Many parents I speak to who send their children to WM schools believe they’re the equivalent of private schools.

    It’s completely ludicrous to consider sending your child if you don’t also speak the language.

    Wales needs to get its house in order before worrying about this.

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