The position of the Welsh language – challenges and opportunities

Despite a lack of growth in the Welsh language in recent years, Meri Huws believes conditions are in place to allow for greater use in the coming years.

At the National Eisteddfod in Abergavenny I published the first 5-year report on the position of the Welsh language. Preparing and publishing the report is one of my statutory functions as Commissioner, under the Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011.

It includes a summary and assessment of the 2011 Census results as far as they relate to the Welsh language. I have also included an analysis of the population’s Welsh language skills, the success of the efforts to create new Welsh speakers and the use of the language in specific contexts.

The context in which this report has been produced is that the Governments in Cardiff Bay and Westminster have stated that they are committed to maintaining and increasing the use of the Welsh language. This reflects the high level of support for the Welsh language amongst the Welsh public. A survey conducted in 2015 found that 85% of people in Wales believe that the Welsh language is something to be proud of, whilst 77% believe the language is an asset to Wales. One of the aims of this report is to provide a robust evidence base for planning growth in the use of the Welsh language over the coming years.

It is a lengthy report and there’s plenty to digest. Some of the findings will already be known to readers, but it is worth reflecting on them for a while to remind ourselves of the magnitude of the challenge ahead and also of the opportunities available. The data encompassing people’s attitudes towards the language is very positive and clearly shows that there is strong support for the language, and that the people of Wales, whether they can speak the language or not, see it as a source of pride. This goodwill provides a strong foundation to build on.

Here are some key statistical points:

  • The percentage of children aged 5-15 who can speak Welsh has doubled since 1981.
  • There has been a decrease of over 20,000 in the number of Welsh speakers between 2001 and 2011 (but an increase of 20,000 overall since 1971).
  • The number of communities where 70% or more of the population can speak Welsh has fallen from 53 in 2001 to 39 by 2011.
  • There are a total of 866 communities in Wales.
  • 13% of people in Wales use Welsh on a daily basis. 11% are fluent Welsh speakers.

The period of establishing a new Government and Fifth Assembly is an opportunity for politicians and civil servants to take a close look at how public policy can support the Welsh language. During the Eisteddfod week, Alun Davies, the Minister for Lifelong Learning and Welsh Language published a consultation on a long-term vision for the Welsh language. The consultation states the Government’s ambition to reach a million Welsh speakers by 2050, which would mean nearly doubling the number of people who can speak Welsh over the next 33 years or so. The big question is, how can this be done?

Welsh used to be attained or learned at home mostly but this has changed over time. Four out of five 5-15 year olds now mainly learn to speak Welsh at school. There is ever greater demand for Welsh medium education, and it’s had a huge impact in terms of how, where and when people are learning to speak the language. But the shift to education as the main source of new Welsh speakers does pose challenges. Are we able to meet the demand for Welsh medium education? Is education producing speakers confident enough in their Welsh language skills to use them socially, in the workplace or at home?

The evidence available seems to indicate very little if any progress over the last few years in the number of children receiving early years education and care through the medium of Welsh, and there appears to be significant gaps in the provision in some geographical areas. The report also identifies  that progression in Welsh medium education from one stage to the next continues to be a problem, and is particularly evident from one key stage to the next in schools, and when pupils transfer to further and higher education.

These issues will need to be addressed promptly if the Government’s target to increase the number of Welsh speakers is to be achieved. This will require firm action by the Welsh Government and support by all the authorities and organisations with a role to play in the delivery of education in Wales at all levels.

As well as analysing success in creating new Welsh speakers, the report provides data and information on the use of the Welsh language in various contexts.

Although the use of the Welsh language is not easy to measure accurately, especially in some contexts such as the home, the data available shows considerable use of the language today. For example, about 361,000 people in Wales use the Welsh language on a daily basis, which is higher than the number of fluent Welsh speakers in Wales. The new statutory duties on organisations in Wales to use the language and provide services in Welsh will increase the demand for a workforce able to service an increasingly bilingual population, and using Welsh at work should become more common as a result of these duties.

The report looks at the opportunities that exist to use the Welsh language in various contexts and in daily activities, and some of the possible reasons why Welsh speakers take advantage of these opportunities or not. It finds that people’s desire to use the Welsh language is sometimes hindered by practical and psychological factors which impede the use of Welsh, such as a lack of opportunity or a lack of confidence.

Though the Welsh language has not seen much growth in recent years, the conditions are in place to allow for greater use in the coming years and decades. There is support for the language amongst the public and Governments. There is legislation and infrastructure to support the use of Welsh. With robust measures, careful planning, proper investment and effective implementation I see no reason why the Welsh language should not flourish and become a completely natural part of everyday life, in all parts of the country.

To read the full report click on this link to the Commissioner’s website.

Mae’r cofnod hwn ar gael yn y Gymraeg. Cliciwch ar y ddolen gyswllt hwn er mwyn darllen y fersiwn Gymraeg.

Meri Huws is the Welsh Language Commissioner

31 thoughts on “The position of the Welsh language – challenges and opportunities

  1. Nothing new from Meri Huws and her assessment of the current situation seems to be more based on a wishful thinking rather than the reality but I’m concerned with her demands for more compulsion and more Welsh Medium education, whilst the masses of evidence to the contrary are being sidelined and ignored.

    In the North West Wales (Gwynedd and Anglesey) Welsh Medium education has been compulsory for a long time and no one in Welsh public life wants to look at or talk about the horrendous implications this approach has on the kids, their education and their future, especially those from the English language 1 homes.

    In those two Counties, the quality of education is abysmal and only provided by the Welsh language 1 speaking teachers hell-bent on imposing Welsh language but ignoring a simple fact that most kids find it exceptionally difficult to learn science, maths and other important subjects through the Welsh language!

    Yes, the compulsion is creating ‘more Welsh speaking kids’ but most of those kids together with their parents chose English Medium education when they start secondary education. Most do not use Welsh in any social setting and most never intend to do so – Speaking Welsh is not cool to the vast majority of Welsh children and anything learned is soon forgotten.

    It’s long overdue to bring some harsh reality into the language debate and ask a question ‘Can a Social Engineering policy that uses compulsion and diktat ever achieve anything other than to damage Welsh society beyond repair?

    Further reading relevant to the above: Llangennech school in Carmarthenshire (Disregard of parental wishes by the LEA) and my views and thoughts on

  2. First off thank you to the IWA for publishing this article in both English and Welsh. This has not always happened previously and is a positive change.

    As someone who was made, by law, to take Welsh up until GCSE in a school without Welsh speaking teachers I have a degree of appreciation for some of the challenges of relying on the next generation to expand the language of previous ones. I am also pleased to see reference to how difficult it is to count Welsh speakers. These are the natural perils of self-definition in our census. Indeed, I can think of a number of people who would never declare themselves fluent who can speak Welsh extensively. And others who feel that the ability to say the odd phrase and count are enough to consider themselves full Welsh speakers.

    What continues to worry me is the stated ambition to demand a bilingual workforce. Making bilingualism a core career requirement in Wales (especially the public sector) will exclude upwards of 80% of our population from many of our jobs. This is hardly a sustainable solution to grow our economy, nor does it generate a positive perception of the language and our institutions when examples are replete of individuals who employed or promoted thanks to their language ability, and not their experience or technical skills to do a job. If your answer to this is that everyone should learn Welsh then you have clearly misunderstood the implications of this problem.

    In advancing a truly bilingual Wales we need to respect that we are indeed a bilingual nation. A nation where two languages have equal status. This means that discriminating against any Welsh citizen who only speaks one of them is wrong and should not be permitted. Hopefully we have advanced to the point where such a view does not result in extensive online abuse.

  3. I totally agree with both above comments, this woman is living in cloud cuckoo land demanding these things. Welsh is a minority language spoken by around 20% of the welsh population. If these 20% of the population wish to converse in welsh great I have no problem and great respect for welsh speakers, the problem begins when this language which serves no real purpose in everyday life apart from an ability to speak it to other welsh speakers is enforced on our schools and communities. Jobs being offered to only welsh speakers of a certain ability, this does not instill any confidence in me that the best person for the job is that person, if you wish to speak welsh carry on but stop forcing it down the throats of the 80% english speaking welsh people.

    Why should we all have to speak welsh??? There are very few books that you can read in welsh. There are very few programes that you can watch in welsh. Magazines, newspapers? The same few and far between. Can you go to the cinema and watch your film in welsh, nope, music how many popular groups and singers are doing so through the medium of welsh???

    The saving of the welsh language is a pet project by a bunch of hypocrites who believe that they are better than the rest of us just because of their ability to speak a dying language.

    I for one will not be doing anything to promote the welsh language – unless the rights of english speaking welsh folk are also respected.

  4. The publication of the Commissioner’s report is a welcome opportunity to assess the situation regarding the Welsh language, and the public reaction.

    The implementation of bilingualism in the public service is an interesting question, particularly from the perspective of discrimination of against non-Welsh speakers, or in my case French in Ontario, Canada. In my case, the government offered opportunities to improve my facility with the French language that had to fit into the work schedule. The federal government sent senior civil servants on immersion courses, as I recall.

    The bottom line; if you are a public servant in a bilingual community, you should have the facility to offer your services in the two official languages, particularly in senior positions. An intergovernmental meeting with views expressed in two languages, sometimes by the same person could be a challenge, but often worthwhile when it came to positive outcomes. The same happened in public meetings.

    Having experienced bilingualism, or trilingualism in my case, I cannot understand the apparent in-built reluctance in Wales to countenance a facility with the language as an asset to be enhanced as a lifelong project. The phrase “two solitudes” became an iconic statement in Canada, and something was done about it. I wonder if Wales wants to enter that world, or perhaps it is there already.

  5. Hopefully Carwyn Jones will be trumpeting the benfits of ‘the language’ on his forthcoming visit to the USA. It is important that any potential investors, US or otherwise, do understand that there are real differences between England and Wales, the biggest of which must surely be the mono lingual policy of England and the bi lingual policy of Wales.

    In time it’ll be interesting to see if such a bi lingual policy brings any benefit whatsoever. And if not what steps can the Welsh public take to bring those responsible for such a policy to justice.

  6. It’s always difficult to know where to start with Meri Huws. The problem now is the same as the problem that existed when she was the head of the Welsh Language Board; she has the responsibility to generate statistics and simultaneously increase the number of people who speak Welsh and the services available through the medium of Welsh.
    Unsurprisingly each of her functions is used to support the others so that we, the public, can’t be told that the actual number of people who are most comfortable using Welsh rather than English is diminishing or that the number and percentage of people actually capable of “living their lives through Welsh” is decreasing.
    The result is that the statistics are fudged in an alarming way and Meri Huws, like Cymdeithas Yr Iaith, happily use the raw figure of those “able to speak Welsh” as an indication of demand for services and therefore as a driving force for ever more draconian “Language Measures” which result in very real discrimination against the great majority of people who aren’t fluent in Welsh.
    Just to deconstruct those bullet points:-

    “The percentage of children aged 5-15 who can speak Welsh has doubled since 1981.”

    Really unsurprising. In 1998 it became advisory for every child to be taught Welsh in school and in 2000 it became compulsory. It is not so clear cut nevertheless; the census question in 1981 was “Do you speak Welsh” and since 2001 the census question is “can you speak Welsh”. The “can” question always delivers higher figures as you can see from this:-
    What Ms Huws doesn’t elaborate on is the sudden drop in the percentage of pupils who speak Welsh when they leave school and, no, no matter how hard they try to tell us that it’s all down to “lack of opportunity” it really isn’t. The Welsh language use survey explains clearly that once away from school most of those Welsh speakers are “more comfortable” speaking English and do so.

    “There has been a decrease of over 20,000 in the number of Welsh speakers between 2001 and 2011 (but an increase of 20,000 overall since 1971).”

    The reality is that the 2001 increase in the number of Welsh speakers was an illusion. The change in the census question from “Do” to “Can” delivered some of that figure but much more was a result of parents believing that it was “obvious” that their children spoke Welsh because they took Welsh lessons in school. The children themselves when consulted later denied that they spoke Welsh in many cases. Even in 2011 the number of parents who claimed that their children could speak Welsh in Monmouthshire, Newport and Baenau Gwent was far higher than the number of pupils in Welsh medium schools. That is…it’s a definition thing.

    Then there’s this:-

    “13% of people in Wales use Welsh on a daily basis. 11% are fluent Welsh speakers.”

    I tend to accept that 11% (a drop from 12% in 2005/6 and 13.4% in the 1992 Welsh Social survey) but even amongst fluent Welsh speakers there are some who never speak Welsh and when it comes to language preference 1 in 5 feel most comfortable using English and another 2 in 5 don’t mind which language they use. So that leaves 2 in 5, 40%, who want to “live their lives through Welsh”. That’s 40% of 11% remember, so 4.4% of Welsh people.

    For those 4.4%, very vociferous, often obstreperous, fraction of the population we have Meri Huws. We also have an entire industry which both IS that 4.4% and serves that 4.4%.

    Then there is this:-

    ” 85% of people in Wales believe that the Welsh language is something to be proud of, whilst 77% believe the language is an asset to Wales.”

    Well yes…it takes minimal effort to be proud and a belief is just that; it isn’t a FACT. Against that we have this:-

    Although a large percentage don’t know that Welsh medium Schooling is actually compulsory in parts of Wales those who do don’t believe that it should be so.

    And then there’s this:-

    We are bound to a government policy which a very large majority of us just don’t agree with. Where is the political party with the courage to support the majority? Nowhere. Just a spineless, cringing acceptance that it’s better to avoid the wrath of BBC Wales and Cymdeithas Yr Iaith than speak out.

    What I see is that people in Wales are being hoodwinked by a powerful minority into accepting socially divisive and wholly unnecessary legally based coercion for little other than to maintain the economic security of that unlovely coterie.

  7. @ Alex
    “In advancing a truly bilingual Wales we need to respect that we are indeed a bilingual nation. A nation where two languages have equal status.”
    It’s clear that you don’t actually understand the English term “bilingual”. The meaning of the term is clear and not a subject of interpretation. It applies to a person’s ability to understand and use two languages and not the use of two languages in a country or any other defined area.

    In a country where there are two official languages someone who is bilingual is going to have the advantages that being bilingual brings. If you want take away that advantage there’s only two ways forward.
    1. Make sure everyone that leaves school is bilingual or
    2. Just have one official language.

    From what you’ve written regarding the importance of respect, equal status and non discrimination I imagine you’d support no. 1. Am I wrong?

  8. In reality CapM the comment you are refering to is completely right in terms of what bilingualism means in this context. Put simply – equal rights and status to speakers of both languages.

    In practice it should be about ensuring that people who speak just one are not disadvanged. It appears Wales is yet to achieve that at times.

  9. There’s a problem with your definition CapM, or perhaps it is the rhetoric that is at fault. If, as Meri Huws asserts, she sees her duty as working towards a Wales where people can “live their lives through Welsh” she is actually advocating not a bilingual Wales but a monolingual Wales. If living solely through the Welsh language is legally enforceable and actually possible those Welsh first language speakers will be effectively monoglots…they will have no need to speak English and they will derive no benefit from bilingualism.
    If that situation is desirable and is increasingly a legally enforceable position then the actual aim of the Welsh language strategy in Wales is the reversal of the situation where everyone speaks English in favour of cultural isolation and a country where everyone speaks only Welsh.
    The 2011 language act gave a superior position to speakers of Welsh and gave Welsh a more favourable position in law. It is high time people in Wales realised that their language rights have been usurped by a rather spoilt minority and the interests of the majority have been sacrificed as a result of the abject cowardice of our politicians.

  10. Hi CapM, you appear to misunderstand how bilingualism works in this kind of legislation. It isn’t the same as a describing a person as you suggest. Clearly I assumed too much previously. This is highlighted by the way you appear to have interpreted the issue backwards.

    If you go back and read the purposes of the Official Languages Act, and indeed many similar legislative experiments elsewhere you’ll see it isn’t about creating an advantage, instead it’s about avoiding disadvantage as languages are given equal status. Ergo my original point about it being wrong to discriminate against any Welsh citizen who only speaks one of them.

    I presume most would agree that it would be wrong to discriminate against Welsh citizens who only speak one of our official languages.

  11. I do also have to question this statement:-

    ” 77% believe the language is an asset to Wales.”

    As I said previously, a belief is just that. It isn’t necessarily rational.
    Look at this article from the daily post for instance:-

    Horizon, not unsurprisingly, realise that the current legal situation, where any development has to be judged on whether it has an impact on the Welsh language environment, could completely scupper their ability to deliver Wylfa Newydd. If you take a wider view, that the UK’s energy supply security depends on generating electricity from within the UK, then you will see that Wylfa is part of a strategic plan which is required to ensure the economic well being of some 60 million people.

    And what could stop it dead? Meri Huws and the unreasonable demands of a handful of Welsh speakers. And it is a handful because, even amongst Welsh speakers in Anglesey, Wylfa is a popular development; it means job security and long term prosperity.

    Would any country anywhere allow the utter stupidity that is occurring all over Wales where every development project is hostage to Cymdeithas Yr Iaith Cymraeg.

  12. It is interesting to hear the views and responses to this article. I don’t live in an area where I encounter any hostility to the language or to the ideas expressed by Mari Huws so maybe I don’t get enough opportunity to hear the strength of the views expressed here. I’ve lived across South Wales – from Newport to Swansea and this level of hostility has never cropped up in my everyday experiences. I appreciate that everyone has a right to express their opinions, but in my experience the vast majority of the peole in Wales are supportive of the language and will find the views and comments here a bit abrupt and disappointing.

    Whatever our respective views on what a bilingual Wales means and how it should be achieved, I don’t think there is room for tolerance of bitterness to something that many of us consider a cornerstone of Welsh identity – whatever language we speak. I’ve just started learning Welsh and even without speaking it, the language is a cornerstone of my identity – it is a massive part of the culture of our country and I do feel that dismissive comments on the value of the language and the desire to move towards a bilingual Wales to be devoid of any rational reasoning and are dismissive of many peoples Welsh identities. The majority of us 80% English speakers – the majority – do embrace the language into our identity and that is reflected in the strong widespread support shown in the survey

  13. @Owen Jones
    If there is a disadvantage in being a monoglot English speaker in a Wales with both Welsh and English as official languages then there are only two solutions
    1. Make sure our education system produces bilingual school leavers or
    2. Eradicate the Welsh language from public life.
    Take you pick.

  14. @J.Jones
    No one is advocated or expecting the learning of Welsh to result in a population of Welsh speaking monoglots. As ludicrous as the suggestion is it repeatedly gets plucked from the sophistry toolbox of those who have a problem with the Welsh language.

    Increasingly the advantage of having a local language with which to defend one’s society from the ravages of the global economy whilst also having a global language with which to go out and do some ravaging is becoming clear. Cymru can make use of bilingualism in this way as do the Netherlands, Nordic and other countries in Europe already do. England and an Angocentric UK cannot.

  15. “There is ever greater demand for Welsh medium education…”

    I have to say that this all depends. Certainly it is the case that “demand” is vociferous but it is also socially engineered and driven by a constant drip, drip, drip of dishonest assertions by organisations like Cymdeithas Yr Iaith and RHAG (the state sponsored “parents for Welsh medium education”).

    Some years ago I had a prolonged battle with Powys LA who carried out their statutory “parental preference survey” into the future requirement for WM primary schools. The problem was that Powys sent out, with the survey, a propaganda leaflet based on the spurious claims for Welsh language education based mainly on information supplied by….Meri Huws at the Welsh Language Board.
    This isn’t the only example of quite unscrupulous behaviour from Ms Huws’ former employer; there’s this:-

    The most important lie that is consistently told is that pupils who go to Welsh medium school emerge equally fluent in Welsh and English and therefore able to continue to WM secondary education. What you should bear in mind is that “fluent” by definition is not just a verbal ability but also relates to comprehension and literacy. If you look at the statistics for the end of primary school you can see just how “equally” fluent pupils are when they leave primary school.

    Take a look at the summary tables for Key stage 2 at level 5+. These compare like for like core subject performance in groups of schools at various free school meals eligibility levels.
    Where the vast majority of Welsh medium pupils are taught, in the schools with low levels of FSM eligibility, Welsh language performance at the more sophisticated level is 10% lower than English language performance in similar schools.

    Why? (I hear you ask…or maybe not) That is also very well known to parents who are forced to put their children into WM schools. It’s also known to the government and, I suspect, Meri Huws. The uncomfortable truth is that pupils who come from non Welsh speaking homes under perform in Welsh medium schools. Not just in Welsh but in all the core subjects and, yes, their English language performance is affected by the WM environment and they do under perform in that too.

    It is amazing in a way that any country, knowing that a particular group of schools, schools with every advantage, consistently fail to educate up to the expected standard, should ignore those consistent failings. In the years since I have been looking at this phenomenon I have seen the Welsh governments published statistics change so that it is increasingly hard to compare the performance of like-for-like Welsh and English medium schools. This is not an accident. It would be extremely difficult for the WG to have two parallel campaigns running simultaneously; one which attempted to drive up the achievement of English first language pupils in WM schools and another that tried to persuade English only families that they should send their children to WM schools.
    It is easy to see which “camp” has won the battle but is it in anyone’s interest for this to go on? No one knows how well WM schools could do until pressure is put on them to improve themselves to a comparable standard with similar EM schools.

  16. The same old unionist nationalistic rhetoric. Wales has been taken over by the Welsh speaking minority (yawn). You can not get any job in Wales unless you speak Welsh (yawn). The Welsh Assembly is anti-English and must be abolished (yawn). The Welsh Assembly is a waste of money and must be abolished (yawn). Monmouthshire was really, really an English country, we can not prove that but it must be returned to England (yawn). Wake me up when the nationalists have something new to rant about.

  17. A simple observation – It appears to me that no dialogue is possible with those who demand the Welsh language compulsion and more draconian measures to achieve their aims with those who have serious concerns that such measures are damaging the fabric of the Welsh society.

    Those who oppose the Welsh language compulsion go to great lengths to structure their arguments upon tangible evidence and related facts, only to be dismissed with empty rhetoric and shallow disdain by those who support the Y Fro Gymraeg through the Social Engineering process.

    Perhaps time for Meri Huws and others like her to put Wales before their sectarian values and their personal interests?

  18. I would love to debate the article with you Phillip but you just aren’t actually saying anything.

  19. I notice that Horizon and Wylfa Newydd has been mentioned a few times and I think we need to pay particular attention to this one. The WG has commissioned a report on this, which indicated various things such as the strike price needs to be lower than Hinckley C etc for it to be justifiable and viable and also that the training needs for local people needs to be addressed, along with phasing this with the decommissioning of Trawsfynnydd, to ensure that local skills are retained.
    In terms of the local area, then on paper this will be a £14 billion investment in a power station, which is not quite the same thing as a £14 billion pound investment in Mon or Gwynedd. The locality needs to ensure that it benefits as much as possible from this investment and it is in a strong position to ensure that Horizon goes above and beyond its obligations to the local area. The local area should be demanding a dividend for allowing this to happen.

    I understand that the area desperately needs highly skilled jobs, but equally the area has a strong hand when it comes to making demands. There are not very many areas in the British Isles where you can build Nuclear power stations. It is quite unusual to get such strong local support for things such as this; also you need to have the correct geographical location for technical reasons and the skills in the locality that exist currently is a massive bonus.

    Also strategically for power supply in Wales, it has no actual validity. If Wales was a sovereign nation it would not be considering building Wylfa Newydd, because we would not need the capacity that is being produced – we have more than sufficient power capacity in our geographical area to fulfil the needs of our population and industries. If we were thinking strategically as an independent nation then we would be looking more into smart grids and distributed power generation ideas, which long term would be the correct sustainable solutions.

    Based on these things it places the local communities in a strong position and they should be making demands on Horizon, so that there is a dividend for the local area, beyond the construction phase. If it goes ahead, which is still a big “if”, then this facility is going to be there for a very long time and everything about it has to sit well with the local community and culture. A portion of the investment should be allocated to training and assisting the local population to attract key sub contract roles. Subcontracts are already out for tender and there is unlikely to be any mention of the needs for skills

    The language should be a central theme in this and if schools and colleges are required or need to be upgraded, because of an influx of new people, then the funding for this should be part of the investment proposition. Managerial roles and many other roles will need to have training packages which include immersion in the language and culture as they would for working in other countries such as Germany or France. People, who will be here for the long duration, will need to have the skills needed not only for work, but outside of work to ensure that this does not swamp and radically alter the area culturally and linguistically.

    Doing these things will ensure a dividend for the local area, which is something all socially responsible enterprises would more than welcome. Personally I think the overall £14bn cost may scupper this and an additional few hundred million allocated for ensuring that the facility benefits the area and fits in seamlessly will not be the deal breakers in this one.

  20. Firstly Aled, Wales is not a sovereign nation and is unlikely to be so in the near future therefore speculation on that front is redundant although it is quite possible that, such would be the economic advantage both locally and over the long term through the sale of electricity to the industrial North of England, that even a Nationalist government would build Wylfa Newydd.

    Apart from that I can agree with you about maximising local advantage but you can kill the goose that lays the golden egg by making demands which, in reality you don’t want fulfilled. That is when people use language laws as a wrecking mechanism to block a development that they don’t want anyway.

    I have had this discussion before elsewhere on the effects of a rapid increase of incoming temporary workers. Mostly these will be single men with families elsewhere. Their effect will be minimal as far as language and culture is concerned. However, just as in the case of the original Wylfa (that I and my generation benefited from) there will be some families who bring children of various ages.

    My belief is that there should be an English medium school built to teach theses pupils although I quite accept that many will be Eastern European. The alternative is that we flood WM schools with a sudden “bulge” of children who have one language in common…English. This may have an impact on several small schools dotted around Anglesey. The idea of building an EM school on the East side of the Island is of course anathema but I believe not doing so is worse.

  21. J.Jones

    Thanks for picking up on some of things I posted. My concern here is that the goose that is laying the eggs may in fact turn out to be more of a cuckoo. If it is a golden egg laying goose then who will be getting the eggs. What will be the size of the end benefit to the local area and what will be the price that has to be paid. If building an EM school on the East side of the island is anathema to the people who live there, then why would you anyone ever consider doing it.

    It seems a simple choice here, work with the local people and place demands on people who come to the area to show some respect for the views and opinions for the people who live there or walk all over peoples feelings and aspirations.
    At risk of being flippant, if all the key workers came from France would we build a French School and teach through the medium of French, I don’t think so. You do raise a very valid point that there will be significant issues if lots of small schools see a sudden “bulge” of children who don’t speak Welsh and share a common other language. This is precisely the sorts of things that we need to consider, plan and budget for. The linguistic needs of the prodigy of the people entering the area needs to be factored in. There are costs to consider here and the question is whether this should be paid for financially or should we allow the current communities to pay the price by compromising on things that matter to them. Personally I think that this can and should be factored in financially, because the financial costs are mininiscule in comparison to the project costs and at the end of the day this will be a small investment for the long term. Everyone will ultimately benefit, by living in a more cohesive community.

    At the end of the day the goose doesn’t have a lot of choice in where it lays its eggs and if it wants to do this in Wales then it has to embrace the place that will be it’s new home. There is no reason for some proud people in Wales to start waddling – in my mind that would be too high a price to pay.

    That’s just my opinion and how I view things and I’m sure that you will have different views, as will many in the area – the ones that really matter. I don’t live there and I’m not planning to so I’ll leave it to those that do to ensure that their wishes and demands are recognised and catered for.

    I hope one day that we can all find a few common constructive causes that we can all fight for together.

  22. I should perhaps have made clear that building an English medium school would be anathema to the establishment and the vociferous Welsh language lobby. As for parents that’s hard to gauge. There is one dual stream school on the West side of the island (not under LA control) and I notice that, although it can teach through the medium of Welsh, there are no records of anyone being assessed in Welsh for quite a few years so it is effectively an EM school as you see:-

    (click on attainment, KS2)
    One thing that you might also notice is that Caergeiliog is a very small village but it has the largest primary school population of any in Anglesey, bigger even than the Llangefni primary that replaced 3 schools a few years ago. There are other schools in the Holyhead area that show as “Welsh medium” but also do not assess in Welsh first language.

    I would also point out that the nearest EM secondary school, Ysgol Friars Bangor, is the biggest school in either Anglesey or Gwynedd and every year draws pupils from Holyhead, Amlwch, llanfairfechan and as far South and West as Criccieth.

    I would say there is what the Welsh language lobby like to call “latent demand”. They of course would argue that the latent demand is for WM schools but in the Fro Cymraeg latent demand is for EM schools. The only difference is that LAs all over Wales have a legal responsibility to assess demand for WM schooling but no responsibility to assess demand for EM schools. In Wales there are 428 WM primary schools, a fall from 461 WM primaries in 2012. Of those 428 schools 416 assess at KS2 but only 407 assess in Welsh at KS 2. So you can say that 9 WM primary schools are Welsh medium in name only. Similarly at Secondary level several schools actually enter very few pupils for Welsh first language despite being Bilingual or WM schools.

    As far as the health of the language is concerned of course I am not as concerned as you but I would say that the lesser of two evils is to keep incoming pupils together in an EM school. As for respecting the local culture; at some point I hope someone who cares so deeply about the language might spare a thought for children who will be in Anglesey for just 3 or 4 years before going off back to England or wherever. To those pupils Welsh is utterly useless.

  23. I think you all forget that the coastline of Anglesey is almost entirely populated by proud, wealthy, well educated, often retiring English people. It has been so for generations and generations. English people speaking the English language and each and every one of them steeped in British culture.

    Anglesey would do well to bring back private schools offering a first class education in the English language. And perhaps even a couple of new grammar schools too. Yes, it might help the workers at Wylfa educate their children. But it would also stop the wealthy having to send their kids off the island just to get a decent English language education.

  24. There’s always Treffos Karen but it’s only for primary age pupils, then kids mostly move to Hillgrove or St Gerards or further up the coast, or of course into David Hughes but most often Ysgol Friars where they can continue in an EM stream along with the many ethnic minority pupils. When I was young there was the convent in Holyhead, that closed and girls moved to the Llandudno convent which is now a convention centre. Anglesey isn’t that affluent but it isn’t poor either.
    The answer lies with providing EM schooling for those who want it. The evidence that pupils do best learning through their first language is incontrovertible by now; there’s a decade of data, the latest is just the past 5 years average for Carmarthenshire, you can see that where a dual stream school that caters for both EM and WM pupils side by side, just the more able English first language pupils stay in the WM stream and, with a lot of “school action, school action plus” added tuition they can do well. Look at the average for the LA though and you see the wider picture: pupils from non Welsh speaking homes, even when they are non-EFSM, do not reach their full potential and, of course, their most significant under achievement is in Welsh. So much for the “Equally fluent in both Welsh and English” that is endlessly claimed by the Welsh Medium education lobby.

    If you are in the loop you will know that school performance is endlessly judged on improvements amongst the “challenging” groups, groups that habitually under perform. Most frequently schools are challenged to close these significant gaps in attainment:-
    Between Pupils eligible for Free school meals and non-EFSM pupils.
    Between girls and boys.
    Between ALN (additional learning needs) pupils and non-ALN.
    Between EAL (English as an additional language) pupils and the average.
    Between ethnic minority pupils and average.
    Between LAC (looked after children) and the average.
    They are required to report against itinerant and traveller pupil performance.

    Some of these involve quite small gaps in attainment; for instance where EAL pupils come from well off backgrounds, they make rapid progress with studies and many attain well eventually (but not at primary level).
    Similarly amongst ethnic minority, second generation, pupils from Asia, but not African and first generation Muslim children. What I’m getting at is that the WG, ESTYN and the LAs are well on top of most challenges but point out to them that there is actually a significant gap in attainment between pupils from English first language homes and Welsh first language children in WM schools and the silence and inertia is complete.
    Some of us, when we were young in Gwynedd, remember the passionate claim that young children, brought up entirely through the Welsh language, suffered enormous trauma on being “thrust ruthlessly into an entirely English speaking environment” when they went into EM primary schools. They could not, it was claimed, adequately access essential skills through a foreign language, English. I agreed.

    Fast forward 5 decades and what do we find? That those demanding WM schools were absolutely correct; Welsh first language pupils taught in their first language do as well in the WM schools as the English first language pupils do in the EM schools. What we aren’t allowed to consider though is that English first language children “thrust ruthlessly into an entirely (Welsh) speaking environment” suffer loss of self confidence and, at every key stage perform less well than their Welsh first language classmates.

    Do our politicians care about our children? Absolutely not. Terrified of annoying Cymdeithas Yr Iaith, Meri Huws, and the now many Welsh speaking civil servants working in key positions at all levels of government, our brave politicians sit on their ever expanding posteriors and say nothing.

  25. ‘The position of the Welsh language…’

    Is that a typo? Surely it should read the imposition of the Welsh language…

  26. I agree fully with J Jones’ comments, enforcement of the welsh language is surely going against all human rights, surely the rights of the child should come before saving a language that so few people actually speak? I am all for saving the welsh language and for people to have the choice and opportunity for their children to be taught in this language, but I am also for freedom of choice, forcing children to learn through a language foreign to them is akin to abuse as far as I am concerned, the first year of my sons education in our local school has been through the medium of welsh, even though we were told it was bi lingual, he didnt learn any english alphabet, reading, he was unhappy going to school and didnt wish to do anything to do with learning at home either, he completely shut off, he is now in the same school with the same teacher and ABSOLUTELY LOVES IT. The only difference is the language category, he is in the english stream, within a day he was a different child, happy and running to school excited to go there, within a week he is reading and willing to write and draw with me at home. Save the Welsh language with my blessing but please not at the cost of future generations of unhappy children, not fullfilling their true potential because of a language barrier.

  27. You have my sympathy Michaela. We went through a similar scenario with my youngest child who became introverted and depressed by being in a Welsh medium school. When it became evident that she was not doing well I explained to her that she must tell the teacher when she didn’t understand. It was at that point that she admitted that she said nothing in class and hadn’t spoken to a teacher for 2 years because she was afraid that her Welsh would be bad and she would be told off. Not all kids are like that of course. One boy just didn’t care; despite being in the school from reception he spoke nothing but English and the school became so exasperated that they sent him to a special “late arrivals” immersion school when he was in year 5.
    Nevertheless he was judged to have attained level 4 at KS2 in all core subjects. He went to secondary school where he was immediately put in a remedial set to teach him to read and write.
    We could afford (just) to put our child in an English medium independent school. Not everyone can. Enforced Welsh medium schooling is an evil. The same evil that was perpetrated against Welsh first language pupils many decades ago but we have legalised that evil and our politicians have perpetrated an ever increasing abuse against their own people.

    Look what UNESCO have to say about the folly of not teaching through the home language:-

    Key Messages:
    1. Children should be taught in a language they understand, yet as much as 40% of
    the global population does not have access to education in a language they speak
    or understand.
    2. Speaking a language that is not spoken in the classroom frequently holds back a child’s
    learning, especially for those living in poverty.
    3. At least six years of mother tongue instruction is needed to reduce learning gaps for
    minority language speakers.
    4. In multi-ethnic societies, imposing a dominant language through a school system
    has frequently been a source of grievance linked to wider issues of social and
    cultural inequality.
    5. Education policies should recognize the importance of mother tongue learning.
    6. Linguistic diversity creates challenges within the education system, notably in areas of
    teacher recruitment, curriculum development and the provision of teaching materials.

    For the Welsh language the lesson is learnt, there are schools for Welsh speaking children so that they don’t have to learn through a foreign language, English. Now we are expected to believe that all the lessons learned by researchers from all over the world, that key early educational skills must be taught through the first language of the child, just shouldn’t apply to English first language children in Welsh speaking areas.

    Are our politicians stupid? Do they not know? Well they certainly know…I have supplied the data several times to the Education minister and recently an AM down in Carmarhenshire. Estyn have the data, the BBC have the data, ERW, the schools improvement consortium in mid Wales have the data.

    What conclusion can we reach with regard to our elected representatives? The conclusion that I reach is that they do NOT represent us. They are a frightened little cabal at the beck and call of language ideologues. As I have heard said before; “Linguiscism is the new racism in Wales” and the children are the greatest victims.

  28. My daughter recently came home from school full of the story of the ‘Welsh Not’ and explained to us how terrible and oppressive this approach was. Then every week we get an email from the school to parents with a weekly list of banned English words and phrases that are not to be used at school. You couldn’t make it up !

  29. Of course you don’t need to make it up Brian but remember the direction of travel of the Welsh Assembly government:-

    “The teaching of Welsh needs to be boosted to help reach the government’s target of one million Welsh speakers by 2050, Plaid Cymru has said.
    The party wants more funding found to ensure more teachers and assistants can use the language in the classroom….In its assembly election manifesto, Plaid Cymru said the aim should ultimately be Welsh-medium education for all.”

    It’s not just Plaid; Labour have never said that they intend to preserve the availability of a single English medium school or stream and they have steadfastly refused to do so even when Carmarthenshire have made it clear that EVERY school in the LA will be made into a WM school along the “continuum” that has been demanded by the Welsh in education department of the WG.

    Meanwhile I have received the latest 2016 key stage 2 results comparing performance of WM schools against similar EM (by FSM percentage) groups of schools. The WM schools dramatically under perform the EM schools and the reason why is evident from other data released from the WG; pupils from non Welsh speaking homes perform less well in WM schools than they do in similar EM schools.

  30. The really interesting factoid is, and by interesting I mean sinister, that no government in Wales will ever guarantee the availability of an English medium school for parents who want one whereas there is already a guarantee that parents will be surveyed to find out if they would like a Welsh medium school and, if they do, then the LA must provide one.
    The 2011 Welsh language act was worded in such a way that were an EM school established but no WM school established in any area then the law that says “English can be treated no more favourably than Welsh” would have been broken. At any time a LA can set up a WM school and ignore reasonable demands for an English medium school so that the only school available to parents who want an EM school for their children is a Welsh medium one. No law has been broken in this case since the LA has provided schooling.
    At the moment Carmarthenshire CC is doing just this; eradicating all EM schooling. If you ask their justification (yes I have) then their director of education quotes the WG duty placed on LAs to increase Welsh medium schooling. Choice for Parents? Not if they want to choose EM schooling.
    Until a political party realises that there are actually votes in respecting the wishes of parents who aren’t impressed by the “Everything Welsh language is good for you and your kids” mantra from Plaid/Labour then Wales will remain an undemocratic country ruled by the elite for the elite.

Comments are closed.

Also within Culture