Kirsty Williams urges people to get involved with the new curriculum and future qualifications
Keeping it simple, strategic and focused on standards – three important reminders from the IWA’s curriculum reform event a fortnight ago.
Keir Bloomer’s speech at the launch of the IWA’s Common Purposes report was clear about the pitfalls and successes of Scotland’s curriculum journey.
Of course, my officials and many others within our system have had regular discussions with our friends in Scotland.
And of course our engagement has gone much further than that, working with New Zealand, the Netherlands, provinces and states in North America, Ireland, and of course not forgetting colleagues from across the Severn Bridge.
As Mark Priestley, Professor of Education at Stirling University and sometime critic of the Scottish experience, has put it:
“Wales is heeding the lessons from other countries…and have put in place principles and processes that address some of the criticisms… (with) the importance of knowledge foregrounded in the curriculum guidance.”
One of the most significant lessons for us to heed from Scotland is, as Keir pointed out, the problems that arose from introducing new examinations and qualifications too soon in the realisation of the new curriculum.
That’s why it’s so important for us to take the time to get this process right.
The independent regulator Qualifications Wales has now written to me to outlining how they will be considering the new curriculum and its implications.
Once the draft curriculum is made available in April, they will build on the co-construction approach that has been central to the development of the new curriculum – ensuring that teachers, students and others within the education sector play a central role in helping to shape future qualifications.
Employers, colleges and universities will also play a vital role in this process – reflecting how important qualifications are to progression into education and employment. I have made this clear to Qualifications Wales in my reply to their letter.
We saw earlier this month that the existence of GCSEs is being challenged in England, despite it being a recognised brand. Qualifications Wales have said that their “view is that the GCSE title offers substantial flexibility and could accommodate a wide range of different qualification design features to support alignment with the new curriculum”.
I accept this proposition, but in my reply to them I have been careful not to seek to limit the review to any sort of status-quo. It’s important to add, however, that no decisions will be taken about the range of qualifications that will be needed or how they will be designed until extensive consultation has taken place.
Schools accountability along with qualifications, as we heard from the Common Purposes event, are significant drivers for secondary schools in particular. In order to change behaviour we also need to change mindsets – at government, local government and school level. This week I published more information about our approach to accountability moving more towards a system of self-evaluation for improvement and greater schools autonomy. Estyn also announced how they will take forward the recommendations in ‘A Learning Inspectorate’ showing how, over the next few years, the work of the Inspectorate will evolve and change to support the embedding of the new curriculum and the new evaluation and improvement arrangements. All of this will be subject to extensive consultation to make sure parents in particular understand and have confidence in the new system.
So, over the coming period, we are entering an important phase of engagement and preparation – not just about qualifications but the new curriculum as a whole.
We’ve worked hard over the last couple of years to reach out, but I know that we must now re-double our efforts.
At the Commons Purposes event, I welcomed the IWA’s work in spotting the challenges ahead and giving me and officials recommendations on next steps.
I am now able to confirm that we will soon roll-out a new programme of engagement, going beyond the school system.
This builds on my regular Twitter Q&As, ongoing parental engagement, education is changing online campaign, podcasts and much more.
In the coming months, I will lead Our National Mission roadshow, engaging directly with non-school audiences and stakeholders.
This is not instead of working with schools and practitioners – it will build on that, run alongside and also involve them where relevant and appropriate.
We will do this face to face at events, but also digitally and online.
And I know that there is an audience across Wales keen to learn more and to offer ideas on our education reforms.
But this is not a job for me alone. The best advocates and presenters are those teachers who’ve been leading the way on these reforms.
I also realise that many of you reading this blog will be school governors, parents or engaged in different ways with your local schools.
Make sure you get involved and ask questions about the new curriculum, challenge us, get onto the website in April and see the full draft detail, encourage your colleagues and staff to do the same.
All articles published on Click on Wales are subject to IWA’s disclaimer.
16 thoughts on “Wales’ new curriculum and qualifications”
Mixed emotions having read Kirsty’s article and truly bewildered that after 20 years of abject failure the Welsh Education is being ‘transformed’ yet again but the key element responsible for the failure of our education system not even mentioned once.
The unmentionable is only mentioned in the Welsh Governments propaganda when it suits them and in the safe knowledge that there will be no scrutiny and therefore no accountability (Down to the Y Fro Gymraeg media who share ‘Common Purpose’ with the Welsh Government).
Welsh education reforms are based upon some absurd statements that defy the logic and will be the unravelling of anything good that might be contained in the new curriculum for ‘excellence’ that as yet I have not come across.
The fundamental principle behind Welsh education strategy stripped down to its naked form is to socially engineer our children into Welsh speakers, hence the following statement from the Welsh Government that underpins the current education reform:
“The Welsh language belongs to us all – it needs to be included in strategic planning to make it a part of every aspect of life”.
We are talking about a language and a culture that largely stopped evolving in the XIII c that is only relevant to some 8% of Welsh population excluding the Wenglish who amount to further 10% of our nation and who don’t have any hang-ups which language they speak.
The sad fact is that the Welsh Government is driving roughshod over internationally recognised norms that teaching children through a language not spoken at home will stifle/damage their educational journey and has failed to address this very subject via any meaningful scrutiny.
Kirsty Williams often uses social media to tell us how wonderful it is to have two children who are both ‘bilingual’ and at ease with English and Welsh even though she is not a Welsh speaker. I have no idea how bright her kids are but do know as the fact that only the top 3-5%, the very bright/exceptional kids can cope with the Welsh language submersion.
Equally, I’m in the dark if Kirsty made any effort to participate in her children’s educational journey through a language she doesn’t understand but willing to impose it on children and parents who are most likely to become bystanders unable to share the wonderful learning experience that young children should have but denied to most for the sake of a language and a culture irrelevant to most people of Wales?
I’ll leave it to others who may wish to address Kirsty with the hard facts contained in Welsh education statistics KS2/GCSE who all show the demise of the Welsh Medium Education (WME) when compared with the English Medium Education EME) and the damage done to children with no Welsh at home in the imposed WME.
If Kirsty wants scrutiny, I suggest, she goes no further than the Y Fro Gymraeg County of Gwynedd which prides itself on having no EME in primary years and ask them for a copy of Bangor University report titled:
“Report of a Survey on the Social Use of Welsh by Gwynedd’s Primary Sector Children” – Authors: Dylan Bryn Roberts and Dr Enlli Thomas (Removed from the public domain by Gwynedd LEA).
The study concludes that most children do not use Welsh outside of confines of their classrooms and this is unlikely to change even in a month of Sundays.
Children with no Welsh at home end up damaged for life being illiterate/innumerate in two languages (KS2/GCSE data) – CRIMINAL IMO.
Finally, suggest Kirsty listens to the Irish if she is not prepared to listen to our children (A must watch): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mrg_xuJZsDQ&feature=youtu.be
“Make sure you get involved and ask questions about the new curriculum, challenge us, get onto the website in April and see the full draft detail, encourage your colleagues and staff to do the same.”
WOW! I am totally on board with this; scenting a new openness and willingness to consider varying opinions I rushed over to the last posting on their “Successful futures” forum to read my own contributions…sadly still nothing.
I have to emphasise that there is nothing in their “rules of engagement” that suggests that anything that I have written should be deemed unacceptable to the moderators; indeed I have reproduced one post exactly in the IWA blog here:-
Post number 3.
Ironic on so many levels when Kirsty Williams urges the population of Wales to “get involved”.
It isn’t the hypocrisy that concerns me so much as the wider implications of what is being done here by the Department of Education but also elsewhere in the Welsh government. What we are seeing is authoritarianism in action.
Instead of Wales being an open, outward looking and confident country all the instincts of our government and political class is towards secrecy and repression of free expression.
At the same time that, on the face of it, we are urged to lend our voices to debates about our future, opinions and facts that run counter to the direction of travel that the nationalist factions in our government, political parties and institutions are determined to travel, are banished from government sites and ignored by politicians and media alike.
This is regrettably the inevitable road to regression and isolation and ultimately a dictatorial and authoritarian regime.
It appears IWA is part of the problem, J. Jones and only there to promote Welsh Government’s Y Fro Gymraeg narrative. My comment sent in shortly after Kirsty Williams’s article was published has been withheld/censored, why?
Perhaps IWA will publish the link to this article written by a Cardiff based journalist, or preferably feature it as the main article? https://marcussteaduk.wordpress.com/2019/02/26/wales-a-country-divided/
This is an interesting example of openness from the department of education; quite a good article on Finnish education after a number of teachers had gone on a visit. In particular they looked at how a famously multi-lingual country managed to teach languages to a high standard:-
After a brief introduction where the writer mentions “language showers” where children are introduced to other languages (but not systematically taught other languages) follows this sentence:-
” At school the first optional language is usually offered at Grade 5 (age 11/12). English is a popular choice (fuelled in part by its use in on-line gaming and popular culture). However, people increasingly consider that proficiency in Finnish and English is sufficient and interest in and uptake of other languages is in decline.”
Coincidentally age 11/12 is the age at which Dutch children are first taught a foreign language…once again usually English.
In fact not one European country habitually uses early immersion to teach a language. In Finland the Sami minority and the Swedish enclave have Sami and Swedish language schools but that is for pupils whose home language is the language of those schools.
So this article actually runs counter to Welsh government policy on Welsh early immersion schooling for children from English speaking homes. Welsh policy also runs counter to UNESCO policy on early learning good practice.
I wrote this comment:-
“J.Jones on March 28, 2018 at 4:12 pm said:
Your comment is awaiting moderation.
This is an interesting review of the literature on teaching a second language:-
In particular note this:-
“The NLP was the latest of five meta-analyses
that reached the same
conclusion: learning to read in the
home language promotes reading
achievement in the second language.”
So the Finnish model with the Sami and enlightened American teaching of Spanish first language children in an English medium setting are all exactly the opposite of the immersion system being used in Wales.
Welsh medium schooling is all about Nationalist and identity politics; not the education and well-being of children.”
Still awaiting moderation after all this time…
Of course it’s never going to be published because it is unacceptable to the Welsh department of education to have ANY comment on their “Curriculum for Wales” blog that challenges the orthodox doctrine.
The problem is a systemic one; if the various Welsh language acts demand that services are available in Welsh then the people who deliver those services, particularly in the field of education, will be first language Welsh speakers. Those people have a vested interest in making sure that they themselves, and their children, are in a privileged position when it comes to future employment. They also view the propagation of the Welsh language as an almost religious duty. They cannot ever allow any challenge to their own agenda.
So, IWA, if you are going to proselytise on behalf of Kirsty Williams, I believe that you should, perhaps, point out to her her enormous hypocrisy…..No?
‘I also realise that many of you reading this blog will be school governors, parents or engaged in different ways with your local schools.
Make sure you get involved and ask questions about the new curriculum, challenge us, …’
We tried challenging you on the Curriculum for Wales blog and got permanently censored as long ago as the 24th of November, 2016 in what looks like just the 38th comment on the blog! Does Kirsty Williams even know what is going on in her own department?
‘Education digital team on November 24, 2016 at 3:42 pm said:
Dear Glasnost and others, thank you for your comments.
Professor Donaldson’s ‘Successful Futures’ report took full consideration of language issues. The decision to introduce a new curriculum for Wales, along the lines of the recommendations in Professor Donaldson’s report, received cross party support.
I hope you will agree that your views and those of your colleagues who hold similar opinions have been aired very fully on this blog. However for the sake of moving forward in a positive vein, we will not be publishing further contributions of a similar nature.’
The last comment I managed to get published was comment #8. It was a direct challenge to a statement Kirsty Williams wrote and I will repeat it here:
‘John R Walker on October 19, 2016 at 7:59 am said:
“I believe all decisions made by governments must be based on sound evidence.”
Why then is the accumulated evidence that Welsh-medium schools under-perform English-medium schools when compared on a like-for-like basis using EFSMs not being factored into WG policy? What do you propose to do about it?
Why then is the accumulated evidence that L1 English pupils under-perform in the core subjects in Welsh-medium schools when compared on a like-for-like basis using EFSMs not being factored into WG policy? What do you propose to do about it and specifically when will the WG make it unlawful for LEAs such as Gwynedd to deny L1 English children an English-medium primary education since all the available evidence suggests that most children learn best through their first language?’
I am STILL waiting for an answer from Kirsty Williams why this statement of hers:
“I believe all decisions made by governments must be based on sound evidence.”
flies in the face of the considerable body of evidence available to her own department?
I agree – I want evidence-based education policies and the evidence says that doubling-down on existing policies which are failing, and have failed for the best part of 30 years, has no more chance of succeeding in future than it did in the past. You can put lipstick on a pig but it is still a pig. This is all the WG is doing.
The decline of education in Wales since ~1990 has been momentous by any standards and looks set to continue at a similar, or at an even higher, rate. Why? Because consultation is a total sham. Research has not been robust or thorough or unbiased. Research has been cherry-picked to fit an ideological narrative which has already failed and the inconvenient material has been ignored altogether – and that includes by authors who have actually put their names to conflicting evidence in recent years. Pedagogy has not triumphed over a failed and almost racist ideology. Just because it has cross-party support doesn’t make it right – actually it makes it worse!
Welsh language SUBMERSION techniques in primary schools have failed dismally – typically L1 English pupils leaving KS2 are a full 2 years behind where they ought to be at age 11. Worse, in many cases their most useful L1 of English has actually been damaged by being taught to read and write in Welsh. Their opportunity for school-based consolidation and progression in English has been denied to them. In many ways they are worse off than EAL pupils in the rest of the UK who have the benefit of English medium immersion. Welsh language SUBMERSION is a lose-lose programme for almost everybody except the L1 Welsh pupils who have at least one parent fully fluent and fully literate in Welsh. Yet this madness is set to be increased! In my view, the policy in Wales should actually be the exact reverse with L1 Welsh pupils being given the same advantages as AEL pupils in the rest of the UK with English language immersion education. English is complex and the sooner it is started the better.
Then the damage being done in primary rolls forward into secondary where KS3 is increasingly a case of doing remedial work not building on skills from primary years to take forward to the GCSE and A Level stages.
There is nothing new or revolutionary in what Donaldson has proposed – except perhaps the opaqueness of its language and jargon. Teacher-led education was the hallmark of Alec Clegg in the West Riding of Yorkshire back in the 1950s – arguably still the most successful large-scale LEA the UK has ever known. But in the West Riding it really was teacher led… And, as Sir Alec often remarked, Socrates beat him to it by some 2,400 years! So how has Wales managed to get something so simple so wrong for so long? With no end in sight…
Are you really a “colleague” of mine Mr Walker? The “Education digital team” seem to be making an unfounded assertion there.
There’s no real secret that Welsh medium schools disadvantage pupils who don’t have Welsh as a home language and, as a consequence perhaps, that Welsh medium schools under-perform similar English medium schools. I frequently feed the Welsh government’s own data back to the department of Education. The latest data provided as a result of FOI is here:-
What a fiasco – yet again. In 1981 our twin children were immersed in Welsh nursery, aged 3 – yet were told at 16 they would never be truly Welsh as this was learned as “only a second Language”
In 2010 four teachers in West Wales were made redundant ( fifty percent of the English Dpt ) – .despite having excellent teaching ability – proven- excellent pupil results – good classroom discipline etc, because they didn’t speak Welsh, Two had served the school for over twelve years They were Welsh born and bred. Whilst this was challenged through Tribunal the concluding remarks were that this redundancy would have been racism if those teachers had not themselves been Welsh!
In 1972 as a young English Literature undergraduate at UCW Aberystwyth I and my fellow students fought to protect and encourage the Welsh language despite myself not being a speaker of it – though my grandparents had been. But we also determined that the language should never be used to the detriment of the people i.e. if Wales needs good teachers give her the best, not merely the ones who can speak Welsh.
This has become a catastrophe and is strangling us financially, educationally … I am watching the once successful educational system of Wales falling into ruin. The majority of parents I speak to feel vulnerable and afraid to say what they genuinely think. Being fluent in Welsh is not going to substantially enhance children’s futures, believe me.
There are few jobs here, children grow and move – out of necessity. We have two designated languages but we seem to have forgotten that.
This has now become a social experiment. Our children deserve a rich and deep educational experience to prepare them for an international workforce. The Welsh Bacc isn’t fit for purpose and young people resent being forced into such political confines. Our Pisa and national educational results are shocking We spend millions on unnecessary translation – money which could be put into the Welsh N.H.S or education. We are destroying genuine interest and love for the language – or surely at least one full generation should have been fluent by now !!!
By the way – if you want an example of poorly executed written English just read this Education Minister’s address. It shows an embarrassing and shocking lack of ability for anyone in Welsh public office – but in her present position ??????
I rest my case. If that’s the best Wales can produce as either a spokesperson and leader of our educational system, then God help us.
I would expect someone involved in the education of our children to get their English checked by someone that knows English before getting it printed. Just as an example you state:
“The independent regulator Qualifications Wales has now written to me to outlining how they will be considering the new curriculum and its implications.” to outlining???
J.Jones says: March 4, 2019 at 1:43 pm
‘Are you really a “colleague” of mine Mr Walker? The “Education digital team” seem to be making an unfounded assertion there.’
Colleague – noun – a person with whom one works in a profession or business. (Oxford English)
This is almost funny! At least they’re not claiming that you, me, and sundry others are all really Jacques Protic so I suppose we should regard this as progress? Perhaps the crazy notion that there can only be one person who thinks the WG’s Welsh language and education policies are worse than useless and totally indefensible has ‘officially’ been put to sleep?
So I guess they think we’re ‘colleagues’ promoting better education for the kids in Wales. I can live with that even if they fundamentally disagree and want to keep getting it wrong without us. To be honest we’ve all been called much worse so let’s take it as a compliment that they realise we are prosecuting what we consider to be a worthwhile cause.
One problem is that English isn’t English any more – in the political bubble words we think we understand have been given new meanings and part of this is deliberate to hide the anti-democratic nature the beast has assumed. Let’s take competence – it means ‘the ability to do something successfully or efficiently’. Or does it? Not any more – in power circles competence means having the power to do something not necessarily that the people involved have the faintest idea what they’re doing. Colleague has also been hijacked to mean a person working with common cause in some arena – the colleagues promoting devolution in Wales, the colleagues promoting the European Project…
So even if we’re not in the same job and nobody is paying our wages I guess we can claim to be colleagues in the sense that we’re all 2nd class citizens in our own country and concerned citizens with a common cause.
What we really need is a lot more ‘colleagues’! They’re out there – I have talked to scores of them in Gwynedd from both the L1 Welsh and the L1 English communities. Mostly behind closed doors with the curtains drawn after sweeping the room for bugs – the climate of fear is still very real… Some have felt so powerless and helpless and trapped it has reduced them to tears… Some just get angry but it doesn’t help much… Some of the L1 Welsh have adopted the same mind-set as many immigrants to the UK where they want the schools to provide what they can’t provide at home – best English, maths, and other core subjects possible – and they will take care of the Welsh language and other cultural matters within the home and/or the community. Some of them would rather their children had the opportunity for English language immersion in the primary schools. For over 30 years I have watched people who think the same way as we do being picked off and fobbed off one at a time by the authorities with what amounts to complete contempt topped off with bullshit. They hold all the levers and people know it so they mostly just suffer in silence.
If we are going to make any progress with language freedom and rebuilding the catastrophic failure education in Wales has become – significantly due to Welsh language compulsion and imposition by the political class without meaningful consultation, research, or respect for personal preferences – then I would opine that we need to follow the same path as the Irish when they formed the Irish Language Freedom Movement. The situation in Wales is broadly similar with similar negative consequences to our daily lives – a situation the political class in the UK and Welsh governments appear to be oblivious to so they carry on regardless with virtually no opposition. The UK government has some excuse for failing to understand the negative consequences of their actions but the WG has none. The WG’s failure to take account that similar policies have already failed in Ireland is indefensible.
So I would urge the many silent disaffected people in Wales to consider whether they could and would support such an organisation in Wales to try and bring the WG back to its senses?
For those who are unfamiliar with the Irish Language Freedom Movement I suggest you look at these links:
The Welsh language debate is another case of Truth or Treason! One man’s truth is another man’s treason. The truth is pretty alarming when looked at objectively – especially in education. This is not over; it is not settled. It has never been tested nor even discussed openly by the political class. The people have not spoken except in a few polls with loaded questions designed to elicit ‘support’ for the Welsh language. In theory there is still time to save another generation from the grave errors of the last 20-30 years.
Are there any more ‘colleagues’ out there prepared to put their heads over the parapet to form, say, the ‘Welsh Language Freedom Movement’ with a similar agenda to the Irish movement? It would be better if you happen to be Welsh…
Yes! I know many people (teachers, parents and Welsh citizens) who would be interested, including myself. The main concerns: the cause being hijacked by those with an unpleasant agenda, the backlash from the ‘You’re only Welsh if you speak the language’ cohort and concerns that it might make people vulnerable to abuse. However, in a democratic society all voices need to be heard and, in my experience, our reasonable concerns are being ignored. Something needs to change.
As we proceed with these recent changes to our school system I wonder whether Kirsty Williams has given much thought to the implications of the way in which we judge the success of our schools.
Those familiar with the core subject measures will know that the Welsh medium schools have long had an unacknowledged mathematical advantage when schools are evaluated. The main measure used to judge academic attainment in any school is the “Level 2 inclusive” (the percentage of year 11 pupils who attain A*-C in 5 GCSE subjects including English or Welsh and any Maths). The school is judged according to its “family” group of 12 schools all of which have similar levels of challenge; for instance, schools with only 5% of pupils eligible for free school meals have an advantage and so they would be grouped together. If one of those schools only had 60% of its pupils attaining the Level 2 inclusive, that would be a poor result whereas another school, with 30% of pupils EFSM, would be considered outstanding if they reached 60% level 2 inclusive.
That “Either Welsh or English” stipulation is worth a lot to the WM schools as you can see from the link above:-
Depending on the EFSM group, having the either /Or option is worth 5%-7% on the measure.
In the last few years the WG has realised that schools were “aiming” to maximise the pass percentage at “C” but neglecting brighter pupils who might score A*-A and so the 5 A*-A measure was brought in but here’s the rub, at the same time they have announced that pupils in EM schools would have to sit a core exam in Welsh first language. What chance have pupils in EM schools of attaining A*-A? Virtually none.
Even now the lion’s share of A*-A Welsh first language GCSE passes are taken by pupils who have Welsh as a first language.
Over the last 5 years pupils taking Welsh L1 have been pretty evenly split by home language; 50.3% Welsh, 49.7% English but 24% of the Welsh L1 pupils earned A*-A and only 10% of English L1 earned A*-A.
In the future system virtually all of the EM pupils will be English home language but without the benefit of having been through WM primary they don’t stand a chance of competing.
Another way to make WM schools look better than they really are.
Messrs Jones and Walker you are heroes to me. I’ve been following what you write about this thorny issue for some time. I am so frustrated with the mythologising of ‘the language’ and the untruths that are spouted. Any criticism from anyone is met with ‘monoglot who doesn’t understand the benefits of learning other languages’ (not true at all in my case, I speak an additional two fluently); Brit Nat; ‘frightened’ of the language, intolerant of other cultures, and so on. It would not be right for me to join your campaign as I am English (so have to be extra careful when raising any concerns about Welsh). I spend my half my time in Wales however with my Welsh L1 partner and am enthusiastically learning conversational Welsh. Anyway, I have two questions, which trouble me somewhat:
I see from the data that English L1 pupils leaving WM at the end of primary are approx. 1 year behind their peers in EM schools (when adjusted for FSM and so on). Is there any evidence that they do catch up. Intuitively I would expect not, however there will be parents who think ‘doesn’t matter, it doesn’t seem to affect results at 16 and 18, and the cultural and linguistic benefits of becoming fluent in Welsh compensate for any dip at age 11.’
Second question: J Jones, couldn’t your final paragraph above be pounced upon by WM enthusiasts as being a justification for making all schools WM. This seems – worryingly – to be the direction of travel in Wales at the moment.
Sorry to tell you this Claire but it is already the policy of Plaid Cymru and Welsh labour to move schools along a continuum towards Welsh medium.
What does it mean? Well, legally schools cannot change language medium without the parents of that school being consulted and balloted. So what is now happening is that the definition of “English medium” is being changed so that parental consultation does not need to occur.
To understand you will need to look at this:-
As you will see the various bilingual secondary schools teach varying numbers of subjects through the medium of Welsh. All bilingual schools, as well as schools that totally teach through the medium of Welsh, are given the broad definition of “Welsh medium”.
English medium secondary schools (broad grouping) include “EW” schools (English with significant Welsh). I was a governor in such a school and we endured constant pressure from our LEA and LEA governors to employ more Welsh speaking teachers and change the “ethos” of the school to become “more Welsh”, including delivering more subjects through the Welsh language. Simultaneously we endured vociferous pressure from parents to resist every effort to make the school more Welsh.
Some time ago the Welsh Language Board became concerned that in the region of 1,200 pupils who went through WM primary failed to continue in WM secondary or failed to follow Welsh medium courses in bilingual schools. These pupils, in reality, were probably failing in the Welsh medium system and were rescued (perhaps) in English medium secondary school.
The WLB contracted a firm called “Sbectwm”, run by Cefin Cambel, to run a pilot scheme to push pupils in places like Anglesey, Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire towards Welsh medium secondary schooling. He also persuaded bilingual schools to reduce the number of subjects available through the medium of English. Naturally this was successful in the terms of how many pupils ended up in WM secondary classes. The last time that I checked the drop out rate was about 800 and, more and more, the Fro Cymraeg LAs are moving to “all through” schools where pupils do not move away from the single (Welsh medium) campus.
Do pupils recover from WM immersion? Well no two kids are the same and I had 4 go through WM primary and bilingual secondary school. Three of them had a Welsh first language mother. None of them can speak fluent Welsh and one of them certainly suffered in WM primary school, becoming introverted and silent in class and falling behind in school work until taken out to an independent English medium primary school and on to an EW secondary. Do kids recover? many do and many don’t. The greatest effect is in the early years when self confidence can be destroyed by being unable to understand in the school environment. In fact some research that I did found that pupils from English only homes in WM primary schools were far more likely to be designated “special needs” in KS1 than either their Welsh first language classmates or similar pupils in similar EM schools. The “special need” would presumably be failing to understand a strange language well enough to progress.
You might well enjoy reading the last PISA Wales report and particularly page 118 onward.
Thank you for the comprehensive answer. I did read the PISA report. I am troubled that there is such a culture of silence around this issue. I don’t have ‘skin in the game’ – my children went through the English education system and are now at university, and my stepchildren are Welsh L1 and flourishing, by and large, in Welsh medium in Gwynedd. But I speak to many parents, both English and Welsh, and there is great disquiet at the standard of English that is being taught, and which I see firsthand. I also hear almost daily horror stories about the way that ‘the Sais’ are demonised and how English children are made to feel ashamed of what ‘they’ did to the Welsh language. (From what I can understand, this is blatant rubbish, but victimhod seems to have taken root in west Wales). Anyway I’m not sure what can be done, esepcially not by incomers like me, but I do hope Wales wakes up soon. Welsh schoolchildren with English as a home language, who do of course make up the majority of Welsh schoolchildren, are being failed. But then as I’m frequently told by members of my partner’s extended family, they are ‘Sais’ too.
#15 Claire: Gwynedd schools have largely given up on teaching English, standards are appalling but no one in authority seems to care. The worst aspect IMO is the revision of history and emphases on promoting the Welsh ‘victimhood’. Primary school kids often stun their parents by coming home from school and saying ‘I hate the English’, and from an isolated case.
Gwynedd LEA has a mandatory template on how to teach the Welsh history and this template is now being unrolled across North Wales on the directive of the Welsh Government – appaling abuse of education and unacceptable but through the culture of fear and media silence the toxic Social Engineering seems unstoppable?
The next four paragraphs are from the history teaching template (unmodified and no corrections made to spelling or grammar):
“The workforce places an emphasis on promoting pupils awareness and understanding of the cultural
features of Wales through considering presenting aspects from amongst; the musical traditions of Wales,
our folk melodies, cerdd dant, our dance melodies, traditional instruments (harp, crwth, hornpipe); folk
tradition such as the Fari Lwyd, Gw^ yl Ifan;Wales dance tradition, twmpath and clog dancing; traditional
Welsh popular music ranging from Dafydd Iwan to the Ods.
The workforce place an emphasis on promoting and raising the profile of the Welsh media and literature
of Wales through focussing on and supporting: Welsh Programmes, Radio Cymru, S4C, national papers
and papurau bro, various journals; eisteddfodau; literature of Wales, authors, dramatists, poets;The
National Library; Hengwrt / Peniarth manuscripts; awareness of the poetic tradition of Wales; our
legends,Y Mabinogi, local legends.
The workforce places an emphasis on promoting pupils awareness and understanding of the history of
Wales through considering presenting aspects from amongst; drovers,Welsh pirates, fairs, woolen industry,
mining, our Celtic roots,Age of the Saints and the Monasteries, the Age of the Princes, Owain Glyndw^ r,
TheTudors and the Act of Union, William Morgan and translating the Bible, The Chartists,The Industrial
Revolution,Treason of the Blue Books, O.M. Edwards,The Urdd,The Battle for the Language’s survival, The
Assembly;Awareness of Welsh people immigrating and establishing the Welsh colonies in Patagonia,The
Quakers immigating to Pennsylvania;Welsh Scientists, Edward Llwyd.
The workforce place an emphasis on promoting sporting champions from Wales, promoting Welsh teams,
city of Cardiff and not Man U, Swansea not Liverpool”
Finally, a suggestion for the IWA:
This article should be republished together with all the comments thus far to allow a wider debate. Education is of huge importance and the comments here deserve much wider exposure?
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