Four schools in the Council of Carmarthenshire will teach new pupils primarily Welsh from next year. Cameron Sullivan says that schools in other Councils should look out for opportunity to voice their opinions before any change takes place in their local councils.
The Council of Carmarthenshire leaders, Plaid Cymru, has stated that from next year, new children starting at Carmarthen, Newcastle Emlyn, St Clears and Whitland will primarily learn in the medium of Welsh. The option to learn through the medium of English will be available from the age of seven. This change comes with the hope that bilingualism within Wales will be boosted, with the leader of Carmarthenshire County Council stating: “it is timely, to ensure that our children and young adults in our country have the opportunity to become bilingual”.
Glynog Davies, the Council’s cabinet member for education, said that the aim was to ensure pupils were confident in both languages. He was disappointed with the lack of response to the consultation but claimed that the four schools were happy with the proposed changes.
Consultation with local parents uncovered that many parents feared that their children’s English language skills could suffer. However, the County Council has addressed concerns stating that parents who are concerned will be provided by the schools with educational advice, and parent evenings in their chosen language. Hwb Wales also provides access to a range of digital learning tools and resources.
It is unclear whether other Councils within Wales will seek to follow the example of Carmarthenshire. It may ultimately depend on whether local parents support or strongly object to any future proposal in this regard, and whether indeed English language skills will suffer. But the County Council is confident in its approach, arguing that on average, 80% of pupils who attend the welsh medium get A* to C in English. Such proposals are likely to assist the Welsh Government’s 2017 aim of reaching a target of 1 million Welsh speakers by 2050.
Although these changes affect only the schools named, it is important that local schools remain vigilant as county councils have an obligation, under the Learner Travel Measure (Wales) 2008, to promote access to education and training through the medium of Welsh. A school may do this, by either following Capital Law’s news page for updates to local curriculum, or by visiting their local council’s website.
This in turn will offer both schools, and parents the opportunity to voice their opinions before any change takes place through consultation periods.