Cornwall’s only bilingual Cornish/English preschool will be launched this Saturday (9th January) by the General Secretary (GS) of the Celtic League.
The preschool has been set up with the support of the Cornish Language Partnership and Cornwall College, with advice from a number of individuals and organisations throughout the Celtic countries. The GS has been liaising with Cornish language organisations and speakers throughout the last year in order to help build up the necessary structures to put the preschool in place.
In addition to the actual preschool, a nursery schools movement (Movyans Skolyow Meythrin) has also been formed to help promote the creation and development of bilingual preschools in Cornwall and to provide a service for parents/carers and other interested parties who are keen to promote Cornish/English language bilingual education for young children.
The Saturday school, Skol dy’Sadorn Karenza, will be held in the Karenza facility of Cornwall College, Camborne campus, which is a fully equipped crèche facility with classrooms attached and will be run as a pilot project throughout the first half of 2009, to see how the school develops. The school has so far received funding from the Cornish Language Partnership, which will cover the cost of the venue for the immediate future, but further funding is also being sought to help with the development of the school. Cornwall College has also agreed to provide the organisers of the school with the Karenza facility at a low cost to help get the school off the ground.
As part of the Saturday school, parents are being invited to learn Cornish themselves in a unique `Cornish for the home environment’ programme that will be focussed on how to bring young child up bilingually. The adult class will be run in parallel to the preschool class and as part of the sessions, the parent-learners will also help to make appropriate language resources for their children to use in the school. So far five children and their parents have opted to come along this Saturday and a number of other parents have expressed an interest in attending.
In addition to the Cornish language, Skol dy’Sadorn Karenza also aims to familiarise the children and parents about other aspects of Cornwall’s culture and heritage such as dance, customs and music.
The GS, Rhisiart Tal-e-bot, told the League:
“The idea to set up a bilingual preschool has been on my mind for some years and when Professor Ken MacKinnon’s government sponsored independent academic survey on the Cornish language was published in 2000, which stated that, “without a developed playgroup stage, prospects for wider provision of Cornish at primary stage are more difficult, and the prospects of Cornish-medium schooling are remote”, it was obvious that something had to be done.
“At the 2007 AGM the Celtic League passed a resolution, stating that it was looking forward to the creation of a bilingual Cornish and English preschool and that it supported attempts to establish the same through cooperation with individuals and other groups. At this point it was clear that nothing was yet happening to this end in Cornwall and as a trained primary and specialist infant teacher myself, working at that time within a bilingual infant programme in the Basque Country, I felt that I could help to contribute to the establishment of a bilingual preschool in Cornwall.
“I set up MSM (a community interest company) with several other like minded people in July 2009 and on my return to Cornwall in August 2009 – to work in the early year’s department of Cornwall College – everything fell into place relatively quickly. It has been quite a bit of extra work though, but I have learnt a lot along the way.
“The support that we have received from individuals and organisations in Cornwall and the other Celtic countries has been fantastic. We have been in regular contact with different Cornish language organisations, MAGA and a large number of education and language specialists in Cornwall. In addition we have been in regular contact with Finlay MacLoed from the Scottish Gaelic Preschool Council (CNSA), Professor Kenneth MacKinnon, the Manx language preschool movement, Mooinjer Veggey and the League’s Mannin Branch Secretary, Ruth Black, who works as a teacher in Manx language primary school. We have even had help from Cornish speaking academics and linguists from Vienna University, who have helped us to produce promotional material and helped with the translation of our website. We have also drawn a lot of inspiration and ideas from Mudiad Ysgolion Meithrin in Wales.
I have been lucky in that I am well placed to push the movement forward. I am a specialist infant school teacher and have over four years experience of working in a bilingual infant setting. I also now have the advantage of working in an educational establishment that has been very supportive of my particular educational interests.”
Skol dy’Sadorn Karenza will be the first Cornish language preschool to open in Cornwall since the 1980’s, when the Cornish language charity Dalleth used to hold monthly sessions for children. However the Dalleth group was eventually closed due to the low take up of the idea by parents. Since the 1980’s though, knowledge of the language has increased considerably and more people than ever are now learning the language. Also, according to Rhisiart Tal-e-bot, people are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of promoting and protecting the Cornish language, the vital place the language has in Cornwall’s rich cultural heritage and the educational benefits that learning two languages at a young age has.
For more information about MSM contact Rhisiart on firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website at www.movyans-