The publication of an annual report by the Welsh Government last week (22nd July 2011) on how Welsh has progressed over the last year shows that the language needs to expand more quickly in certain areas, if the government’s own targets are to be met.
The Welsh medium education strategy annual report 2010 – 11 outlines the key developments and progress made in the implementation of the six strategic aims that were set out in the Welsh medium education strategy launched as part of the Plaid Cymru and Labour Party One Wales agreement in 2007.
The 2010 – 11 document is the first annual report since the Strategy was launched in 2010 and shows the state of Welsh medium education from nursery level to university. Some aspects in the report that highlight the progress and development of the language over the last year include the development of a new planning system for statutory education, further developments in the planning of post 16 provision and a focus on practitioner development to ensure a Welsh-medium workforce with high-quality Welsh-language skills.
However the high target of 30% in the report of all Year 2 learners (seven year olds) in Wales being taught through Welsh medium education by 2020 seems ambitious, when it is considered that the figure at the moment currently stands at 21% (the same figure incidentally as the number of people who claimed to have competence in Welsh in the 2001 census). If this 30% figure is to be met by 2020, then there are a number of challenges that the Government and local authorities in Wales need to be addressing urgently.
One of these challenges is still the huge disparity between the numbers of children that attend Welsh medium education in the different local authorities. Even though there have been substantial increases in the last ten years in the number of children attending Welsh medium education in some local authorities such as Torfaen, Monmouthshire and Cardiff for example, in other local authorities there has actually been a decrease, such as in Blaenau Gwent, Wrecsam and Neath Port Talbot. In addition one newspaper (the `Daily Post’ newspaper) rightly points out that in the north of Wales the discrepancies between the number of children and young people attending Welsh medium education between the local authorities is considerable. In Gwynedd for instance 100% of children attend Welsh medium education, but in Conwy and Denbighshire only 25% of children attend Welsh medium education.
On the day of the publication of the annual report the Welsh Education Minister, Leighton Andrews, said that he is aware of the challenges that lie ahead for Welsh medium education, but was pleased by the progress that has been made over the past year. Minister Andrews said:
“The launch of the Strategy was a major step forward in setting a strategic direction for Welsh-medium education. I am glad to see that progress has been made in implementing the Strategy.
“We will continue to work with all partners to ensure that the 2015 targets in the Strategy are met and that the Strategy sits alongside and complements the work being undertaken to increase the use of Welsh in our communities.”
Statistics for the other levels of education, including targets set for 2020, can also be found in the annual report on the Strategy. 16% of Year 9 children for example are currently assessed through the medium of Welsh and their 2020 target is 23%, which is lower than for Year 2 children. Generally the number of children and young people that are currently assessed through the medium of Welsh is lower the older the child becomes (at least for the moment) and of course targets reflect this. There are some planned changes however that could skew this trend, like when the Welsh medium higher education college – Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol – opens up in September 2011. The fact remains though that the Government will have its work cut out to meet
all its Welsh medium education targets, but at least – thanks to the commitment it made under the One Wales agreement combined with the support that is apparently being wielded by monoglot English speakers for Welsh – overall progress seems to be occurring.
Welsh medium education strategy and annual report –
This article prepared for Celtic News by Rhisiart Tal-e-bot General Secretary Celtic League. For follow-up comment or clarification contact:
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