Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Allowing parents in Llanegenech to choose

This column appeared in the Llanelli Herald on 16 December 2016

Next week Councillors on Carmarthenshire ruling Cabinet will make a decision about turning Llanegenech primary and infants into a Welsh medium school.

The Plaid-run Council say this is necessary to achieve the Welsh Government’s target of doubling the number of Welsh speakers by 2050.

The Welsh Government envisages schools moving along a ‘language continuum’ so that English-medium schools become dual-stream schools, and dual-stream schools become Welsh medium ones.  As a first step Carmarthenshire are putting the emphasis on converting all the dual-stream schools in the county into Welsh-medium schools.

Whilst doing this may make it easier to hit targets, it does nothing to address the quality of Welsh language education for the overwhelming majority of pupils in the County. The Council don’t seem to have plans for increasing the skills and capacity of English-medium schools to enable all children to have access to high quality Welsh language teaching.

Instead, I believe the Council should be placing the greatest emphasis on the other end of the language continuum.

In urban areas where there are a range of schools to choose from, the creation of new Welsh language provision extends choice. However, the conversion of a village school into a Welsh medium one prevents families from being able to choose how their children are educated, and risks creating social and cultural divisions.  

Llangennech has been a successful model of community cohesion where children from different language backgrounds have been educated side by side. Families who do not want a Welsh medium education for their children will be forced to travel outside the village. And the sense of community which has built up around the school risks being undermined; friendship groups will be disrupted, and child care arrangements will be complicated - these are all hard to measure but will all be affected by this change.

There are wider issues too. To walk to the nearest alternative school in Hendy, for example, would involve crossing a Motorway junction. This is clearly not practical and would therefore involve an additional car journey at a time of peak congestion - going directly against the sustainability and public health duties of the Council.

The debate over the future of the language has been marked by decades of consensus and goodwill about its growth. The handling of the issue in Llangennech has been insensitive and underlines the danger of not taking communities with us in our efforts to safeguard its future.

I would urge Councillors to think again

1 comment:

J. Jones said...

Page 120 of UCL analysis of Welsh speaking pupil's performance in PISA:-

"37. The key message to be taken from Figure 6.7 is that differences in these
background characteristics cannot explain the achievement gap between pupils who
completed the test in English versus Welsh. In fact, differences in average PISA
science and reading scores between pupils who completed the test in English and
Welsh actually increase somewhat (and reach statistical significance at the five per
cent level) after such background characteristics have been taken into account. For
instance, the difference between pupils who took the PISA test in English versus
Welsh stands at 25 test points in science (significant at the five per cent level), 30
points in reading (significant at the five per cent level) and 8 points in mathematics
(insignificant at the five per cent level) after these characteristics have been taken
into account. This further strengthens the evidence that pupils who took the PISA
test in Welsh achieve lower average scores than those who completed the test in
English (at least in the science and reading domains)."

That is what you, Lee, and Labour are driving us towards. 30 points on the PISA scale is equivalent to one whole year of schooling...what a triumph, what a tragedy that the Welsh government will inflict this on children just for ideological reasons. Disgrace.