Welsh-medium education in Swansea

If any of us have time to watch it, Dai Lloyd is going to lead short debate in the Senedd on the state of WM education in Swansea at 6pm today. It will be on senedd.tv and the BBC's Democracy Live both live and on demand later.


I don't know exactly what he'll say, but I'm sure he won't disappoint me. I've written about the situation in Swansea on several occasions, for example here, here and here. I would highlight these facts:

•  Swansea have surveyed the demand for WM education, but have not acted to make provision for it

•  that there are three currently unused school buildings (Arfryn, Cwm and Llanmorlais) that could be used for new WM starter classes now, with the aim of making them new schools in due course

•  but that Swansea have instead embarked on a paperwork exercise to cram more children into the existing buildings when there clearly isn't the physical space available in them to do so

Something else to look forward to is a report by the Assembly's Enterprise and Learning Committee entitled "The teaching and acquisition of Welsh as a second language". It will be published tomorrow and will be downloadable from here. For a taste of what it will say, read this.

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Anonymous said...

Thanks for the heads up on Dai's debate, MH. I have failed to find any reference to the Enterprise and Learning Cttee's investigation on the Assembly website.

MH said...

It was set up as a rapporteur group following a short debate in the Senedd on 4 February 2009, Efrogwr.

It took several pieces of evidence, which are available on this page.

Peter Black said...

You are incorrect that Swansea has failed to makee provision for welsh medium education. That is both inaccurate and misleading. Irrespective of the situation at Llanmorlais, in fact Swansea has built a brand new Welsh medium school in West Cross, has announced a new welsh medium school in Morriston and has plans to open one in the Gowerton/Gorseinon area. They also opened a second welsh medium comprehensive school at Bryn Tawe a few years ago. The current administration has done more for Welsh medium education in Swansea than any other.

MH said...

Peter, please read the three posts I made earlier, and linked to. They explain the situation in much more detail, which it's pointless to repeat here.

I'd then be happy to talk to you about any aspect of what your council is currently trying to do in Swansea.

MH said...

Efrogwr, There was a bad link to where the report would be published in the original post. I've just fixed it. Sorry.

Peter Black said...

I have read the previous posts but your current post was not put into the context of those observations. As such my comment on your fairly bald statement here is perfectly valid.

I understand that there is a disagreement over Llanmorlais but you have to choose whether you want an effective strategy based on evidence and delivering properly planned provision, or kneejerk and opportunistic expansion that will prove to be costly and may have to be reversed in the future.

That is why the Llanmorlais question is not as black and white as you make out. It is also why the Council's rejection of these proposals does not undermine their commitment to and very good record on Welsh medium education.

Shambo said...

Aren't you fogetting Daniel James comp which is sited just alongside YGG Tirdeunaw? The larger school is set to close.

Peter Black said...

Daniel James is an English Medium School and has no bearing on this debate

Shambo said...

Actually, the comment re Daniel James School was directed to MH. But given Peter Black's intervention, perhaps he can enlarge on what future use is envisaged for this school which he and his Lib Dem buddies have marked for closure. The local speculation, as previously mentioned, is that it will become Welsh medium comp with YGG Tirdeunaw and YGG Lon Las as feeders.

Peter Black said...

Actually I have no idea. I very much doubt it will be a new welsh Medium Comp though it could be used to provide more room for Tirdeunaw. I will have to ask.

Anonymous said...

Just seen Dr Dai's speech at the Senedd yesterday about WM in Swansea ... a rather rambling first half going on about Llywelyn and Gwenllian. I'm as nationalist as anyone, and it's important to know our history and the reasons why Welsh is a minority language in its own land, yes, it's called colonialism, but, there's a time and place. Needed to get to the point earlier.

MH said...

Thank you for reading the posts I linked to, Peter. I in no way want to detract from what has already been done in Swansea, but I'm sure you will acknowledge that more needs to be done. As you said in yesterday's debate, you want to "meet the demand that we all know is there".

You mention Ysgol Llwynderw at West Cross as an example of what Swansea has done. And yes, I acknowledge that it is a splendid new building. But it was planned and approved before the surveys showing the extent of parental demand for WM education were undertaken, therefore you can hardly call it a response to those surveys. So it is right for me to say that nothing has yet been done to meet the demand those surveys revealed.

Even now, Swansea only has concrete plans to convert Graig Infants to WM ... which will only provide 105 extra places. This is a very inadequate response to "the demand that we all know is there". As I said in one of the earlier posts, your current proposal to increase the capacities of three WM schools is only a paperwork exercise, for the documentation makes it clear that Swansea intend to do nothing to increase the physical space.

So yes, by all means take credit for what Swansea has done, and that it's more than has been done in the past ... but please also acknowledge that Swansea still has a very long way further to go, as revealed by the surveys you commissioned. What is the point of commissioning surveys, but then not acting on them?


As for how to do it, I think your rhetoric against a WM school in North Gower as "kneejerk and opportunistic expansion that will prove to be costly and may have to be reversed in the future" is not becoming of you. The demand is clearly there, but your Council has dismissed the numbers, claiming (according to Dai Lloyd yesterday) that only two children in North Gower wanted WM education. All I am proposing is that you set up starter classes in Llanmorlais, Arfyn and Cwm ... following the example of Cardiff and now the Vale of Glamorgan. The beauty of doing that is that the Council does not commit itself to anything long-term, and it does not preclude working out a longer-term strategy. It's a recognition of the fact that the demand exists now and therefore Swansea have to do something about it now. Across Swansea you are currently providing only 12% WM primary education, which is only a fraction of demand. Three new starter schools, in addition to your proposal for Craig, will still only go about half way to meeting the unfulfilled demand.


Finally, to Shambo, the problem with using the Daniel James building is that Tirdeunaw itself is already past what I would consider a comfortable size for a WM primary. For that reason I think it better to open new WM primaries elsewhere, so as to provide a better spread across the city. We need to remember that Swansea's surveys show that an additional 10% would choose WM education if a school were available locally.

It's interesting to know that the local speculation is that it could become a new WM secondary. The obvious problem with that is that it would be less than 1km from Bryn Tawe; but bearing in mind that most children have to travel some distance to get to WM secondaries, that may not be such a problem. It just means redefining the catchments. In Cardiff, the two existing WM secondaries are very close together as well.

I'd like to know what answer Peter gets, but the talk I've heard is that Swansea and Neath Port Talbot want to work together on a new WM secondary. So if it is in Swansea, it's likely to be on the east side of the city.

MH said...

Yes, Anon. Dai was definitely in "full flight" mode. I'm going to do another post on it, and on what Leighton Andrews said in response.

Peter Black said...

I have had a discussion on Welsh Medium Education recently with Council officers and there was no mention of a collaboration with Neath Port Talbot on a WM Comp.

You appear to have misunderstood the Graig proposal which is to start a much larger school on that site before moving it to a location that allows for expansion beyond 106 places.

My understanding on the Gower area is that the Council want a much bigger Welsh medium school than 130 places and for that reason they do not consider Llanmorlais as a suitable site. They will be looking for a site in the Gowerton/Gorseinon/Loughor area instead. That is why my words were not just rhetotic.

I know that this means that things will not move as fast as we all want but we need to get this right. Things have also been made difficult as you say by the sabotage of the Llwynderw development by Labour.

We also have to recognise the financial climate we are in. The provision of Welsh medium education is new schools is not cheap and needs to be provided as part of a general reorganisation that sees a reduction in English medium places so that supply better meets the shape of the demand.

Anonymous said...

it's all just flannel and tinkering round the edges though isn't it Peter. Very little action at all. If you were a private company reacting to consumer demand, you would be out of business by now. Imagine Tesco surveying in an area, discovering that a large new 'Superstore' was an extremely popular idea with locals, but in the end, just adding one extra till to an existing 'Tesco Express' miles away in a different locality and making up some rubbish about getting it right. Come on Peter it's just not good enough.

Shambo said...

I think Peter needs to go and have another chat with education officials in Swansea. Their Neath Port Talbot colleagues have been given an indication that Birchgrove Comp (to the east of the city) is also in the equation, i.e. as a possible joint WM secondary school.

MH said...

Peter, if it is your intention (and by that I mean the council, not you personally) that Graig is just a starter school, it's news to me. If Swansea intend to turn it into something bigger, you surely need to come up with a firm proposal on either an existing or new site. It's not good enough to only have something half-formed in the back of your mind. Morriston is where the unfulfilled demand is greatest, and you've had years to think about it.

The same goes for "Gowerton/Gorseinon/Loughor". What's so wrong with Pontybrenin? Leave the school as it is, but set up another WM school somewhere else in the already huge catchment area. You say the council want a "much bigger WM school than 130 places" ... but if you were told that, it is an example of blatant double standards by your education officials. Why is it OK to have a small EM school at Llanrhidian just down the road, but not have a similar sized WM school in the same area? Llanmorlais may not be perfect, but it's good enough. Build a lay-by for buses at the bottom of the lane if necessary. WM education is used to getting hand-me-downs. It's nice to get a brand new building, of course, but we don't need every school to be as nice as Llwynderw.

And yes, I fully accept that cost is an issue. That's why it's such a good idea to use the newly empty buildings at Arfryn, Cwm and Llanmorlais for the new starter classes. If the demand is there, they will fill up and you can put together a good case for either making them permanent or getting funding for a new building. If not, you will have lost nothing. What are you going to do with the buildings anyway? If you're looking to sell them, the next few years are not a good time to get top price, are they?

Lyndon said...

Does Peter Black ever read the documents produced by the council he's supposed to be a member of?

Here you go Pete, here's the link to the document that contradicts virtually everything you've just posted:


Lyndon said...

To make it easy you want pages 7 and 8........

Peter Black said...

Lyndon: from what I can see pages 7 and 8 back up what I wrote. By the way my name is Peter not Pete.

Anon: Tesco of course has massive resources at its disposal. A local Council has to be more evolutionary in the development of schools. It may be tinkering around the edges and it may take time bu we will get there. Some of what I suggested will be happening shortly.

Shambo: I did not deny the Birchgrove idea, it is the first I have heard of it so naturally I will make enquiries. However, what Neath Port Talbot may be planning does not necessarily reflect the plans of Swansea Council. A good example of that is the MREC.

MH: if you read the document that Lyndon has linked to you will see that it suggests 'A temporary extension to the accommodation at YGG Pontybrenin in the Gowerton/Penyrheol area, whilst an appropriate permanent location for a new Welsh medium primary school is confirmed.'

You will note that as well as the conversion of Graig into a Welsh Medium School there are also proposals around Pentrepoeth. The long term future of these sites will see the new Welsh school relocating to bigger premises. Firm proposals will emerge. We just need to get the new school established first.

MH said...

Thanks Lyndon, I'd forgotten that you were the one who mentioned the Swansea/NPT collaboration on a new WM secondary. It's right there in Swansea's own proposal document.

I'd also highlight that one of the "next identified priorities" in the same document is:

A temporary extension to the accommodation at YGG Lôn Las in the Bonymaen/Birchgrove area whilst an appropriate permanent location for a new Welsh medium primary school is confirmed

I guess that can be read two ways, but seems to show that they don't want another extension on the current site ... therefore to my mind the old Cwm Primary buildings in Bonymaen would be ideal. That's exactly what I've been proposing. The only difference is that I think it's pointless to look for one new site for an even bigger Lôn Las (although I've no objection to a new building as the old one is not that brilliant). It had 382 statutory age pupils (plus 104 in the nursery) in January 2010 and Dai Lloyd said it now has 593 children! I'm not happy with primaries of more than 420 (2FE) so I'd much prefer to see a second WM primary established in east Swansea instead.


Peter, as you've highlighted it, I would say make exactly the same point as I've just made to Lyndon. Why look for a temporary extension to Pontybrenin somewhere in the Gowerton/Penyrheol area when you have a building at Llanmorlais which the parents of 42 pre-school age children want their kids to go to? Use Llanmorlais as your temporary extension.

And it is stretching things a bit to say there are "also proposals around Pentrepoeth". Those proposals are to consolidate the English-medium schools so as to free the Graig Infants building for use as a WM school.


But please don't let us get down the route of "political pointscoring". This shouldn't be a party political matter. I want to commend you, Peter, for your recognition that there is an unfulfilled demand for WM education in Swansea, and build upon that by suggesting ways that the council can meet that demand in the best way, particularly given the financial constraints. So thank you for engaging in this discussion. If I've given you ideas, please use your position to take them further with the officers concerned. And if there are things which you think it would be better to say by email rather than in public on the blog, please feel free to do so:

syniadau [at] inbox [dot] com

Peter Black said...

Wait and see what is proposed around Pentrepoeth. I believe that Welsh Mesium is included in the future of that area as well.

Annoyed N.Gower parent said...

Why is it OK for WM children to be educated in a ‘superschool’ up to 15miles form their home yet it’s preferred that EM pupils are educated in smaller, under-subscribed, schools which reflect the communities in which they live? There are currently 490 ‘surplus’ spaces across the EM Gower Schools. Where’s the sense in this? If the C&C Swansea truly treated WM/EM education equally then they would be proposing to amalgamate most Gower schools into one ‘super school’. It just smacks of double standards. My 4 year old does a 26mile round trip to YGG Pontybrenin nursery. We travel past Llanrhidian (just had a brand new nursery block despite the Director of Education saying that the area has an’ ageing population’ and therefore not able to sustain a WM school), then past an empty school (Llanmorlais), then past Penclawdd Primary (Estimated roll for 2011 163 despite having capacity for 210) until we arrive at YGG Pontybrenin which is bursting at the seems (72 pupils in reception despite official Admission number being 47, proposed to increase to 60!). Oh yes, to add insult to injury, when Llanrhidian had emergency building work done to it, the WHOLE school temporarily moved to Pencalwdd Primary site at very short notice. However, the Local Authority decided that this could not be a permanent arrangement because the ‘pupils travelling time would be too great’. Basically, it’s ok for WM pupils to travel up to 15 miles to YGG Pontybrenin but it’s not OK for EM pupils to travel the extra 3-4 miles form Llanrhidain to Penclawdd. One good thing form this temporary arrangement is that it demonstrates that a WM school could be established there on a shared site basis.

Also , why does every council official point to the new build at Llwyndrew in order to give themselves a pat on the back? It is indeed a wonderful building and meets the so called ‘21st C learning environment’ which the council a striving towards BUT it’s of no bearing to ANYONE who lives outside of it’s catchment area. Would they say to group of EM parents campaigning for better buildings at their local school in, say St Thomas ‘Oh but we’ve made wonderful progress, just look at the £0.75m spent on Llanrhidian’! No, because it bears no relation to it geographically. The establishment of YGG Bryntawe is used as an example of how wonderful the council is. This school was established because there were hundreds of pupils too many at YGG Gwyr. It was long over-due.

Another point. Why does Peter Black think it’s a good idea to establish new WM schools on the doorstep of existing WM schools? Why on earth establish a new school in Gowerton/ Gorseinon /Loughor when these areas are already served by WM Schools? By the way, the current proposal to establish a temporary extension to YGG Pontybrenin in Gowerton is flawed because Gowerton is not in YGG Pontybrenin catchment area, it’s in the catchment area of YGG Login Fach.

MH said...

Thanks for your comments, Annoyed NGP. I took the liberty of deleting the first since they seemed to be duplicates.

Yes, as you'd expect, I agree with you fully. I only hope the people that make decisions read what you said. My advice would be to copy what you've said and send an email to Peter Black directly. His email address is:


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