The Demand for WM Education in Newport

Two weekends ago I wrote about Newport's plan to open a third Welsh-medium primary school in the city. But I've only just read the survey of parental demand (thanks to Ceri for telling me where to find it) that helped inform Newport's decision to do so.

The survey was conducted in April and May this year by Opinion Research Services, whose previous survey for the Vale of Glamorgan was very impressive. This one is equally thorough and professional.

     Newport City Council - Survey of School Preference 2010

It's worth reading the whole thing, but I'd like to highlight a few things that particularly stood out to me.

Firstly, parents were asked if they would like their children to be able to speak Welsh and whether or not they believed their children would benefit from a Welsh medium education.

Two thirds (66%) stated that they would like their children to be able to speak Welsh, whilst over half (55%) believed that their child would benefit from a Welsh medium education.

Not bad for Newport. But the diagrams below illustrate very clearly that parents are much more likely to choose WM education for their children if there is a WM school close to where they live:

     

The percentage who would choose WM education increases from 28% to 53% if a WM school is within two miles of where they live. It is true that the second figure is always higher than the first, but it is very much higher in Newport than it is elsewhere in the more Anglicized parts of Wales.

This is shown in another way when parents were asked to rank four factors that affect their choice. For all parents (i.e. including those that wanted and did not want their child to have a WM education) these were, in order of importance:

•  Distance from your home
•  Another child already at the school
•  Ease of access/transport to school
•  Main language used in school

70% of parents said that their maximum acceptable journey time was 20 minutes each way. 97% thought that a journey of 30 minutes or more was unacceptable.

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Now of course, as in every survey of this sort, not all parents responded. So it is wrong to conclude that more than half the children in Newport would go to WM primary schools. But it is equally wrong to conclude that those who didn't respond have no interest in WM education for their children. So ORS have done a good job of projecting both the current and latent demand, and the report explains how they did so.

At present only 3.7% of children in Newport are in WM education. But there is a growing curve: the average for children aged 8, 9 and 10 is about 2.5%, but the average for children aged 3 and 4 is about 5.4%. ORS calculate the current demand for WM education to be 6.9%, and the latent demand 14.1%.

That's why more Welsh-medium places are so badly needed; and Newport are to be congratulated for not only commissioning the survey, but for acting upon its findings. Other local authorities could learn from their example.

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