Dai Lloyd was in full flight in yesterday's short Senedd debate on Welsh-medium education in Swansea. Here are the untranslated and translated versions. It's worth watching the first because no translation could quite do justice to his introduction ... and for the delight of once again seeing Leighton Andrews delivering his response as Education Minister in Welsh. Well done, Leighton.
OK, it might just be fair to say that Dai majored on the rhetoric at the expense of some of the detail ... but this was a speech; and the details, facts and figures will mean nothing to most people unless a politician can convey why they matter so much, and rouse others to share that vision and take action to make sure it is fulfilled.
And to show that he's not alone, let me do my bit to appeal to our sense of outrage at the scale of the injustice of what was done in the past:
But that was the past. The point at issue is what we do now. As far as Swansea is concerned, Leighton Andrews said that Swansea's commitment is to provide 500 additional WM places by 2011. The new building for Llwynderw has a capacity of 315 (it should have been bigger, but Jane Davidson restricted it to a 1.5FE rather than 2FE school) which was an increase of about 200 on the temporary accommodation Llwynderw used to be in. That still leaves Swansea to find another 300 places by September next year to meet their own previous commitment, irrespective of the much greater demand revealed by the surveys.
But as I said in this post, Swansea's present proposal—currently on Leighton Andrews' desk—is just a paperwork exercise to make out that the three WM schools have more capacity, but without actually doing anything to physically increase the space in these schools. As such it is nothing more than a sham by which the council can say they've increased WM capacity while actually doing nothing at all. For this reason, I'd again urge Leighton Andrews to reject it, or to set a condition that the admission numbers cannot be increased unless enough additional physical space is provided so as to prevent further overcrowding.
Of course, providing that additional space will cost money, even if it takes the form of additional temporary accommodation in portacabins. That is why I think it is better to save that money, and use the three existing empty buildings that used to house the schools at Arfryn, Cwm and Llanmorlais instead. This doesn't mean a commitment to new schools, for they can legally be part of the existing WM schools at Tirdeunaw, Lôn Las and Pontybrenin, sharing the same headteacher and governors. This is exactly the mechanism used by the LibDem/Plaid administration in Cardiff for Gabalfa, so why can't the LibDems in Swansea do the same thing as their colleagues in the capital have done?
As regards local education authorities elsewhere, I was pleased to hear Leighton Andrews talk tough about getting the more reluctant of them to properly survey parental demand for WM education and act on it. And that they would each be required to set up a Welsh-medium Education Forum and present an annual strategic plan.
I hope that will be enough, but past experience shows some local authorities to be very resistant to giving parents a choice. There now needs to be a sharp change of attitude; and if there isn't, it is encouraging to hear that legislation will be introduced to make it happen.