The Future of Ysgol Gyfun Llanhari

Ysgol Gyfun Llanhari is one of the longer established Welsh-medium secondary schools. Over the years it has seen its catchment area reduced in size more than once as new WM secondaries have been set up, the most recent example being when Bridgend opened Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Llangynwyd in 2008. This diverted the intake from the four WM primaries in Bridgend, leaving Llanhari with just three WM feeder primaries at Llantrisant, Tonyrefail and Dolau. As a result, its Year 7 intake fell from over 154 to 68.

Now of course this will be made up in future years as more and more parents choose WM education, but Rhondda Cynon Taf reckon it will take until about 2020 for the Year 7 intake to get back to 135. So in the next few years they will have an underused building on their hands, and in fact the school will fall below 500 children. This had put a question mark over its future viability, though it must be said that relative isolation and average rather than excellent inspection reports have contributed to that uncertainty.


Meanwhile RCT are having great trouble meeting the parental demand for WM primary places. Only a few weeks ago, as we can read here, the parents of 22 children wanting WM nursery places were told by the council that there were none available, and that they would have to send their children to English medium nursery schools instead. They were able to do this because of a loophole in the regulations which means that a local authority is only obliged to provide places for children of statutory school age, rather than nursery age.

Exactly the same thing happened a few week later with parents who wanted their children to go to Ysgol Gynradd Llwyncelyn, where the parents of 26 more children were at first told that they would have to continue their education in English ... although they were told a week later that places would be found.


To put things bluntly, RCT have done precious little to meet the increase in demand for WM education despite the fact that their own projections, obtained by Leanne Wood, were that the figures for primary aged children would rise from 4,150 in 2011 to 4,237 in 2012 and 4,336 in 2013.

It is therefore some relief to find that RCT have finally managed to put together a plan that will go some way towards solving these problems.

     Welsh Medium Education – The Future of YG Llanhari

In short, the idea is to create a new 240 place primary department at YG Llanhari, making use of the surplus space that will exist at the school over the next ten years or so. In effect Llanhari will become an "all through" school for children from the ages of 3 to 18, although the new primary department will only be one of four primaries that act as feeders for the much larger secondary department.

In a way, this isn't such a bad proposal. It is going to be quicker and cheaper to modify the unused accommodation at Llanhari than it would be to build a new WM primary or a new extension to one of the other primaries (Tonyrefail could be extended). In fact, the site at Llanhari has a lot of land, and the report even talks about increasing the size of the primary unit from 240 to 420 if the demand continues to grow:

4.7  The existing accommodation would be redesigned to meet the requirements of the Foundation Phase and Key Stage 2, with suitable security and segregation between the primary and secondary provision. Whilst the new primary school will have a hall, there will still be the opportunities to share the secondary school’s facilities such as the hall, sports and catering facilities. The modifications will be planned over a number of years as the numbers entering the primary section grow. The School will operate two catchment areas, one for primary aged pupils, the other for secondary aged pupils.

4.8  The capital cost of remodelling the existing provision at YG Llanhari to create a new primary school will be £3,300,000 in total, of which £2,300,000 will be required in the period to September 2012, with the remainder spread over the following 3 years. This capital cost will be met from within existing Education capital budgets, primarily the unallocated School Modernisation capital budget. YG Llanhari has sufficient land to enable the development to occur without impacting on the land available for play and for future development. Furthermore, the site provides the opportunity that the 3-11 age range in the Primary Department could be expanded in the future from a 240 pupil provision to a 420 pupil provision, depending on demand.

The plan will be discussed at the RCT Cabinet meeting on 6 June. I can't imagine them not saying yes, nor can I imagine there being any objections because no existing schools would need to be closed. So if everything goes according to plan, the new primary unit at Llanhari will open for Reception and Year 1 children in September 2012.


The report mentions something else which is interesting. The old opencast mining site at Llanillid (or Llanilid, I've seen both and have to confess that I don't know which is correct) is being redeveloped to includes Valleywood, the Dragon International film studio project, to the south with the northern part of the site set to include a large number of new housing units.

4.5  Planning permission has been sought to develop 2,000 homes on the neighbouring Llanillid site. This will result in a new 600 pupil primary school being built on the site, which we would recommend is a dual-language school, similar to Dolau Primary School.

My reaction to this is mixed. On one hand we should welcome the fact that at least 300 of the 600 places will be WM, and that this will take the total primary school capacity in the YG Llanhari feeder area from the current 932 to 1,591, or indeed more if the Primary unit at Llanhari is increased in size. But I have my doubts as to whether dual stream schools are in fact the best way forward.

On the negative side, parents who choose Welsh-medium education tend to want the schools to have a specifically Welsh environment and ethos, and having to share that with an English-medium section will dilute both. On the other hand, the vast majority of any child's time at school will be spent in one or other of the streams, and getting 90% of what you want isn't really so bad.

However dual stream schools do have the one big advantage of flexibility. As the pattern of demand changes there is no reason why each new intake should not change to accommodate it. What might start as a new yearly intake of 40 WM and 40 EM could easily become 60 WM and 20 EM with no disruption to any of the children who are already at the school. In fact, if the numbers justify it, there's no reason why a dual stream school should not eventually become a completely WM school. Two examples of this happening are here and here.

So I'm relatively open to the idea of dual stream schools, although a lot will depend on the way an individual school is laid out because some degree of separation will be desirable. I'd be interested to know what others think.

Update - 6 June 2011

The BBC featured the decision on Newyddion this evening.


It appears that the existing sixth form block is going to be used for the new primary unit. That's not a problem for now, but it might indicate a potential problem when the secondary numbers get back up to 800 or so in nine years' time because current policies seem to favour closing school sixth forms in favour of tertiary colleges. It might be worth getting RCT to confirm its intentions.

On the other hand there's plenty of time to build a new sixth form block before then, for the fabric of the school is hardly in the best of condition. I'd be willing to bet that RCT will have another crisis in primary provision before then which will require them to think about increasing the size of this primary unit from one from entry to two form entry.

Update - 4 July 2011

I've just taken a look at the consultaltion document, which is here. There are no surprises, but I thought I'd show the map for the new catchment areas:


Talbot Green, Ynysddu and the part of Pontyclun south of the railway are all in the new Llanhari catchment area. This will be slightly awkward for children in those areas, because they were within easy walking distance of YGGG Llantrisant and will have a longer journey to the new school. Obviously this won't affect children already attending Llantrisant, and younger siblings will be able to follow them.

But it's difficult to see how else the catchment areas could be defined, and the silver lining is that children from these areas will get free transport to Llanhari because the walking distance is greater than one-and-a-half miles.

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Plaid Gwersyllt said...

This is already happening at Ysgol Cynddelw, Glyn Ceiriog, a dual stream school, where the Welsh stream is larger than the English stream

glynbeddau said...

The old Welsh School in the Town is still empty after it was moved to Miskyn perhaps it we should reopen it. It's an old Victorian building an unsuitable but could possibly serve for a few years whilst Miskin and Castellau here in Beddau are extended.

The rise should have been anticipated when Miskin was being built and people in Lantrisant Town would probably now wish to send their children to Castellau as its a shorter journey.

Mind you Plaid are partly at fault because when they ran RCT they were timid over expanding Welsh Language education and were accused of being so as they didn't want to be seen as biased towards Welsh Medium schools.

Anonymous said...

I'm very glad to see the continued growth in WM education however, there are two points which I think supporters of WM education and Welsh in general need to start addressing.

1. Will we reach a plateau in terms of percentage of pupils in WM. This doesn't seem to have been the case in Euskadi where 90+ of the pupils in the province of Gipuskoa now attend Basque Medium schools. However, I'm not sure if the same route would be followed in Wales. My guess, and from seeing parents in Ceredigion chose to send their kids to 'less Welsh-speaking schools (sometimes called things like 'bilingual' school aka English) is that a section of society will not wish to send their kids to WM. The transcient nature of Ceredigion where so many English people move in to the county is partly to explain this, but it's also true in places like Carmarthen town etc.

My guess is that WM education will reach a plateau of some 50% of pupils in an area and so not reach a tipping point where it becomes the norm. This is just my hunch, but I'd be interested in the views of others.

2. This is related to the above in terms of tipping point. Having been to the Basque COuntry ten years ago and then again recently, I've noticed the normalisation of Basque. By now, one can go to a shop or pub in Donostia/San Sebastian and, if the assistant is say under 25 years old, be fairly confident that you can be served in Basque - without creating some scene or being seen as very odd. There's been a tipping point.

If, as I believe, WM education sticks to around 50% (at most) then this will never happen in Wales.

As one linguist said (Colin Williams or Harold Carter), the growth of WM, are like strawberries - very beautiful but with shallow roots. I'm not convinced that the growth in the education is also a growth in the language. This is mostly to do with the fact that languages are social things and so one needs a critical mass of people to create a society. But I don't feel there's any more Welsh spoken in the Valleys now than there was 20 years ago. Again, this is my hunch and I'd very gladly see myself proved wrong!


Anonymous said...

I've often thought that Welsh-medium education ought to supercede LEA boundaries. My old school, Ystalyfera, grew from 850 to 1,200 during my time there, due to Rhosafan coming on stream, and a few implications of the changes of boundaries in 1996. There was a situation where students from Welsh schools in Cwmtwrch and Ynyscedwyn were could have been refused as they were in Powys, and in an area without a designated WM school. There are now discussions about a new WM school in Port Talbot, yet allowing Rhosafan pupils and other schools in the area to go to Maesteg would be more prudent. It's a shame that LEAs won't agree to allow students to go to their nearest WM school rather than one in the county, but with an hour's bus jounrey. Perhaps catchment areas for WM schools need to be deisgned, allowing for distnace and access to WM education, rather than LEA boundaries only.

Anonymous said...

Big questions raised by M @09:58. On his/her points:
1. on "bilingual" schools in the West: another element is traditional attidudes among Welsh-speaking parents in areas with a strong unbroken Welsh-speaking tradition i.e.(a) the kids speak Welsh with us anyway, it would be good for them to broaden their horizons/integrate in a bilingual school and there will be more opportunities with an education in English; (b) Welsh is not a language of maths and science. I guess these perspectives stretch back to the c19th. Parents in the south where the tradition has been broken and enthusiastic English incomers come to the language without these hang-ups.
2. On tipping point in the Basque country: I have had a similar experience in Donostia (Bilbo much less so). Of course, a difference between the Basque Country and Wales is that during a long period of nationalist government in the Basque Country wider policies of language normalisation were put in place (real incentives to gain Basque skills for work in the civil service; earlier and stronger langauge legislation; more Basque medium higher education; much more Basque tv and radio, a Basque daily newspaper and state-aided local papers; a serious expansion of teaching Basque to adults etc). I think a tipping point could be reached in Wales with a similar holistic policy approach. I do not see the political will to put it in place, though.

Anonymous said...

My gosh- RCT expanding Welsh Medium education is a strange thing to see. I was actually waiting for them to close Llanhari, so this is excellent news.
However Labour must not be praised for these desicions, as they knew about impending crisis in WM schools a good few years ago and did nothing to remedy the problem.

Lets not forget in other parts of the county where there are also very limited places in the primary sector and the council does nothing.

Anonymous said...

Tonyrefail and Llanharan are growing rapidly with people moving south from further up the valleys as well as people moving north from western parts of Cardiff.

The Llantrisant/Pontyclun/Chruch Village/Tonteg area has been the real economic success of Rhondda Cynon Taf in recent years. Good access to Cardiff and decent local amenities.

It has an expanding middle-class population primarily made up of 'valleys people done good' and I think the demand for Welsh-medium education will continue to increase for quite some time.

Anonymous said...

Interesting points by M and Efrogwr. What's your take MH?

+ MH, not Wales nor the Basque Country but Belgium - something I'm sure is up your straat/rue/strasse:

MH said...

I've only noticed today that the £3.3m for a primary unit at Llanhari is a tiny fraction of the £74m RCT hope to spend, including £23m on three new primaries and £42m on a new secondary. Details here. That might mean quite a few empty school buildings that could be used in future, Glyn.

According to the South Wales Echo the council want to borrow this directly, as the Welsh government can't. It sounds slightly dodgy, in the sense that it might be a façade so that Labour can blame the nasty Tories in Westminster if they refuse to let the council borrow such large amounts of money. If they do, Plaid's BuildforWales becomes a perfect vehicle by which to deliver the new schools.


Macsen, when you say 50% WM "in an area" it sounds rather too general. I would say that WM will go up to about 90% in the Bro Gymraeg. As for elsewhere, I think it will get up to at least 50% ... although the rate of growth is still painfully slow and the targets set by Leighton Andrews last year are not really very ambitious. But still, it's better than having no targets at all.

As I see it, the biggest factor which limits the growth of WM education is ensuring we have enough teachers who are able to teach in Welsh. In January 2010 Estyn called for every trainee primary teacher to be able to teach in Welsh, but I have seen no particular commitment to making sure that this happens. The WG pays for teachers to be trained, so I see no reason why we shouldn't make this a fundamental condition of their training.

The situation in Euskadi is probably the best parallel to our own, and my feeling is that we're about 20 years behind them. Perhaps we can catch up, so that in ten years we will be about where they are now. WM education is just one part of the overall equation, but I think it's the most important part.


11:17, I think that once an LEA has built a new school they become very concerned to get the best out of it in terms of attendance. Llanhari used to serve the whole of South Glamorgan, but now it finds itself only just inside RCT, and therefore no longer drawing pupils from the VoG to the south or Bridgend to the west. I think more flexibility would be welcome. But the big picture is that the current local authority boundaries don't look too secure, and all the talk is of reducing the 22 down to something like 8. That will help.

But even though WM secondaries take a big hit in terms of numbers when another school opens, the numbers eventually come back up to where they were. For that reason I think the idea of a new WM secondary in Port Talbot is a good thing. The general growth of WM education, this survey indicated a 40% demand, will take care of it. As an interim stage, perhaps the new WM secondary would not have a sixth form, because the viability of the sixth form is probably the biggest of Ystalyfera's concerns.


More to come later.

MH said...

I'll pick up on the Basques first, Efrogwr. As you say, the key is that they have had autonomy in the three provinces for over 30 years, while we have only had a much more limited degree of devolution for 12 years. That's why we're behind.

But I'm optimistic about catching up. We've only just begun to address higher education in Welsh with the new CCC, and a number of announcements about WM posts have been announced, even in maths. Today's news of 100 new WM lecturing posts is very welcome.

I think one of the big challenges will be for more local authorities to operate in Welsh, which only Gwynedd does at present. Ynys Môn and Ceredigion should be close to doing the same, and Sir Gâr might be too. Ynys Môn shows every sign of becoming part of Gwynedd even without more wholesale local government reorganization. The elections in May next year will be crucial for both Ceredigion and Sir Gâr. Plaid are by far the biggest party in both councils. But a LibDem/Independent alliance in Ceredigion and a Labour/Independent alliance in Sir Gâr, has left them just short of control. A Plaid majority in these councils would result in both making Welsh their language of internal administration.

Neither should we underestimate the new Welsh Language Measure, for it will give the Commissioner powers of enforcement that ByIG never had. Many if not most public bodies have given only lipservice to providing services in Welsh under the 1993 Act and we could expect this to change, but it will depend on the the Commissioner chosen.

So things are, slowly, heading in the right direction. The "tipping point" is not too far away, but there does seem to be a general consensus to keep pushing until it is reached.

MH said...

As for bilingual education, things are very different in the Bro Gymraeg and the more Anglicized areas. What we call WM education in the Bro is often very much "looser" than it is elsewhere. There is less of an emphasis on "immersion" because more opportunities to use Welsh in the community exist outside school, whereas in the eastern half of Wales school is very often the only opportunity children have of using the language, and parents tend to be more keen on making sure that this is not diluted in any way.

Although there are only some initial signs of it at present, there might be a problem with children's ability in English in areas where Welsh is the language of home, school and community. We have tended to think that because English is so dominant, children can be left to pick up English automatically with just a few hours a week of teaching English as a subject. That will not always be the case, and we need to start thinking in terms of how we teach children to be bilingual in the sense of getting them to express the same ideas equally confidently in both languages.

This is very different from teaching some subjects in one language and other subjects in the other language, which is what "bilingual education" tends to mean ... not least because that's how the WG has chosen to define things. That's OK as far as it goes, but we need to move on from that. This is what Gareth Wyn Jones said in his evidence to an Assembly Committee last year.

4.17 “Many schools have a 'Welsh policy' and an 'English policy' or a language development policy, but no bilingual policy.”

Bilingualism reflects the learner's ability, at different levels, to switch from one language to another, to receive material in one language and process it and apply it in the other. The group heard that there are different
degrees of bilingualism, but this is not generally appreciated or understood outside Welsh speaking areas or outside Welsh medium schools.

I think this is something that we now need to develop within WM education. The danger is to try and do it in situations where children do not yet have a sufficient grasp of Welsh for it to be meaningful. You need a good command of both languages before you can develop this sort of "code shifting". I don't think Labour have really grasped this when they talk about bilingual education.

MH said...

Thanks for the Belgium link, 16:31. I haven't had time to read it or the other ebooks in the series, but I'll put it on my to do list.

However my initial thought was to what extent majoring on the dominant language (in their case French, in our case English) was responsible for the different performances between French and Dutch-medium schools. It's certainly the case that children in WM schools achieve better results than children in EM schools in this country.

Democritus said...


This is an area where angels tread gently and folk like me need to be particularly careful, but the issue of class is fundamental. As John Dixon says, causality and correlation are distinct, but economic inequality seems to predetermine outcomes.

Assuming that a command of basic Welsh is going to become more and more essential for many local jobs in the next couple of decades then getting more valleys kids bi-lingual (which is only going to happen in school realistically) is vital if they are to have a chance against their counterparts from the 'Bro' (am i getting this right? Should it not be 'Fro'?)

Your first correspondent hit it head on when s/he identified the 'Labourist' response as being that WM is percieved as a way for the middle class to monopolise the best schools - just as faux religious observance does in much of England - This is a flawed analogy (not something to go into deeply in a comment), but still pertinent. There is class issue involved in any and every debate about education.

What concerns me about an educational system is not how it serves the most able and gifted, but how it serves the least advantaged and those without 'tiger mothers'. It is not about imigrants, from England or Somalia, but about children who are growing up in Wales and how we can best equip them for the challenges they will face in life.

I see the EM/WM differential as largely class based. I simply can't see why WM should confer an advantage purely due to the language of instruction, just as I can't see why denominational education should confer an advantage. The fact that is does maybe down to the teachers (teaching nuns are pretty hard in my experience), but I think the socio-demographics are altogether more convincing. I simply mean that the kind of parents who go to town (and perhaps move house) to secure denominational / WM education are more motivated about educational attainment than others.

Later commentators have raised the question of the extent to which Welsh is 'useful' vis a vis English (or French or Spanish). Again this is very tricky. My personal view, living in inner city Cardiff, is that English is essential, Welsh optional. We do our immigrant friends no favours if we do not get them conversant in English at the earliest opportunity. Where neither English or Welsh is spoken in the home, getting rising fives up to speed with english is surely good for them - and good for their families too!

All the above said, I believe the demand for WM should be met, within the constraints and not at the expense of still more 'needy' constituencies. I think 'dual stream' is a great concept and possibly the way forward. If we are intent on being a bi-ligual nation we have to ensure it is not only the Bro middle class who stand to benefit - otherwise we WILL see a backlash!

Finally, English is THE global language nowadays. This isn't gonna change and whilst forcing Welsh down our kids throats in school may give them a fighting chance of a job with Carmarthenshire Council, it ain't gonna be much use on an application for an actuary position based in Shanghai! Most Welsh kids pick up English by osmosis as a matter of course, but surely there's no question that having a good command of it matters a lot when one is out in the big wide world!!!

Great blog btw.

Dave Collins (yes that one!)

Democritus said...

Got things wrong re; respondents. Apologies to Plaid Gwersyllt ...

Anonymous said...

MH: I live in the Fro (I'll mutate!) and I'd be surprised if there are many kids over 8 who can't speak any English and certainly, whilst many are more comfortable in Welsh the idea that they don't have a grasp of English is not the case.

Listening to Welsh language parents in the Fro Gymraeg one common lament is that their kid's Welsh deteriorates when they go to school and improve during holidays! This is because so many English kids have moved into the area that English is increasingly becoming the language of the school and Welsh-speaking kids either turn to English or 'dumb-down' their Welsh so as not to sound too 'Welshie' 'swotty' or make kids who's Welsh isn't so strong, feel, left out. That's the reality of the situation.

A big part of our problem is I just don't think Labour has an idea of the concept or complexes of language transfer or minoritisation of a langauge etc. That's because they come from an ideological background which denies the colonisation of Welsh and so can't conceptionalise the difficulties and the complexes involved in the language - many of which they carry. For this reason we've never had a wholesale, clear intellectual debate within Labour about the Welsh language nor WM education - it would be too difficult for them as along the way they'd have to recognise that Welsh has been colonised and that would undermine their 'Britian is good' and British nationalist philosophy.

English is the global language nobody is denying that. I'm a Welsh nationalist but when my kids leave school at 16 or 18 I'll make sure their English is up to scratch (and can type responses on blogs without loads of typos!). As Dave days, they do pick it up by osmosis but we as parents and education system need to make sure they understand how English works and what is correct English and what isn't.

The education system as affects Welsh in Ceredigion and Carnmarthen is an abosule dogs dinner and the lack of clarity, political conviction and good practice means that by being 'non political' they've largly kept Welsh as an ethnic language. That is, kids from Welsh-speaking homes are fluent in Welsh as they go through the Welsh-stream, kids from English or sometimes bilingual background, may go through the 'English-stream' meaning that their written Welsh is about the level of a 10 year old. Those who's Welsh isn't strong then feel they're 'left out' of jobs. Ceredigion and Carmarthen have made a great disservice.

I hope Leighton Andrews sorts out WM education but I guess it'll once again be against the red-neck tendency of some Labour members and more importantly a lack of understanding of the dynamics and complexes of a minoritised language.


MH said...

I'm rather mystified by some of your comments, Democritus/Dave. No-one on this thread has talked about class, or whether Welsh is useful. Are you sure you haven't cut and pasted your comments from another blog? They don't seem to be particularly relevant to this discussion.


I certainly didn't say that anybody who speaks Welsh "doesn't have a grasp of English", Macsen. I was talking about a high level command of both languages and the ability to express and exchange ideas in either language.

The relative situations of Welsh and English are not equal. We rightly expect everyone in Wales to speak and write English well, even if their Welsh is better; but we do not yet have the same expectations about Welsh. We need to realize that the prevalence of English is what makes picking up English "by osmosis" possible. WM schools have therefore not had to do very much in the way of teaching English as a language. English language and literature can simply be taught in the same way as they are taught in EM schools, not as the acquisition of a language from scratch.

We've used the example of Euskadi, but let's also look at Catalunya. If we are a decade or two behind the Basques, the Basques are in turn a decade or two behind the Catalans. They are still in the position of having a dominant world language next to them, but a much larger percentage of the population can speak Catalan, and Catalan is much more normalized in everyday life. They have recently shifted to a position where all education is in Catalan, and because of a large range of TV, radio and newspapers, and all public services being available in Catalan, it is probably possible to live your life (especially outside the big cities) entirely in Catalan. In these circumstances, they can no longer rely on Spanish being picked up by osmosis outside the classroom, only needing to be polished up in the classroom. It will need to be taught.

We need to be aware that this could happen in Wales too, unless we take step to address the issue that Gareth Wyn Jones raised.

I suspect that the motivation of some, only some, supporters of our languages is to see Welsh, Euskara or Catalan replace English and Spanish. As we can see all too clearly in Belgium, if we do not handle things properly we could end up with "competing monolingualities" rather than a fully bilingual society.

Anonymous said...

MH: I find your first and last paras rather mystifying. I'm also talking of high level command.

Catalan - I frankly, and it pains me to say this, can never see a situation where Welsh is as strong as Catalan and that people can't express themselves fluently in English. English is just too strong for that. Welsh will never challenge English.

Belgium - how would we get 'complete monolingualities'. As I said, the situation in the Fro isn't of a confident Welsh but of Welsh in decline. We've missed the boat in terms of creating a functioning monolingual Welsh statlet - Plaid Cymru, Labour etc saw to that. We're now in a situation of trying desperately to save what percentages of Welsh speakers there are in the West and hopefully growing the language in the East. I don't think the Belgian nor Catalan situation is possible here. We've lost.


MH said...

That's where our outlooks differ, Macsen. I'm not as pessimistic as you. We haven't lost, we are going to reach a situation were everyone who grows up in Wales will be able to speak Welsh.

I never wanted a "functioning monolingual Welsh statlet". That's from a time warp, from intellectuals like Saunders Lewis who honestly believed that the majority of ordinary people were not capable of being bilingual ... though he was just passively accepting the received wisdom of those days. The only people who still want that are mischief makers like Christie Davies, people who want to see Welsh die.

We now know that ordinary people can be bilingual and indeed multilingual. What is the difference between a Swede who speaks Swedish and English well, a Dutchman who speaks Dutch and English well and a Welshman who speaks Welsh and English well? I can't see any essential difference at all. The idea is not to "challenge" English, but to make use of it when we deal with the rest of the world. Yet, at the same time, to treasure and use our very own language among ourselves ... in just the same way as the Swedes and Dutch will.

Anonymous said...

MH - I don't think we always inhabit the same country, or, at least, same part of the country.

For the first time in two thousand years (or however you wish to measure it) Welsh is not the community languages of hundreds of villages across Wales. Frankly, WM education or not, I can't see us turning that tide. We can, maybe create a situation where people can speak Welsh, but it would be more like your Dutch/Swedish analogy - with English the community language and Welsh a language they can communicate in. I hope I'm wrong, but that's what I'm hearing around me every day.

I also think you're rather insulting to SL. Saunders understood that once there were no monolingual Welsh speakers left then there was no need to do anything in Welsh. With the decline of the monolingual (or effectively monolingual) speakers we've seen the decline of the Welsh language press. SL I'm sure was well aware that 'ordinary' people were able to be bilingual - he would have seen it right around him. What he also saw was when people were bilingual then it was natural for them to turn to English and eventually for the community to turn to English for all the reasons we know - movement of people, prestige etc.

The difference between Wales and Sweden or the Netherlands is, although most people in Sweden and Netherlands can speak English the state is in their language. That is, to live in those states you have to learn their language - that's the law and the 'pressure' of society around them. We in Wales don't have that strength and so there will never be a need for people to learn Welsh. We only hope they do out of interest - but that's a minority sport.

Lastly - the other big difference is the huge movement of people into Wales. They will not have been through the education system and by doing so 'denormalise' Welsh. This is not a situation which affects the Basques. The catalans have seen a huge movement of people into catalonia, my guess is that this will stop now as the recession bites and they will not see such a movement of people as we do. You seem to be based in Glamorgan where there is a pretty settled population - a Basque situation in a way. That's not the situation in Dyfed, Powys nor the whole of the North.


Anonymous said...

the last comment there has much merit. The differences between the so called "Bro Gymraeg" and the industrial southeast and west are huge in terms of the language. As a Gog, now living in the south, I have seen both sides of the story. In "Gwent" (though to a lesser extent Monmouth)there is massive support and enthusiasm. What English incomers there are, display the same if not more enthusiasm. Mot "nay-sayers" are 90 or so years old and love their war stories. However, whilst there are many speakers of Welsh, it's hard to find them. No real Welsh speaking community exists. It is sparse. I can go several days without speaking Welsh.
In the west and northwest. The Welsh speaking communities are few and far between. The census will show a total catastrophe on this matter I fear. Nowhere outside Llyn, Caernarfon, Llangefni and Bala areas will have majority Welsh. Ceredigion and Carms will drop into the low 40s. It is hard in the Fro to compete with so many antagonistic incomers who hate the language with a passion, aided and abetted by Bangor ayes and plastic scousers, whose grannies spoke it but passed only english down the family tree. In years to come, I foresee a flat 25-35% across Wales speaking it, bar a few areas, which will be less. Wales per se will really only exist in the southeast and south, probably for the next couple of generations, until as with the coalfields, the descendants of all the incomers and Bangor ayes realise their heritage. By then it will be too late. Bottom line? We must preserve some communities at 70% or thereabouts. Bala, Llyn, Caernarfon, by restricting housing association allocation to Welsh speaking people only. Getting stubborn in these areas about services in Welsh and financially incentivising people through the benefits system to bring kids up in Welsh. If not, God help the language

Anonymous said...

same anonymous as above again (would post under a name if I knew how!) Forgot to say thank you for your work on this blog, it is probably the best read around and exceptionally well researched at all times. Particularly like the WM Education stuff. Thank you once again.

MH said...

As far as I can make out, Macsen, the real difference between our perspectives is encapsulated in you saying there was no need to do anything in Welsh, and that in places like Sweden and the Netherlands you have to learn their language.

If you base your thinking, and therefore your actions, on these premises you will always be on the defensive. The language will be seen as something to be protected and held on to because, unless there are rules in place to prevent it, it will naturally die out.

My positivism about the language is based on the opposite premise, namely that people will do what they choose to do. The people of Sweden and the Netherlands will keep speaking Swedish and Dutch because they want to, not because they are compelled to. I deliberately chose these two examples because they are the two countries in the EU with the highest percentages who can speak English. 89% in Sweden speak English and 87% in the Netherlands. Norway has 91% and Denmark 86%. Figures from here, although there is far more detail about the EU language situation here. These percentages are increasing because it is only the older generation that does not speak English.

With such high percentages (and it's worth noting that the figure is not 100% in places like the UK and USA; the UK is only 98% and the US only 96%) one might reasonably ask why on earth Swedes don't stop teaching their children Swedish and just concentrate on English instead. After all, that's what the anti-Welsh minority here say. And it's true that Swedish is hardly a world language; it would be far more "useful" to learn Mandarin or Russian or Spanish alongside English rather than waste your effort on a language only really spoken in Sweden and a bit of Finland.

The only reasonable answer is that the Swedes want to speak Swedish ... not that they have to.

Exactly this feeling exists in Wales. A very large percentage of people in Wales think it is important for children to learn to speak Welsh. 81% agree, 7% disagree. Later today I'll put up a post which shows that 87% of parents in Powys would like their children to speak Welsh. It is because of this overwhelming positivism about Welsh that there is a consensus among all political parties about taking the measures necessary to ensure that this happens. We, as a nation, want to make sure that all our children and grandchildren can speak Welsh. It is a statement of our national identity.

That's why I can't understand your pessimism. That's not to say I don't accept it, nor that I don't realize that it's shared by many others. All I would say is that people need to look at the big picture, rather than concentrate only on the small one. We need to move away from the defensive "hold what we've got at all costs".

And, as I think I said to you once before, I don't understand why you are hung up about Welsh having no "prestige" ... that is simply an attitude problem. The reality is exactly the opposite. Being able to speak both Welsh and English is in any objective sense better than being able to speak English but not Welsh. The vast majority of people in Wales realize this, so why are so many of the Cymry Cymraeg seemingly saddled with what can only be described as an inferiority complex? I know about this inferiority complex because I grew up surrounded by it. I have come to realize that we are our own worst enemies, and that the key change we need to make is the way we look at ourselves.

MH said...

Thanks for the kind comments, 00:39. I agree that there is a very big attitude difference between Y Fro (that works for me, the Fro doesn't sound right) and other parts of Wales. There does seem to be more positivism about Welsh outside Y Fro than in it, and this is amply evidenced by the parental demand for WM education (which is where this thread started).

I also agree that the 2011 census figures, whenever they come out, will show a marked decline in the +70% Welsh speaking communities. However I do not think this will be a disaster, even though many (both those who support and those who oppose Welsh) will paint it as exactly that.

Now I certainly don't think this will be a good thing, I am only saying that it will not be a disaster. My reason for saying this is that the nature of the way we interact with each other is changing. Instead of primarily being part of fixed geographical communities, we now tend to interact with others of "like mind" across geographical boundaries ... whether this is by being more physically mobile or by being in touch via telephone, internet and interactive media. Even within communities it is quite possible to hardly know your neighbours, and instead connect with others of our choosing. Now of course some people regard this as a negative thing, but they tend to be the ones in the smaller towns and villages.

Speaking Welsh will be a matter of who you choose to connect with, rather than those that happen to be your neighbours. Just as the people we work with, worship with, drink with and play football with don't all live in the same place, so it will be with the people we speak Welsh with.

But even though the number of +70% communities will go down, I agree that the overall percentage will go up. The target was a 5% increase on the 20.76% in 2001. I suspect we will fall just short with about 25%, but it would be psychologically good to hit the 25% mark. This might not sound like much, but in fact it is, because the growth will not be linear. I have no doubt that we will be over 50% by 2041 (if we still have a census then) and be at 80% or more by 2061. The seeds have been and are being planted, they now only need time to grow.

If you want to post as a name, select name/URL from the "comment as" menu, but just leave the URL blank. Alternatively just put the name at the bottom of your comment.

Anonymous said...

"My reason for saying this is that the nature of the way we interact with each other is changing. Instead of primarily being part of fixed geographical communities, we now tend to interact with others of "like mind" across geographical boundaries ... whether this is by being more physically mobile or by being in touch via telephone, internet and interactive media. Even within communities it is quite possible to hardly know your neighbours, and instead connect with others of our choosing. Now of course some people regard this as a negative thing, but they tend to be the ones in the smaller towns and villages."

The whole of Wales tend to live in small towns and villages! Your positive pie in the sky scenario is just you admitting defeat for Welsh as a community language. Most people who want Welsh to survive want it as a community language not in cyber-space or via telephone. Believe it or not.....but most of us mortals still go to the shops, the post office, the pub, the rugby club, the cafe, the restaurant, the chapel, or a myriad of other social situations. And we always will as man is a social being. And in what was known as Y Fro.....these social situations are becoming fewer and fewer through the medium of an alarming rate!

Anonymous said...

A comment on the governance level of both planning and implementation of education policy, including WM: LEAs enjoy a historical imperative in this policy area in the UK. This is not the case in any other European polity (inc. the BC and Catalonia where the national governments rather than local authorities plan for *and* implement education policy). Obviously, the point where a Welsh Government will take the education bull by the horns is very far away. However, taking a sizeable chunk of control away from local government (not all criticism of local government needs to be seen as Thatcherism - the split between planning and implementation of education policy needs to be more acutely felt etc) and transferring this to WG would help to strengthen WM policies nationally and harmonising the dog's dinner in what is currently Ceredigion, Sir Gar, Ceredigion, Mon etc. The debate would of course need to be had around how people in Wales envision the localism of policies, as unfortunately the current role of LEAs in statutory education is taken as the most natural thing in the world. Going back to a pre-1996 8 LA structure will only create more of the same. UK particularism when it works, I'm all for it. When it doesn't, move to change it.

MH said...

I am in two minds as to whether 08:39 is genuine or simply trying a wind-up. But if genuine, it is a good illustration of concentrating on just one thing at the expense of seeing the big picture.

Most people in Wales live in cities, towns and conurbations. More people live in Cardiff alone than the whole of Ynys Môn, Gwynedd and Ceredigion put together. So for most people it is a question of which shops, which restaurants, which pubs, which chapels and which clubs to use, socialize in or be part of. Choose the ones that welcome Welsh.

Of course we should support small Welsh speaking communities, that's a very good thing to do. But don't do it at the expense of the much greater expansion of Welsh as a national language.

MH said...

I'm very wary of centralism, 12:21. Of course we all want more of it when it will ensure that what we want happens everywhere ... but what happens when it's the opposite?

I think the much bigger problem is that local authorities ride often roughsod over the wishes of local people. In the case of Sir Gâr they justify this by claiming that they are doing everything in compliance with national guidelines to get money from the Welsh Government.

So in terms of education, and the expansion of WM education in particular, I think the best principle is that they should find out what parental preferences are ... but then be required to act to meet that demand. So far as I am aware, every survey of parental preferences so far has shown the demand for WM education to be at least twice as great as the number of places the LEA had been providing.

MH said...

An announcement about the new primary unit at YG Llanhari has just appeared on the RCT website, with a picture of the Cabinet member for education and headteacher holding a big sign with £3.3m on it.

I think it's safe to say that Monday's vote to approve the proposal will be a formality.

Anonymous said...

MH said...
"I am in two minds as to whether 08:39 is genuine or simply trying a wind-up. But if genuine, it is a good illustration of concentrating on just one thing at the expense of seeing the big picture.

Most people in Wales live in cities, towns and conurbations. More people live in Cardiff alone than the whole of Ynys Môn, Gwynedd and Ceredigion put together. So for most people it is a question of which shops, which restaurants, which pubs, which chapels and which clubs to use, socialize in or be part of. Choose the ones that welcome Welsh.

Of course we should support small Welsh speaking communities, that's a very good thing to do. But don't do it at the expense of the much greater expansion of Welsh as a national language."

Believe me, it was not a wind up. Reading your blog entry, you so fondly talk of 'Y Fro' which is to a large degree Mon, Gwynedd, and Ceredigion which you later on almost dismiss as having less less in terms of population numbers than Cardiff! If we have to rely on Cardiff and such with their 80 street parties for royal circuses we really are in a sorry state. It is 'Y Fro' which has remained linguistically Welsh but is being Anglicized at an alarming rate which is of concern. Maybe it's you who is not seeing the bigger picture outside your class-room and cyber-world scenario? These situations do not a linguistic community make.....which most supporters of Welsh want except for maybe you and DET.

MH said...

If your only concern is maintaining Welsh in Y Fro, then I wish you all the best, Anon. That's a very good thing to fight for.

But please don't object to me pointing out that Y Fro is only a small part of Wales. That's not to dismiss it, but to show you and others that the language situation there is just one part of a much bigger national picture.

Lionel said...

surely to maintain the vitality of any language, to create dialect and slang, a language needs a heartland of some type, where the "normal" day to day things naturally happen in that language, not because people make a point of speaking a language to keep it going.
I agree that 'sheer volume' of speakers as is being created here in "Gwent" and elsewhere across the industrial south is really important and vital for the percentages and overall numbers, but I can't help feeling that if we lose Welsh in places like 'Sgubor Goch and Plas Tudur, we will all be going about looking for situations in which to speak Welsh, as we currently do here in the south east. Plus you lose the need for big public bodies to employ sizeable numbers of Welsh speakers where they can just get by with a couple of people here and there to field phone calls, like Newport Council do at present

Anonymous said...

MH: I understand where you're coming from but it does sound a little like; 'hey, OK there's no work in the Rhondda and Blaenau Gwent, but let's look at the bigger picture - there's plenty of work in Cardiff'.

That's not much use to the Rhondda or BG. The same goes for the language. Why should we accept Welsh retreating in one part of Wales - the Swedes nor Dutch would accept the same situation. I 'wish' to speak Welsh (like the Swedes and Dutch which to speak their language) unfortunately I can't because the sheer volume of English people moving here. Good decent people but who, unfortunately, don't speak Welsh and have no legal nor social compultion to speak Welsh.

You talk of 'status' and that some of us have maybe a 'chip on our shoulder'. But, next time you're in Cardigan or Carmarthen or Bangor go to a shop, any shop, and ask in Welsh. Not in a nasty 'I'm making a stand' here, but politely, in a casual way, assuming that the person could speak Welsh and you'll see what lack of status is. You'll sometimes be understood, you'll sometimes be asked to changed to Welsh and you could also be laughed at, refused to be served, ignored etc.

Yes, well all think in Welsh Language Board speak, that 'bilingualism' is a good thing, but it increasingly means English domination and English being the default language.

I'm familiar with the South East. From my experience the only kids who speak Welsh to one another and where it is a community language is between children raised in Welsh-speaking housholds (usually both parents speaking Welsh) or among adults who've learnt Welsh. Now, I know these things take time to create a critical mass but why should Welsh decrease (that is the only part of Wales which is in any way biligual at the moment) for it to succeed in another.

For Welsh-speakers in Llyn or Môn, the growth of Welsh in Cardiff is pretty well irrelevant. It's probably true to some extend the other way round, except, that the fact that Welsh is spoken across a wide section of society in Llŷn and Môn means that there's a wide range of views and experiences expressed in the language. We're in danger of losing that and also the critical mass of people who buy books watch television and radio in Welsh before we see the gains in the SE.

Your blog is excellent but the slightly condescending attitude towards what's left of the Fro makes many of us worry about your predictions for the future of Welsh as a vibrant living language.


Ioan said...

I think that the biggest problem in Y Fro, is Welsh speaking parents speaking English with their children. As someone living on the edge of Y Fro, I'm finding that you can speak Welsh to anyone under 25, and hardly ever get the "Can you speak English?". I have to admit, with older people, I'm more likely to speak English first. I guess that's the main difference between the North West (where I live) and the South West.

As someone who lived in Cardiff and worked in Caerphilly for around ten years, I do miss the optimism of South Wales.

I think the Census will be very interesting (especially in Gwynedd). People forget that the percentage of Welsh speakers in the age bracket 25-39 increased in most of Gwynedd and Ynys Mon in the last Census, and I would expect that trend to continue.

It will also be interesting to see if the huge increase in Welsh speakers in the East has any effect on the West.

MH said...

People can decide for themselves whether my attitude to Y Fro is condescending; I have only been trying to put things in perspective in response to some silly comments which were written as if all of Wales lived in small communities.

I'll say again that I think the fight to preserve the language in such small communities is very important. But I would also repeat what I've said elsewhere: that the issues are primarily to do with the jobs and the economy, which lead to locals having to leave to find work, or being unable to get a house on local wage levels; and others who do not need to work (because they're retired or on benefits) coming to take their place. In this respect it is no different from what happens in more Anglicized parts of Wales or in many parts of England.

In this sense langauge is a casualty caught in the crossfire of a different battle. Therefore those that fight for the language in small communities need to realize (as I'm sure many do) that they can make common cause with people who are fighting for local communities that do not predominantly speak Welsh.


To Macsen, I must say that he is wrong to think that I want Welsh to decrease in one part of Wales so that it can increase in another. Of course I don't want that. I am trying to gently warn him that the census figures will show that the number of +70% Welsh speaking communities has gone down. A number of people seem to regard this as the only measure of the vitality of Welsh, and so this will be a very severe blow to them. That's why I'm pointing out that the picture is bigger than this.

This is not a zero sum game. Increases in one part of Wales are not, and do not have to be, made at the expense of decreases elsewhere.

And it is also wrong to think that what happens in one part of Wales is irrelevant to what happens elsewhere. The general goodwill towards Welsh from all parts of Wales is crucial to forming policies that will help the situation in Y Fro. If you think things are bad now, just imagine how much worse they would be if there was a general feeling of ill-will towards Welsh from other parts of Wales.


I think Ioan has made a good point about the age profile of Welsh speakers, pointing out that the overall decrease in the percentage of Welsh speakers in Y Fro contains a lot of growth in the younger age groups. For me, the most interesting thing will be to see to what extent people who said (or their parents said for them) they could speak Welsh ten years ago because they were in or had recently finished school now say they cannot speak Welsh, either because they've forgotten what they learnt or because they've had no chance to use it. Some drop off is to be expected, but how much?

The answers won't come quickly. The result aren't due to start coming out until September 2012.

Ioan said...

"....they could speak Welsh ten years ago because they were in or had recently finished school now say they cannot speak Welsh, either because they've forgotten what they learnt or because they've had no chance to use it. Some drop off is to be expected, but how much?"

It will be even more complicated than that - some Welsh speakers in the 20-24 age bracket will be in English Universities, and so will not register.
An interesting statistic from the last Census - the number of children who reportedly spoke Welsh in the 10-14 age bracket, was about the same as the number who later on sat a GCSE exam. The number in the 16-19 age bracket was about the same as the number that passed the GCSE exam!
By the way, I do not expect the number of wards with >70% speaking Welsh to go down in Arfon.

MH said...

You're right about those that will move to England, Ioan, either to go to university or to find work. It's a shame that the question about Welsh wasn't on the English census form.

I'd be interested in a link to the GCSE figures, and whether you included the short course GCSE exam (which was first taken in large numbers in 2001).

However, I don't think it will be true this time round. I think the best picture of what the census will show is in the stats I gave here; best in the sense that these are parental estimates of their children's ability, as is the case in the census. It shows 51.8% in secondary schools speak Welsh, either fluently or not fluently. But, as we can see here, nearly 80% will take a Welsh GCSE of some sort. The closer correlation will be with those taking Welsh first language and the full Welsh second language GCSE added together, but this is only 43% (which is almost identical to the percentage in 2001).

I hope you're right about communities in Arfon. I think what will bring the figures down will not be the actual numbers of Welsh speakers, but the fact that new housing and immigration will have increased the overall number of people in those communities. This was particularly the case in Ceredigion.

Ioan said...

From memory -
I think in Arfon the numbers of Welsh speakers went up in 2001, and the percentage in the age bracket 3-49 went up. In the 50+ bracket, the numbers and percentage of Welsh speakers were down.

The big increase in non-Welsh speakers in Arfon this time will be in the Bangor University wards - but these are outside the 70% Fro.

"...The closer correlation will be with those taking Welsh first language and the full Welsh second language GCSE added together, but this is only 43% (which is almost identical to the percentage in 2001)." I think that you are on the right track - but maybe you can add the number of short course passes, divided by a weight (maybe by half?). I will check my maths (from long ago...) when I have access to my computer.

Lionelair said...

Short courses need to end. They are a piss poor excuse for a Welsh GCSE. My cousin teaches Welsh as a 2nd language in Cardiff and she says most kids turn up thinking the exam is a waste of time and energy as they don't learn to speak the language anyway. This creates hatred towards it as all they are getting for "wasting their time" is a mickey mouse GCSE, when they could have used the time and curriculum space for other subjects. This is no way to create goodwill nor welsh speakers

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