Numbers in Welsh-medium Education

The provisional results of the 2011 Schools Census have been released today, and are available here. The first thing I did was look at the numbers in Welsh-medium education.

Primary Schools

Welsh-medium (plus dual stream) ... 59,559
Total pupils ... 258,314
WM percentage ... 23.06%

Welsh-medium (plus dual stream) ... 59,880 (+ 321)
60,318 Total pupils ... 257,445 (- 869)
WM percentage ... 23.26%

Welsh-medium (plus dual stream and transitional) ... 60,318 (+ 438)
Total pupils ... 257,445 (- 869)
WM percentage ... 23.43%

Welsh-medium (plus dual stream and transitional) ... 61,073 (+ 755)
Total pupils ... 259,189 (+ 1,744)
WM percentage ... 23.56%

In last year's release, the figures did not include transitional schools, but this year's release does include that figure for last year. That's why there are two sets of figures for 2010. Transitional schools are those where between 50% and 70% of the curriculum is taught in Welsh, and which are expected to become WM in due course.

As we can see, things are moving in the right direction, but at a painfully slow rate. Yes, 755 is a better numerical increase than in previous years, but we need to note that the total number of children in primary schools has now started to rise again after ten years of decline, and the numbers need to be set in that context. In the overall increase of 1,744 this year, that 755 represents a proportion of just over 43%.

Secondary Schools

Welsh-medium (and bilingual) ... 41,916
Total pupils ... 205,412
WM percentage ... 20.40%

Welsh-medium (and bilingual) ... 43,432 (+ 1,516)
Total pupils ... 203,907 (- 1,505)
WM percentage ... 21.30%

Welsh-medium (and bilingual) ... 41,765 (- 1,667)
Total pupils ... 201,234 (- 2,673)
WM percentage ... 20.75%

I did say last year that the increase in the numbers of WM secondary school pupils in 2010 was unusually large; so although this year's decrease is disappointing, it does show a gradual progression compared with the 2009 figures. Therefore 2010 seems to be an anomaly. If anyone can shed some light on this, please make a comment below.


The Welsh-medium Education Strategy set as one of its targets an increase in the percentage of Key Stage 1 assessments in Welsh from 21% to 25% by 2015. This is a more accurate way of assessing the growth in WM than the raw numbers in WM schools because many schools—particularly traditional schools in some of the more Welsh-speaking areas—can be classified as WM but still provide only a very patchy education in Welsh.

Yet in broad terms there is an obvious correlation between KS1 assessments in Welsh and the percentage in WM primary schools. The WMES set a target of a 0.8% increase each year, but the percentage in WM primaries has gone up by only 0.5% in two years. This should act as a clear early warning sign that the 2015 target is not going to be met unless this slow rate of growth is addressed now.

We need to press Leighton Andrews for a plan of action to ensure that the 2015 target is not missed.

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Ioan said...

For secondary schools
Ynys Mon 5 schools, 4259 pupils
Conwy 3 schools, 2207 pupils

Ynys Mon 4 schools, 3433 pupils
Conwy 2 schools, 1428 pupils

Looks as if two secondary schools have been re-classified as English Medium Schools.

1605 decrease in Conwy/Mon, therefore only 62 decrease in the rest of Wales.

Ioan said...

Also number of pupils in Gwynedd has gone down from 7603 (2010) to 7494 (2011) (-109). It's very difficult for Gwynedd to increase its percentage in WMS - it's 100% already!

Therefore outside the North West, the numbers in WMS has gone up (again!).

Anonymous said...

yes really weird on what is happening on Ynys Mon- aren't they all bi-lingual comprehensives?
I'm sure many parents would vote with their feet if they found that one school is now seen as 'English'.

Ioan said...

I'm assuming the school in question is Holyhead High:

Anonymous said...

when I was at school in Anglesey, Holyhead High as it was always known, was like Anglesey council's "dirty little secret" in terms of the language. It was referred to as and assumed that it was a WM school, but we all knew that it was really an English school,. Few kids came out of there speaking Welsh, even those from Welsh speaking homes.
Interestingly, ESTYN list Friars and Tywyn schools as English medium too. No wonder the language is going down the pan in Holyhead, Bangor and southern Meirionnydd. (add to this list Ceredigion, Aman valley, Gwendraeth valley.............)

Jac o' the North said...

The primary schools situation in the south Meirionnydd area is unsettled.

On the one hand there's Penybryn in Tywyn which, to all intents and purposes, due to its intake, is English language. This despite the best efforts of the teachers.

Up the Dysynni valley the council had planned a community school in Bryncrug to cater for the villages of Bryncrug, Llanegryn, Abergynolwyn, Rhoslefain and Llwyngwril, plus of course the large farming community of the area.

Even though Abergynolwyn school has closed and the children from the top end of the valley now travel the 5 miles to the existing Bryncrug school there is parental resistance to a single school, particularly from Llwyngwril.

And parents in Abergynolwyn feel duped because it has since come to light that the council do not intend building the community school in Bryncrug after all, but in Llanegryn. (Though I confess I'm not up with the latest developments.)

Whatever, all traffic from these villages to Tywyn funnels through Bryncrug, with Llanegryn just a mile away.

Whether it was the council's intention or not, I predict that the new school, wherever it is built, will be a wholly Welsh language school, again, largely due to the intake, leaving Penybryn in Tywyn to become honestly English.

This will involve bussing in both directions but it will at least provide Tywyn parents to opt for a Welsh language education for their children in a modern school, seeing as Bryncrug is only 2 miles from the town and Llanegryn 3.

Ultimately, the Tywyn area should have 2 primary schools, one in each language (possibly even one Welsh and one bilingual) with a bilingual secondary school.

For no matter what ESTYN may currently say, with the intake from the new, Dysynni junior school (which could be bigger than its Tywyn counterpart) Tywyn secondary school will have to be bilingual, as I suspect most local people would describe it today.

MH said...

Thanks Ioan, that makes sense. I just looked at the 2009 figures to see if the number of WM schools in Ynys Môn and Conwy had gone up just in 2010, but the breakdown wasn't there.

But it makes no difference to your point: that outside the north west, the numbers in WM secondary education have gone up even though the total number in secondary schools has gone down by more than 2,000. That makes things a little better.


With regard to Anon 14:43's point, the new language classifications, here, create a whole range of more finely defined categories; and this means that a school could easily move from one to another, and back, on the basis of a small percentage change.

Anon 15:37 (if not the same person) reinforces the point that the label on the outside doesn't always match reflect what happens inside, particularly in the more Welsh-speaking areas. But in the more Anglicized areas which have designated WM schools, the label and the contents do match.


Jac has obviously got a wealth of local knowledge. But what he says does raise the same question about the variation in the linguistic nature of schools even though they might all be officially designated the same way. A school might be "honestly English" in terms of the linguistic background of the parents, but many parents who speak only English might well want to make sure their children are bilingual. What matters is not the language a child speaks when they start primary school, but whether they can speak both Welsh and English when they leave.

But if it's true that some schools even in places like Gwynedd are not going to produce children who can speak both languages competently, then there surely needs to be a mechanism by which those parents who live close to such schools can send them to another school where they would learn to speak both Welsh and English, if that is what the parents want. Obviously parents have a choice, but I can see a situation where a school which has a better bilingual record is full, or where the local authority might say that by not going to their catchment area school they don't qualify for free transport. This would effectively deprive such children of the opportunity to become fully bilingual.

Lionel said...

I suppose the upshot of your article here is that, whilst numbers are rising, discounting the shenanigans in Anglesey (funny that!) the numbers are not that great? The target of 25% by 2015 is unambitious to say the least, probably encouraging the lethargic way some LEAs are operating to keep going. Leighton is definitely going to need to put some rockets up arses, even to get to the miserable 25%. there is apparently to be a school built as part of a large housing development in Torfaen, but the authority are reluctant to use it for WM despite the huge demand. Panteg practically filled up on opening.

Anonymous said...

MH - I am not sure the changes in WM school numbers (up 3 in 2010, down 2 in 2011) are necessarily caused by any actual changes in the schools themselves, even small ones. The schools self identify in relation to the language category into which they fit. I suspect the fluctuation in school numbers simply reflects a shift in the way a few schools view themselves, or perhaps is just a case of miscategorisation.

Jac - I have no doubt that the new school in Bro Dysynni will be fully WM. But that will have nothing to do with the linguistic background of the pupils. The majority of them will come from English language homes, just as is the case in the existing three schools (and Abergynolwyn before it closed). Furthermore, I very much doubt that the local authority intends the primary in Tywyn to become EM. If anything, the local authority will want to strengthen the WM ethos of the school. With regards to the secondary school in Tywyn, this currently teaches primarily (but not exclusively) through the medium of English - and hence it is not classed as a WM school. Your reference to Estyn is confusing. Estyn have no say in determining the language medium of schools and will have no influence over whether or not the amount of Welsh language teaching at Tywyn is increased. For what it is worth, in my view, all the schools in the Tywyn area, primary and secondary, should be Welsh medium - but as a minimum, the primary schools should be WM and the secondary school properly bilingual.

Anonymous said...

sorry I started the Tywyn thing. I got its "categorisation" from a list of Estyn inspections, when I was looking up Ysgol Uwchradd Holyhead. Tywyn featured in the English medium list, which I thought strange, since it is in Gwynedd.

Anonymous said...

what I meant was apologies for starting the Tywyn thing. I've just read my post above and it reads like I regretted starting a discussion on Tywyn!!

Jac o' the North said...

Anon, 21:23, the local authority's hopes and intentions regarding Tywyn junior school are one thing, but the reality is another.

Which raises separate issues being linked in the comments above. (And in the wider, national debate.)

First we have the issue of the provision of Welsh language education for those children whose parents want it.

In English-speaking regions such as the south or the north east where there are enough children, enough buildings, and reasonably short travelling times this demand can and should be met.

Then we have rural areas that can still be regarded as mainly Welsh speaking. Again, no problem.

The first problem arises meeting demand for Welsh language education in sparsely-populated rural areas that have long been English speaking, such as Powys.

But then we have many other rural areas, that have, within living memory, switched from being largely Welsh speaking to mainly English speaking. Coastal south Meirionnydd falls into this category.

This is why I suggested that the best option might be to give up the pretence on Tywyn junior school but make it clear that the new Bro Dysynni school will be fully Welsh from its opening.

My fear is that failure to do this will end up with the worst possible outcome: two nominally Welsh language schools that are in reality both English.

Which raises yet another issue: the reliability of categorisation. This explains my reference to Estyn, mentioned in an earlier comment: "Interestingly, ESTYN list Friars and Tywyn schools as English medium too. No wonder the language is going down the pan in Holyhead, Bangor and southern Meirionnydd. (add to this list Ceredigion, Aman valley, Gwendraeth valley.............)"

Anonymous said...

It would be nice if the Welsh government and local authorities gave the same resources and political momentum to making Wales, once again, a Welsh-speaking country as they did over the centuries to making Wales and English speaking nation.

The good news is that, unlike the massive amount of money, billions of pounds when one takes into account the money spent to build schools, courts etc (which only used English), then train teachers (again only using English) and the material (again, in English) to reaching this ideal of an English-speaking Welsh nation, then today's efforts look very weak indeed.

lionel said...

something else I've noticed is that both the number of kids and the number of schools in the WM primary sector is greater than that of the secondary sector, which would indicate something of a ticking timebomb where capacity in the secondary sector is not going to be sufficient in the years coming, to cope with the numbers coming through. Admittedly some transition loss between Primary and Secondary occurs, particularly in the Welsh speaking areas (oddly and worryingly) plus the fact that lots of small primary schools in rural areas are WM. But nonetheless there is still a shortfall in my opinion. Also many of the WM primaries in the SE are not full, by virtue of them being newly opened. So when they are actually full........

Anonymous said...

Jac - Penybryn categorises itself as a Welsh medium school because the majority of the teaching is in Welsh. In addition, most pupils leave the school having learnt to speak Welsh. Now, it may well be that the those children do not speak Welsh as confidently and competently as they speak English; that more English is used in the school than should be the case; and that the children rarely use Welsh outside the classroom - but none of that means that the school's Welsh medium status is a pretence. In my experience, the same is true of Welsh medium schools in south east Wales. If the school became English medium, that would be a hugely retrogressive step. Furthermore, separate English and Welsh medium schools would set an incredibly dangerous precedent. It would undoubtedly be used by the Anti-Welsh language brigade to push for English medium schools in every part of Gwynedd. The impact of that on the Welsh language would be catastrophic. Thankfully, the idea stands no chance of being taken up the local authority.

Lionel said...

Anonymous above I appreciate your point and you are completely right about re-categorising schools in the NW being a retrogressive step and an open goal for the anti-Welsh. There is though in my opinion a fundamental difference in the teaching of Welsh in the NW/SW and in the South and SE. In the so called Welsh speaking areas to a large degree we are teaching the language to incomers or the children of incomers mainly from England, for whom the attachment to the culture and the language itself is weak if not non-existent in many cases. Having grown up in Anglesey with many people descended from English incomers I can honestly say all but one lad I can think of, despite being able to speak a bit of Welsh, do not and WILL not, remaining true to their mancunian accents and England supporting sporting tendencies, speak Welsh. To all intents and purposes, despite spending almost the same amount of time in Wales as myself, they are English and nothing else. in fact, I would even assert that their sense of Englishness has strengthened over the years!
in the south, where I now live, we are teaching the language to children who have the culture and the heritage that links in to Welsh itself. They have an attachment to it. Their parents do too. OK there are exceptions, but there is no doubt where their loyalties lie. Many will not speak the language outside of school, but in comparison with the NW/SW, this is mostly not borne of antagonism nor of a resurging sentiment of disengagement with the country in which they live, but rather of a lack of opportunity and a lack of relevance in their daily lives of the learnt language. The latter we can work on. The former I fear is much more difficult. Our so called Welsh speaking areas" really are doomed I fear!

MH said...

Perhaps it would be an idea to clarify one or two points, so that we're not talking at cross-purposes. The first is to repeat that the new language categories used in national statistics have now changed form what they were a few years ago. Under the previous classification, schools were Welsh-medium if more than half the subjects were taught either wholly or partly in Welsh. So a school could be classified as WM if, as an example, 60% of the subjects were taught in Welsh 30% of the time, meaning that less than 20% of the overall teaching might have been in Welsh. That was a low threshold, and it meant that some schools which taught predominantly in English could still be classed as WM. The new categories for primary schools define a Welsh-medium school as one in which more than 70% of the teaching is in Welsh.

Similarly, there is now no category for an "English-medium" primary school. Instead there are "Predominantly EM" schools in which the teaching in Welsh is less than 20%, and "Predominantly EM with significant use of Welsh" where between 20% and 50% of the teaching is in Welsh.

Then there are "WM with significant use of English", where between 50% and 70% of the teaching is in Welsh. These are also called "transitional" schools.

In overall terms, there is an across Wales push to get more Welsh teaching in all schools, and this should be reflected in primary schools changing from one category to the other as they pass (or sometimes slip back across) the 20%, 50% and 70% thresholds. It is not up to schools to categorize themselves (as I think has been suggested) but to report what they are against objective criteria.


Secondly, Gwynedd do not themselves categorize schools as WM or EM. They just have schools, and therefore have no need to offer a choice of WM or EM education.

But obviously the exact circumstances of each individual school are different, and some are more successful than others in terms of the percentages of competent Welsh speakers they produce. If you live in Gwynedd, you would know which schools were the more successful in that sense. The point I make in my 17:14 comment was not a call for language classification, but a call for parental choice. Parents always have a choice, although they do not necessarily get their first choice. So obviously a parent who was concerned that their catchment area school didn't have a particularly good record (this could be in Welsh, or in any other subject, or generally) would try and get their child into a school which they thought was better. My point was that Gwynedd should recognize this, and not put artificial barriers in the way of that choice, such as an inflexible school transport policy that could mean poorer parents having to settle for a school which was not so good in Welsh because they couldn't afford to travel the extra distance to one which was better.

MH said...

Moving on from my last comment, it might also be worth trying to put some figures on the size of the problem. Helpfully, Gwynedd use "language cohorts" as a way of obvectively measuring language skills in both Welsh and English. As we can see in their latest WES, they have five cohorts. In 2009,

78.5% ... were competent in both English and Welsh (A)
4.28 % ... were competent in Welsh but with weaknesses in English (B)
7.94% ... were competent in English but with weaknesses in Welsh (C1)
1.6% ... were competent in English but not Welsh (C2)
7.6% ... were not competent in Welsh or English (CH)

The last category is important, because there will always be a percentage of children with literacy problems, and not including them would distort the figures.

I think this shows that Gwynedd's policy is remarkably successful. The percentage in Cohort A was only 67.7% in 2005. Now, less than 10% of children in primary schools are not competent (for their age) Welsh speakers; and less than 2% can be described as non Welsh speakers.

Anonymous said...

As a point of information, Cymuned have launched a new website after a couple of years of quiet. Besides campaigns on stamp duty and using Welsh as the internal admin. language in the County Councils in the stronger Welsh-speaking areas, they have a third campaign: to ensure that all children in schools in those areas become bilingual:

Ioan said...

O weld adroddiad WES [MH 02:30 uchod], ellai ddim gweld be mae Cyngor Gwynedd yn ei wneud yn nghywir. Tu allan i Ysgol Friers, mae pethau'n edrych yn galonogol iawn. Ynys Mon yn fater hollol wahanol!

Anonymous said...

@ Ioan, yn wir, mae ystadegau MH yn galonogol iawn o ran Gwynedd ond ie, Ynys Môn fel arall. Mae ymgyrch Cymuned yn crybwyll Ceredigion hefyd ond, dwi'n gweld, ddim Sir Gâr.

Plaid Panteg said...

"there is apparently to be a school built as part of a large housing development in Torfaen, but the authority are reluctant to use it for WM despite the huge demand. Panteg practically filled up on opening."

Hi Lionel,

Things have evolved slightly on that matter. Ysgol Panteg is going great guns and there are plans in Torfaen's 21st century school plan to build a new WM primary on the old steelworks site (the land is bought) rather than on the South Sebastopol development (as initially planned).

I am of course opposed to the South Sebastopol development and will be speaking out against it on July 21st when it comes to council.

MH said...

Apologies to Lionel. Your comment at 23:56 on 7 July had got caught in the spam filter, and has only just appeared.

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