The WMES Annual Report

On Friday, the Welsh Government published its first annual report on the Welsh-medium Education Strategy:


It was strange that nearly all the reports in the media focused on the fact that there was a target of 30% of seven year olds being taught in Welsh by 2020, almost as if this was some sort of surprise. But this target, and the intermediate target that the figure should be 25% by 2015, is nothing new. What is much more critical is how much progress has been made towards achieving the targets, and the annual report focuses on this.

Last week, in this post, I commented on the numbers that now attend Welsh-medium schools. The numbers in Welsh-medium (and dual stream and transitional) primary schools have risen by just 0.5%—from 23.06% to 23.56% in the past two years—and this rate of increase would be nowhere near enough to meet the target.

However the numbers in WM schools are not an exact reflection of the numbers that are educated in Welsh. A more accurate measure is the number that are assessed in Welsh as a first language, and this is the basis of the WMES targets. On this measure, it's encouraging to note that the percentage has risen much faster, from 21.0% in 2009 to 21.8% in 2010. If this rate of increase were to be maintained, the targets would probably be met.

Now of course the Welsh Government could point to this as evidence that good progress is being made, but I would sound a note of warning. The discrepancy between the percentage in WM education (23.56%) and those being assessed in Welsh as a first language (21.8%) is largely a result of the fact that a significant number of smaller, traditionally WM schools have had rather patchy WM provision. What appears to have happened is that these schools have inceased the number of assessments in Welsh as a first language, and it is this which accounts for the bulk of the 0.8% rise between 2009 and 2010.

But this is a "soft target", because it represents an improvement in what is happening within WM schools. It might well be possible to get every child in a WM school assessed in Welsh, but the numbers being assesed in Welsh can never realistically be greater than the numbers in WM schools. In other words there is a structural problem which can only be solved by increasing the number of WM places available, which in most local authorities will mean increasing the number of WM schools. Unless we concentrate on this, there will be no chance of us meeting the 25% target in 2015 or the 30% target in 2020. As the potential to build new schools has been severely curtailled as a result of the Welsh Government scrapping all the work done to date on the remainder of the 21st Century Schools project, there will be no choice other than to convert existing EM schools to WM in order to meet the targets. That is a bullet that must be bitten.


One other thing I found interesting in the report was this graph comparing the percentages being assessed in Welsh by local authority in 2000 and 2010:


Gold stars to Torfaen, Monmouthshire, Cardiff, Swansea and Pembrokeshire for some good increases. Swansea's increase is a surprise to me. Black marks to Neath Port Talbot and Wrecsam for managing to preside over falls rather than increases; and to places like Ynys Môn, Ceredigion, Fflintshire and Blaenau Gwent which have only marginally increased their provision.

As most of us will know, Blaenau Gwent has just been relieved of its responsibilities for its failure in education generally, and I can't help but think that its failure with regard to WM provision is symptomatic of its wider failings. But isn't transferring responsibility for education in Blaenau Gwent to a task force from Neath Port Talbot a case of the blind leading the blind?

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Anonymous said...

Good post, Its still however worrying to see how little are assessed in Welsh in Carmarthenshire compared to the population as a whole. And we ought not look at primary sector alone for example. I live in Dinefwr, some 75% are assessed in Welsh first language at key stage 2, yet when compared to Key stage 3 there is a HUGE decrease, I haven't the statistics at hand atm but will route them out. Steps have been taken recently to ensure a better continuum and they seem to be paying dividens however unless more WM places are provided in areas such as Llanelli, Carmarthen, Ammanford and Llandeilo then the figure will remain static in Carmarthenshire. The demand in these areas especially Llanelli, Ammanford and Llandeilo way outsripes the need. Some 18 pupils have been refused a place this year for Ysgol Gymraeg Rhydaman. The councils argument is there's a categori A/B school next door and thus the pupils can go there.

But the parents won't budge and are rightfully insisting that the education in both types of schools is very different. There has been a legal battle also. As Ysgol Gymraeg Rhydaman is currently oversubscribed whilst the category A/B school next door has 5 empty classes.

The council need to majorly addrees primary education in the Ammanford area as demand for Welsh Medium education in the town is approaching 80% yet only some 40% are educated in Welsh in Ammanford itself. All the surrounding areas however are traditional CATEGORY A schools.

MH said...

As it happens, an increase in the percentage that transfer from WM primaries to WM secondaries is the second of the key objectives in the WMES, Ci'rC. At present 16.2% drop out of WM education (or Welsh as a first language, to be more precise) when they switch from primary to secondary school; and the aim is to reduce this to 10% in 2015 and 5% in 2020.

Carmarthenshire is one of the worst offenders, and the proposal to make the new secondary that will replace Pantycelyn and Tregib 2B rather than 2A will do nothing to improve something that badly needs improving.

Could you please give me more details about Rhydaman? Which is the "school next door" that Carmarthenshire are proposing as an alternative? Does the parents group have a web or facebook page? And when was the legal battle, and what was the outcome ... at least so far, if the case is not still ongoing?

Anonymous said...

The adjacent school is Ysgol Bro Banw formerly known as Ammanford Juniors or Ysgol Iau Rhydaman.

I can't find any sources on the internet regarding the legal battle but now of it as my former Welsh teacher's children has been refused, and a former biology and Geography teacher likewise.

I will try and get you more details on that tomorrow.

Plaid Gwersyllt said...

What KS is this data based on?

Cai Larsen said...

Would the discrepancy between those assessed through the medium of Welsh & those in welsh medium education be partly explained if a higher percentage of children in reception classes recieve WM education than those in year 6?

MH said...

Thanks, Ci'rC. I'll try doing some research on the Rhydaman situation too.


The figures in the graph are for the assessments at the end of KS1, PG.

If you're surprised by the Wrecsam figure, I must admit that I was surprised too, just as I was surprised by the size of Swansea's increase. I'd welcome your thoughts about it. At a guess I'd say it was because of the demographic reduction in numbers in rural Wrecsam over the last decade. But it's also fair to point to what's been happening over the last few years to improve the situation, especially the new WM school that's about to be built.


That's one factor, MB. But the percentage in primary education also includes the Key Stage 2 years, so it balances out. In fact, as there are more years in KS2 than KS1, the percentage of KS1 assessments in Welsh as a first language would be slightly higher than the overall percentage in WM primaries if all assessments in those schools were in Welsh as a first language and the numbers were growing year on year.

MH said...

I've been looking at the situation in Rhydaman as a whole, Ci'rC, and I have to say that it is rather odd.

You're absolutely right to say that Ysgol Gymraeg Rhydaman is full. It has 220 pupils and a capacity of 217.

Bro Banw has a capacity of 471, split between two buildings: 292 in the junior block and 179 in the infants. But it only has 328 on roll, meaning there are 143 surplus places. It is a dual stream school, with 21.3% in the Welsh stream (70) and 75.0% in the English stream (246). The other dozen children are older children, I think with special needs.

In addition, there are two other schools very close by. Parcyrhun is another dual stream school with 184 on roll and a capacity of 203. Of the 148 in year groups 1-6, 43.9% are in the Welsh stream and 54.7% in the English stream. Betws is a transitional school with 70 on roll and a capacity of 112. A transitional school has between 50% and 70% of the teaching in Welsh, and schools in this category are normally on their way to becoming full WM schools.

What seems strange to me is that there are two dual stream schools within half a mile of each other.


Now I fully agree that with only 26% in the WM stream, the ethos and character of Bro Banw will be English rather than Welsh, so I can understand parents' reticence to send their children there. I also think that a town with four schools (on five sites) should have an option for parents who want their children to have an education primarily in English. Although, like all EM schools in Wales, there will be a steadily increasing use of Welsh.

But it seems clear that all the 246 children in the EM stream at Bro Banw could comfortably fit into the junior block with its capacity of 292. So one option would be to convert the infants block on Walters Road to a new WM school, either in its own right or sharing a joint head and governing body with YG Rhydaman. With a capacity of 179 it would be small, but it would be entirely Welsh, and thus have the Welsh ethos that parents would be looking for. It would have admission number of 25 and would increase the WM capacity (as opposed to dual stream capacity) in the town from 217 to 416. That should satisfy the growing demand for a few years.

In the longer term, Betws would continue to work towards becoming entirely WM, and could achieve it within six years if the next new intake was entirely taught in Welsh. That would then give the town three WM schools.

Anonymous said...

Nice and prehaps a bit suprised to see RCT so high.
The highest of any county outside the traditional Welsh speaking counties, and very close to both Pembrokeshire and Denbighshire.

However, knowing the massive gaps in provisions in my county I find it hard to visualise the gaps in other counties.

Lets hope the new school and expansions of WM schools in the south of the county are quickly delivered.

Anonymous said...

You have been busy and make tremendous points, the proposals have been set in place for Ysgol Iau, to become a part of Ysgol Gymraeg during the past but there was opposition from the local Labour councilors proclaiming it would cause language divide. It seems carmarthenshire wants this itty bitty approach of somewhere inbetween which as we now is not sufficient to fully immerse children in Welsh.

There are two transitional schools in the area Ysgol Saron and Ysgol y Betws. These schools about 4 years ago used to be category A Welsh medium schools, what's happened is they have gone back a step rather than forward. This is down to an influx of residents and also the lack of adequate intense immersion planning as seen in Ceredigion and Gwynedd.

By the way YG Rhydaman recently had an extensions so I'm not sure if the capacity has changed that much. There was further talk of uniting all of Ammanfords Primary schools on one site. This being Paryrhun, YG Rhydaman, Ysgol Bro Banw (Ysgol y Betws would remain).

This hasn't been spoken much about yet, but will be met with fierce opposition. I can't see many people allowing the situation in Bro Banw to become fully EM either :/ very complex situation. But one things true there is huge scope but a lack of common sense and plannning. And a local councilor told me that projections for Ammanford in the next few years is that the demand for Welsh medium education will excelirate. Especially with the local Secondary's new category of a 2B rather than a 2C this meaning 80% has to be taught in both langauges right up to A LEVEL. We shall see.

Lionel said...

Not worth the paper it's written on this report. Window dressing. From the schools perspective, I feel that the targets will be missed as not all councils are on board Some are downright objectionable (Carms, Swansea, Wrexham... - lots of Labour councillors involved mind you)

On work based learning, i.e post 16, apparently "a contractual requirement for work-based
learning providers to have or to develop a Welsh Language Policy in effect from 1 August 2011. "

- oh really? I work for a post 16 training provider and as one of the 3 welsh speakers in the business, after translating the patchy and 'lip service' level Welsh policy plus the website, I have neither seen nor heard anything since, regarding the language provision, courses in Welsh nor the requirement for material.
When I see large scale training providers - far bigger than where I work - Rathbone, ACT, etc, advertising lots of jobs out west in Ceredigion and Carms, with the usual "welsh speaking desirable but not essential" attached to them, I can honestly say that in post 16 world, the Welsh language is a mere afterthought. I'd love to know quite how much Welsh medium training happens in the Fro from private providers and how much of an option is given to learners in reality.

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