Don't get mad, get equal

In some ways the RAF is a very prejudice-free organization. It is highly commendable that they should put a picture of a very obviously gay couple and their children on the page of their website that gives information about schools near RAF "Valley" at Rhosneigr:


Unfortunately, that admirable lack of prejudice doesn't extend as far as their attitude to Welsh. As we can read in this story, they may now have corrected this outrageous claim:

The Day School Allowance (North Wales) (DSA (NW)) is a unique opportunity for Service personnel to educate their children in North Wales.

DSA (NW) is available for the education of children of Service personnel based in North Wales who would otherwise be disadvantaged, academically and socially, by the bilingual teaching policy adopted within the Gwynedd and Isle of Anglesey Local Education Authorities. DSA (NW) is provided as an alternative to Boarding School Allowance (BSA) and assists towards the costs of the independent day schooling in the local area. In common with the principles adopted in other areas where English is not the teaching medium, no parental contribution is required towards the cost of school fees. Also travelling costs 'by the cheapest method appropriate' are also covered within this scheme.

Two independent day schools are available in Bangor, Hillgrove and St Gerard's and are both in use by Service families.

Thanks to Google's cache, I've saved a copy for all to see both as an mht file and as a jpg. The revised page is here.

But has removing the offensive sentence made any real difference? Of course not. The scheme is still being offered. And I have to say that I wouldn't want it to be ended, for there are much more important concerns the other way round.

What about air force personnel from Wales stationed in England or Scotland? Do they get a special allowance to continue their children's education in Welsh, or with at least some Welsh ... or are they expected to go to local schools where no Welsh is taught? What sort of financial help do they get to make sure their children can continue to be taught some Welsh in school?

The answer to that is so obvious that it hardly needs answering. Try searching the air force website for one word of Welsh. Yes, making that money available to one group of parents but not to parents in the opposite situation is a blatant example of the double standards that are still being applied to English and Welsh, but we must be cleverer than to say that this allowance is wholly inappropriate and needs to be stopped. Look at it the other way: if the air force is prepared to pay this sort of money so that some children can avoid any exposure to Welsh, it is better that we fight for similar sums of money to be made available to ensure that children from Welsh families in the armed forces can get some teaching in Welsh if they are based outside Wales.


Now I don't expect there will be any schools outside Wales and close to army, navy and air force bases in which Welsh is taught; but what steps do the armed forces take to ensure that the children of personnel from Wales are able to maintain the standard of Welsh they would be taught if they were based in Wales? For I'm quite sure this is the standard they apply with regard to English. I'd have thought the armed forces would have some code of practice with regard to education, and Welsh needs to be addressed as part of it. Our politicians need to start asking questions to make sure it is being properly addressed.

As for answers, one way forward is to ensure that the Boarding School Allowance mentioned on the website is available for any armed forces personnel from Wales, but based outside Wales, to educate their children in Wales. This seems to be the only way to ensure that their children can get a Welsh-medium education.

Or, in much the same way as the Athrawon Bro service provides specialist Welsh language teaching once or twice a week for English-medium schools in Wales without the staff to do it for themselves, another possible solution would be for the same sort of service to be provided by a flying squad of Welsh teachers (Athrawon Hedfanog?) travelling between schools near bases outside Wales, backed up with interactive resources and video conferencing.

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Unknown said...

Why limit it to Welsh people serving in the UK?

There may well be other takers for a chance to bring up their children bi-lingual who are not themselves Welsh. Especially if they expect to serve at some time in Valley.

I wonder what would Big Willy ( Kate's name for him, not mine!) will choose to do if the couple actually spawn while he is still in Wales. Ysgol Gymraeg? Not damn likely!

Anonymous said...

Says it all really: all their schools teach the National Curriculum for England to pupils from all over the Rest of the UK.

I guess if the English system is good enough for the English, why ever should soldiers, seamen and air force personnel from elsewhere object?

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