Bad News about Welsh from the Schools Census

The first release of the Schools Census figures from January this year was published yesterday, and is available from this page.


The figures for Welsh-medium schools and pupils are in Table 2, and these can be compared with the overall figures in Table 5 to give the following percentages for primary schools:

Primary Schools

2009 ... Total 258,314 ... WM 59,898 = 23.19%
2010 ... Total 257,445 ... WM 60,318 = 23.43%
2011 ... Total 259,189 ... WM 61,073 = 23.56%
2012 ... Total 262,144 ... WM 62,446 = 23.82%
2013 ... Total 264,186 ... WM 63,192 = 23.92%

The WM figure includes WM, Dual Stream and Transitional (50-70% in Welsh) Schools.

It's progress, but it's painfully slow progress. However this shouldn't come as a surprise, because it mirrors the same minuscule increases in Welsh first language assessments which were reported in the two annual reports on progress towards the targets set in the Welsh-medium Education Strategy that I talked about here and here.

I will repeat what I said before: that with this rate of progress there is absolutely no chance of us reaching the 25% target for Welsh first language assessments at the end of Key Stage 1 by 2015. The current Welsh Government has said that it wants to be judged on "delivery, delivery, delivery" ... but it isn't delivering. And for all Leighton Andrews' bluster and tough talk about Welsh, he is the one that failed to deliver on these targets. There's all the difference in the world between talking and doing.


These are the corresponding figures for secondary and middle schools:

Secondary (& Middle) Schools

2009 ... Total 205,421 ... WM 41,916 = 20.40%
2010 ... Total 203,907 ... WM 43,432 = 21.30%
2011 ... Total 201,230 ... WM 41,746 = 20.75%
2012 ... Total 198,015 ... WM 41,262 = 20.84%
2013 ... Total 194,895 ... WM 39,326 = 20.18%

The WM figure includes WM and Bilingual Schools.

Although it is very disappointing to see that the percentage is now at its lowest for five years, it's actually hard to tell exactly what is happening from these figures alone. This is because "bilingual" has a wide range of meanings, as defined in this document. A Category 2A school teaches at least 80% of subjects only in Welsh. Category 2B and 2C schools teach at least 80% and 50-79% of subjects in Welsh, but also teach those subjects in English. That means it is possible for students to be taught entirely in English in a Category 2B or 2C school, and for some of them (currently about a fifth of the total in WM and bilingual schools) to study Welsh to second rather than to first language standard.

Therefore the only reliable figure for Welsh to first language standard in secondary schools is the percentage assessed in Welsh first language, and that figure is not available in this first release. However the signs do not look good. In 2012, the percentage of Key Stage 3 assessments in Welsh first language was 16.3% out of the 20.8% in the table above. So with a 0.7% fall this year, it's very hard to see the figure of 16.3% going up. The target is 19% by 2015.


It pains me to say it, but the current Welsh Government is rushing headlong towards an ignominious failure to meet its own targets for WM education. Now that Carwyn has taken on direct responsibility for Welsh, he needs to wake up to what's happening and do something about it. Urgently.

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Emlyn Uwch Cych said...

I would suggest, MH, that in many 2B and 2C schools, most learners follow a largely English-medium curriculum.

By the way, officially 2B means *at least* 80% of subjects taught in Welsh, but also taught in English. In reality, though, that only happens at Key Stage 3.

Certainly in Carmarthenshire 80% and 50% remain aspirations at GCSE and A level for Welsh-medium courses in 2B and 2C schools. Any excuse will be trundled out for why they can't offer the magic 24 or 15 (out of the statutory 30) courses through the medium of Welsh).

MH said...

Thanks, Emlyn. The 2B "up to" was a slip, and I've now fixed it.

But I certainly don't disagree with you about most students in 2B and 2C schools following a largely English-medium curriculum. I meant to imply just that, and go further by saying that it could sometimes be entirely EM. In a five form entry school, there might be one group of 30 doing some or most subjects in Welsh, but the other 120 could be doing everything or almost everything in English. When that 120 are taught in Welsh, it is often only for less academically demanding subjects like PE and Art.

The problem is worst in Ceredigion and Sir Gâr. Historically, what has happened is that most primary education was nominally WM, but secondary education then switched to being primarily in English. It is almost criminal that Ysgol Gyfun Emlyn is EW, when it is fed entirely from WM primaries apart from just one DS where the EM stream is smaller than the WM stream. But there are signs that things are now changing. For example the current plan is to convert Tregaron from 2B to 2A and make the new Bro Dinefwr school 2A even though both Tregib and Pantycelyn are 2C.

Perhaps you saw Thursday evening's Newyddion 9, for Tregaron was featured as one of the schools that might not be able to have a sixth form at all due to the need to offer 30 subjects in total. It's definitely going to be an uphill struggle to do 24 in Welsh.

Emlyn Uwch Cych said...

I agree 100% on Ysgol Gyfun Emlyn. Even the EM classes at Ysgol y Ddwylan are going to be phased out, making the entire catchment area WM. The four primaries in the catchment (Brynsaron, Cae'r Felin, y Ddwylan and Penboyr VA) are all effective in ensuring that Year 6 leavers are able to learn through both Welsh and English.

And then they go to Emlyn. The school's language policy was outlined by the Head at the Governers' AGM in April: 4 form entry as follows -
(1) 6 subjects WM [History, Religious Education, Physical Education, Art, Design and Technology, Music and French] + Welsh 1st Lg,
(2)3 subjects WM + Welsh 1st Lg,
(3) all subjects EM + Welsh 1st Lg,
(4) all subjects EM + Welsh 2nd Lg.
The choice between 1, 2 and 3 is left to the parents.

The Head goes on to explain, "Subject teaching in Welsh is only available for KS3. At KS4 all subjects are taught through the medium of English as it is not possible nor is there any intention to provide GCSE through the Welsh Language. Geography was offered in collaboration with Cardigan school at GCSE through the medium of Welsh but there were no take ups."

Despite the good intentions, though, in reality by GCSE the Welsh First Language so preciously nurtured at the local primaries has been knocked out of the pupils at Ysgol Emlyn. Here are the 2012 GCSE results:

Welsh First Language: A=1, B=5, C=2, D=2, E=4, F=2, Total entries=16, A*-C as %age of cohort=7.3%.
Welsh Literature: NO ENTRIES!
Welsh Second Language: A*=2, A=17, B=21, C=20, D=12, E=9, F=1, G=3, Total entries=85, A*-C as %age of cohort=55.0%.
Entry Level Welsh: Level 2=1
Entered no external exams in Welsh: 7.

MH said...

Thanks for the detail about YGE. It makes sad reading. Even if we only consider Welsh, it becomes that much harder to follow a Welsh first language course if all, or nearly all, the remainder of a student's school day is conducted in English. So it's hardly surprising that YGE starts with 75% (3 out of 4 classes) doing WFL, but ends with only 15% (16 out of 109) taking a WFL GCSE. It's a recipe for failure. The question is how to change it, because every school develops a comfort zone which makes it reluctant to change. That accounts for the appalling attitude of the Head you quoted. But the governors are no better; the chair of the governors was quoted as saying, "We are an English-medium school and will remain an English school and aim to continue to support bilingualism in the community." Whatever happened to governor training?


I don't support many things that Sir Gâr has done with education, but radical reorganization does provide an opportunity for change. So although I've never been comfortable with the plan to close Tregib and Pantycelyn, the new Ysgol Bro Dinefwr has decided that every child who has been taught in a WM primary school for three years will be taught either in Welsh or bilingually, and their definition of bilingual is refreshingly positive:

"Pupils who are placed in a bilingual class will be taught all subjects through the medium of Welsh, but will also have some units of these subjects taught in English."

As there is only one EM school in the catchment area (Llandeilo, which is small and has a falling roll) and one DS school (Rhys Pritchard, which has a bigger WM than EM stream) the new school should be predominantly Welsh (4-5 WM classes and 1-2 EM class per year group). I did get it wrong when I said it would be a 2A school in my previous comment. It will be a 2B, but if they stick to this policy it will be a predominantly Welsh 2B.


If YG Emlyn was required to follow the same policy for its year 7 intake, it would become a predominantly Welsh school in only a few years. If Y Ddwylan does become WM only, it would probably be the spur necessary for making the change to YGE. Cneifiwr did a good piece on the proposal back in January. Do you (or does anyone else) know what the current situation is? Has a consultation document been published?

MH said...

Going back to the main point about meeting the WMES targets for KS1 and KS3 assessments in Welsh FL, there is actually one way that the Welsh Government can meet them ... but it would be a blatant fiddle.

The percentages are only for school students who are assessed, not those who achieve the expected standard in the assessments. So the WG could simply direct LAs to assess students who don't have a hope of reaching the expected standard because they're not being taught Welsh to first language standard. Or the LAs might do it themselves, as they have each been given their own targets.

In 2011, 90.9% of the 6,728 assessed in WFL at KS1 achieve or surpass the expected level (L2)

In 2012, 84.2% of the 5,787 assessed in WFL at KS3 achieve or surpass the expected level (L5)

So if the percentages assessed in WFL go up, but the percentages who achieve the expected level go down, it will be obvious to everyone that things have been fiddled.

Emlyn Uwch Cych said...

Thank you for linking to the Bro Dinefwr language policy. It appears to be very robust; insisting that all children who received 3 or more years of Category A primary education be educated in WM at KS3 (apart from Science, and with an option in Maths). In other words, they won't be compelled to travel to Maes y Gwendraeth or Bro Myrddin to get WM.

And if Ysgol Bro Dinefwr follows through on this, they should also be able to offer a full suite of 24 subjects at 14-19.

Have you been able to track down anything similar from Ysgol Dyffryn Aman, also moving to 2B? Their 2012/13 prospectus offers 3 choices of medium based solely on parental choice:
(1) WM Technology, Geography, History, RE, Art, Music, Drama, Information Technology, PE.
(2) WM Technology, Art, Music, Drama, Information Technology, PE.
(3) EM.

Option 1 would already seem to be enough for 80% at KS3, but it remains to be seen whether the 14-19 options will really be 24 WM subjects. At the moment, only Welsh, Geography, History, RE, Music and Drama can be studied to AS and A level (6 out of 30).

By the way, in the Ysgol Bro Dinefwr catchment area Ysgol Llandybïe is also DS, but again the EM is smaller than the WM stream. Sir Gâr lists it as TR: all KS1 learners are WM, but they still have the choice of medium at KS2.

As for Ysgol y Ddwylan, I know nothing since the parents' meeting with SBECTRWM on 7 March. The Head said, "The company will provide feedback from the evening to the Governing Body and I will communicate with you further in the next month to provide you with an update."

Does anybody have an update?

MH said...

As I've tried to say, moving from 2C to 2B is not necessarily an upward step in terms of how much is taught in Welsh. A 2B school teaching 80% of subjects in Welsh to 20% of its students could be described as "16% Welsh". A 2C school teaching 75% of subjects in Welsh to 80% of its students would be "60% Welsh". So things depend much more on the policy of the individual school than on how it is classified by the WG.

Doing a bit of Googling, I found this report by the council from November last year. Section 4.1.3 suggests that he council was "eager to ensure a strong policy in favour of Welsh underpins" Bro Dinefwr (Dyffryn Twyi). So fair play to the council, they've done what they said they would.

The same section notes that in Dyffryn Aman the number of students studying 80% of lessons through the medium of Welsh rose from 28 in 2008 to 126 in 2012. That's a very positive change.

Looking at section 4.3 of the same report, it says that the percentage of students "continuing with Welsh education" (which I think must mean when making the switch between primary and secondary) went up from 26% to 64%. The numbers and percentages don't immediately equate, but this is probably because of DS schools and the EM school at Tycroes. Fy Ysgol Leol shows that there were 238 in Year 7 in 2012. 126 out of 238 = 53% doing at least 80% of their lessons in Welsh, which (using the calculation I did before) makes Year 7 at least "42% Welsh". That's not too shabby. And of course it will improve as the 64% who continue gets higher.

So the bottom line is that Dyffryn Aman does now seem to be offering 80% of subjects in Welsh at KS3, and if this continues into KS4 it will therefore become a 2B school without any problem. That was the intention as laid out in this document. The more pertinent question will be how many of the students will study how many of the subjects in Welsh at KS4. There'll probably be some drop off, but those who take WFL and some subjects in Welsh will at least be competently bilingual, and that's what really matters.

The fount of all knowledge at Sbectrwm will be Colonel Gwyn, Cefin Campbell. If nobody else reading this can say what's happening at Y Ddwylan, email him.

Emlyn Uwch Cych said...

The Dyffryn Aman data really seems positive. A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.

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