Last weekend RhAG, Parents for Welsh-medium Education, held their annual conference in Cardiff. The event was reported by the BBC in Welsh, but not in English ... another example of the BBC continuing its policy of not bothering to report things that are of equal, if not greater, concern to those who don't speak Welsh than to those who do.
So I thought it would be a good idea to translate it for others to read:
RhAG: Growth in Welsh-medium education "too slow"
Parents for Welsh-medium Education (RhAG) have called on the Welsh Government to set more specific targets for local authorities to increase the number of Welsh-medium schools. During the organization's conference in Cardiff at the weekend, members said that "progress in expanding the Welsh-medium sector is far too slow".
The government has acknowledged that they are likely to miss the targets, but said that it is the responsibility of local authorities to plan the provision of education in their areas.
RhAG claimed that the strategy is currently failing to facilitate the provision of new Welsh-medium schools, and that there was "a disconnect between central government strategy and what is happening locally".
The conference was held at the new Ysgol Treganna in the capital, which is not far from the Grangetown area. There has been considerable debate and protest in these areas of Cardiff, as in many other areas in Wales over the years, because of concerns about the provision of Welsh-medium education.
Lynne Davies, national chair of RhAG said, "We note that some counties have been proactive but others are still dragging their feet. As a result, progress in expanding the Welsh-medium sector is far too slow. There is still a gap between the aspirations of the Welsh Government in relation to Welsh-medium education and the progress needed to achieve the targets set out in the Welsh-medium Education Strategy.
"The Welsh Government has set a target that 25% of 7 year olds in Wales are educated through the medium of Welsh by 2015, increasing to 30% by 2020. At the moment, the strategy fails to facilitate the provision of a new Welsh-medium schools. The Welsh Government should set specific targets for local authorities to expand the number of Welsh-medium schools. There is very little hope of reaching this goal unless the Government issues clear instructions to ensure that local authorities take action."
"Responsibility of individual authorities"
In response to RhAG's comments, the Welsh Government has acknowledged that they are unlikely to meet these targets, but said it was the responsibility of individual authorities to plan Welsh-medium education.
A Welsh Government spokesman said, "We are increasing our support for Welsh-medium education and last week a campaign to provide information to parents was launched. However, we have to be honest in saying that we are not likely to reach the ambitious targets that were set in our Welsh-medium Education Strategy. These will be re-assessed in 2015 as part of the review of the Strategy and Action Plan.
"Earlier this year, the School Standards (Wales) Act 2013 was passed, which makes it a statutory requirement for local authorities to prepare Welsh in Education Strategic Plans. Subject to certain conditions, some authorities will need to measure the parental demand for Welsh-medium education and produce plans showing how they will respond to it. It is up to local authorities in Wales, not the Welsh Government, to plan the provision of education in their areas."
There are two halves to this story. The first is to look at the targets in the Welsh-medium Education Strategy to see how much progress has actually been made. Very helpfully, though perhaps they regret it now, the Welsh Government publishes annual progress reports which can be downloaded from this page. After three reports, these are the figures showing progress to date on the first two key outcomes:
More seven-year-old learners being taught through the medium of Welsh
Baseline (2009) ... 21%
Target for 2015 ... 25%
Target for 2020 ... 30%
2009 ... 21.0%
2010 ... 21.8%
2011 ... 21.9%
2012 ... 21.9%
Progress to date ... 0.9% ... still 3.1% short of 2015 target
More learners continuing to improve their language skills on transfer from primary to secondary school
Baseline (2009) ... 16%
Target for 2015 ... 19%
Target for 2020 ... 23%
2009 ... 15.9%
2010 ... 16.0%
2011 ... 16.3%
2012 ... 16.8%
Progress to date ... 0.9% ... still 2.2% short of 2015 target
To save you from having to read a thousand words, I'll say it all with a picture instead.
But the second, and more damning, half of the story is the Government's response to this failure. This is their strategy, and it is totally unacceptable for them to wash their hands of it and try to put all the blame on local authorities instead.
Nor is it acceptable for them to say that they will wait until 2015 before taking any action. If the targets are not going to be met—which is perfectly obvious from the progress so far—ministers need to start banging a few heads together to make sure that things are addressed with a greater sense of urgency. Both Huw Lewis, as Education Minister, and Carwyn Jones, as Minister responsible for Welsh, need to act now. New interim targets need to be set prior to the 2015 review, and local authorities need to face some sort of sanction (probably financial) if they fail to meet them.
The opposition parties in the Assembly must also take their share of blame for not holding the Welsh Government to account when the annual progress reports were published. If we just sit on our hands and stay quiet when we should be standing up and speaking out, we let the Welsh Government get away with it.