The Welsh language in Wrecsam

I've just come across details of an event in Wrecsam next week on the future of the Welsh language in the area.

The history and future of the Welsh language in Wrexham will be the subject of a free talk by one of its greatest champions. Organised by Glyndwr University, O Groesffordd i Groesffordd (From Crossroads to Crossroads) will take place at the new Welsh-medium primary school, Ysgol Bro Alun in Gwersyllt, on Tuesday November 19th.


Meirion Prys Jones, former Chief Executive of the Welsh Language Board, will give a talk on how the language developed in the town and what challenges lie ahead for his native tongue, before hosting a Q&A session.

He is excited at the prospect of sharing his passion for Welsh, and said: “This presentation will be a journey through the recent history of the Welsh language as a lesser used or minority language. We’ll look initially at the use of the Welsh language in the Wrexham area and then we’ll broaden the horizons and consider the situation of the language at an all-Wales level and also the influence of the Welsh language on a European and international stage.

“We’ll also consider what are the strengths and weaknesses of the current structures that support the language and also whether the position of Welsh is being strengthened or not.”

The event takes place from 6.30pm to 8pm. For information, and to book a place, email Sarah-Lou Gaffney at or call 01978 293575., 10 November 2013

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Carl Morris said...

I'm seeing the useful term 'minoritised language' crop up more these days.

Anonymous said...

Glad to see the term minoritised langues crop up!

However, I have no faith at all that anything will come out of the Wrecsam meeting. No disrespect and nothing agains the speakers and those in attendance. But frankly, for Welsh to grow then instutiions have to change. Labour will not change those institutions - when push comes to shove Welsh Labour will always always support British capitalism over Welsh language rights and interests.

One year on since the disasterous census results and Carwyn Jones still hasn't done anything or even said anything. The 'Cynhadledd Fawr' is exactly was we expected - a diversion to keep people occupied for a few months. I know; it's exactly the same tactic I use when I'm trying to distract my own kids!

It's not about status any more it's about demography. We're losing our young people and we're gaining an agening English population. There is a complete demographic transfere in the Fro Gymraeg. it's called Transmigration in Indonesia. Things like HS2 will futher draw more money and jobs out of Wales as Liverpool (and the Liverpool/Chester/Wrecsam city region which Labour support) will make the whole of the north a commuter hinterland.

Will Meirion Prys discuss this? Or are just going to think that one big last push for status and education will change things?

We're up against forces much stronger than us - big corporations, big cities; Labour unwilling to challenge the market - and especially not if it means helping the Welsh language.

Frankly, I can't see any point to Meirion Prys's talk. He has no power and neither do we.

Anonymous said...

What about the Land & Lakes development in Holyhead? What does this mean for the language?

In truth, I'm happy to accept that those that want to use, breathe, speak, think-in, dream-in and develop 'the language' have got to start investing more. Investing more time and a great deal more money. Yes, our money.

It simply isn't right that we expect others to do our work. And to do it at their cost!

MH said...

I'm not quite sure where the term minoritized, as opposed to minority, language comes from, Carl and 10:57. It isn't in the press release. Obviously minoritized implies a degree of repression, and I don't doubt that this is what has happened with Welsh. But I'm not sure that it is a useful term to use in terms of dealing with its recovery; it seems a bit too "loaded" for my liking.


And I don't think the meeting next week is particularly groundbreaking. It's a presentation and discussion session, and I was drawing it to people's intention because I think it would be worth going to. If I lived locally, I'd go ... if only to see inside the new school.


As for the wider issue, the other factor besides status and demography is rights. I believe that a rights-based agenda is more important and relevant than status. Official status has been achieved, and unofficial status (whatever that is, precisely) is largely a matter of our own attitudes and the way we perceive ourselves and our language. I have never understood those who use the excuse that Welsh is a low-status language. Why should we accept the judgement of others on this matter? Our own view of ourselves surely matters much more. I think it is to no small extent bound together with our low self-confidence as a nation ... which is something that applies just as much to non-Welsh-speakers. I am in no doubt that our self-confidence as a nation is increasing, and I would expect this to be reflected in greater assertiveness about our right to speak whatever language we wish. That's why I think standing up for rights is now so important. We need to kick up a fuss whenever a body that is meant to treat Welsh no less favourably than English fails to do so. Certainly we should use "official" means such as the Language Commissioner and lobbying the Welsh Government, but I think we also need to use protest and direct action.

As for demographics, movements of population are primarily the result of economic opportunity ... or the lack of it. This can only be dealt with by using economic levers. It's not primarily a language issue, and therefore cannot be adequately dealt with by language-based measures. We need to use the right tool for the right job.


As for Land and Lakes, any development aimed primarily at incomers is going to have a detrimental effect on language. This is as true for this development as it is for housing developments elsewhere in Wales that are not based on providing for local need. In my opinion the three developments (the holiday village of 500 lodges and cottages at Penrhos, 315 lodges and a hotel at Cae Glas, and 320 houses at Kingsland, see here) are too much, too quickly, and therefore cannot be sustainable in the long term. At the very least, the developments should have been considered separately and spread over a longer period rather than lumped together, and planning permission for Cae Glas and Kingsland should not have been given before we know whether Wylfa B will actually be built.

Cai Larsen, in this post, said that locating 300 houses (I think he means the 320 houses at Kingsland) in Ynys Gybi would save the language in Ynys Môn. I have not seen this distinction made often, and it strikes me as being typical of what I have often called "back foot" rather than "front foot" thinking. How is the language ever going to expand throughout the whole of Wales if we write off the largest population centre in one of its heartlands?

Anonymous said...

I sympathise with what Anon 10:57 (12th November) says when he/she says about Labour, capitalism and "Things like HS2 will futher draw more money and jobs out of Wales as Liverpool (and the Liverpool/Chester/Wrecsam city region which Labour support) will make the whole of the north a commuter hinterland."

Actually Labour specifically doesn't support a city region for Liverpool-Chester-Wrecsam, only the "contained" regions in Swansea and the south-east. But there is the problem. The city region pull already exists regardless of whether politics supports it or not. I personally will never vote Labour for a whole host of reasons, I always vote for Plaid and always will, but I think the kind of forces exerting themselves on Wales are not down to any particular political party.

I'm unconvinced that "complete demographic transfer" is taking place, but certainly severe migratory patterns are happening. I see this as a bit like climate change. Stopping it is not possible in a country (or an EU) based on markets and freedom of movement. Mitigation and adaptation become the way forward, and it would have been nice to see that addressed nationally by the Cynhadledd Fawr.

William Dolben said...

Cai's point was that Holyhead would house the influx of workers building Wylfa B. The alternative is further dilution of Welsh in communities where Welsh is a living language. Holyhead is now overwhelmingly English-speaking so Cai's response, while sad seems pragmatic to me

MH said...

I sense a note of hopelessness in your comment, 09:12. I fully agree that the "migatory patterns" you refer to are a worldwide phenomenon, and that Wales cannot expect to be exempt from them. I have often said we should do nothing to prevent the free movement of individuals that I see as one of the great benefits of being part of the EU. We should not restrict movement into Wales any more than we would expect other countries to refuse to allow people from Wales to live and work outside Wales.

What we need to do is recognize the reasons why people move, and do what we can to prevent people who would not otherwise want to move feeling obliged to do so. In a nutshell those reasons are the lack of work and the lack of suitable housing. If we address these two issues there will be much less of a problem, but people should always be completely free to move if they choose to. I believe we can address these issues, and that is why I am uncomfortable with what I see as the hopelessness of what you've written.


To William, I agree with you when you say it is sad, but I wonder if it is pragmatic. The language situation on Môn (by which I mean the whole of the council area) is healthy. This graph of the census figures shows a steadily increasing percentage able to speak Welsh from a low for those in their late 60s to a high for those in their early teens. So we are not talking about "further dilution", on the contrary, the language is recovering across the whole of Môn. Why then do we need to play one part off against another?

William Dolben said...

I disagree. More people may be recording themselves as able to speak Welsh but you need to look at the figures for native speaking children in the schools and those who become fluent. Only around 38% of children in Môn speak Welsh at home and only 45% are fluent. These give a much better idea of the health of the language and are substantially below the figures in the census, especially in areas like Holyhead.
The over 60's figures in the census reflect immigration by English pensioners into rural Anglesey. The dynamics in Holyhead are quite different and show a marked and terminal shift to English

MH said...

William, I normally deltete comments that make assertions about statistics, but without providing a link to them. On this occasion I won't, but must ask you to provide evidence for the figures you quote.

William Dolben said...

no problem, you are right to do this. Thanks for the second chance

for Welsh speaking pupils by L.A. including Môn, see table 11.55 in

36% native + 6% fluent in 2010/11. I was a few percentage points off but now you have the exact figures which are much lower than the 2011 census.

No aggregated figure for Holyhead but...

1. Only 14% of Holyhead comp pupils speak Welsh at home and only 11% follow Welsh first language (an unusual situation in Wales where many fluent learners usually are taught first language.

2. If you add the schools data from www. you get the table below. Basically less than 7% of pupils in Holyhead speak Welsh at home and all but one of those pupils go to the Welsh school (Morswyn).

Holyhead Pupils Est. Welsh at home Welsh at home % Date
Parc 177 0 0% 2009
Morswyn 111 55,5 50% 2010
Kingsland 135 0 0% 2010
Llain Goch 177 1 0,6% 2007
Santes Fair 172 0 0% 2008
Thomas Ellis 92 0 0% 2008
Caergybi 864 56,5 6,5%

William Dolben said...

the schools are primary schools by the way.

I'll send the excel table to you separately as when copied and pasted it loses the format

William Dolben said...

send me your email pls Michael

MH said...

Thank you very much for those links, William. As well as being a help to me (although I probably would know where to look for the information) it helps those that wouldn't know where to look. Please send the spreadsheet to this address, and I'll put it up on my server so that anyone can download it.

I certainly would agree that the ability to speak Welsh on the census is quite different from being able to speak it fluently, and that fluency is a more important indication of the health of the language. I would also agree that the figures for Holyhead are generally lower than for the remainder of Ynys Môn.

But for me the crucial question is the extent to which things are changing, and the direction of that change. If the trend is one of improvement across the whole of Môn, including Holyhead, then it seems to me to be counterproductive to do something that would pour cold water onto it, and perhaps result in things going backwards.

Now of course it could be said that things are already going backwards because the census figures for 2011 are lower than those for 2001. But I think the major reason for that is that older people (of which a greater percentage could speak Welsh) are dying. This shows clearly on the graph I linked to, and it will still be with us for another 20 or 30 years ... however from a low point for those who are currently in their late 60s, everything is on a healthy upward trend.

Going into more detail, particularly looking at the data for schools, the question to ask is again not so much how good or bad things are, but whether things are improving or getting worse.

One way of measuring this at primary school level would be to look at the Key Stage 2 data for Welsh First language assessments on this page. You need to use the drop boxes to get the figures for Môn. I don't think there are figures for school level, but I might be wrong and I'm sure they would be available on request.

At first glance the figures are quite volatile and I'm not sure how to interpret them, but I'll aim to write some more later.

William Dolben said...

I would be delighted to find glimmers of hope but I can't see anything substantial. You say you agree that figures for Holyhead for Welsh are generally lower than the rest of Môn but if you exclude Holyhead, native speakers in the rest of Môn rise towards 45% which is 6-7 times higher! As for trends, the figures in Holyhead have fallen remorselessly over decades to the current level of under 7%. The majority of pensioners who speak it didn't learn it at school. They learnt it at home or in the community (like Glenys Kinnock!). If this 7% falls by 1% in 2 years or stays stable you could call that an improvement but it is no longer the language of the community by a long chalk. Tomorrow I'll provide some figures from 1968 to illustrate the decline.

To return to Cai Larsen's thesis: Holyhead may be the best place to divert Wylfa B inmigrants as the linguistic impact would be less than further dilution of Welsh in communities where the language still stands a chance. The lesser of two evils.

Holyhead is not alone. Towns like Denbigh, Corwen and Cardigan in the "Fro Gymraeg" and in the case of Bangor, just miles from that epitome of Welsh-speaking town Caernarfon, share a similar pattern. Inmigration is a factor but most of the locals have moved to English as a home language and the older generation which spoke Welsh naturally will dwindle. Given the prestige of Welsh in Gwynedd and the advantages it offers in public employment this is puzzling. My suspicion is that some of the local working class may see Welsh as useful only if your children are headed for middle class jobs. There is also a problem of language morale

The challenge is how to strengthen or revive the language in these communities and schools alone cannot achieve it. Some might say that the advent of more Welsh teaching has heightened the sense that some native speakers in these towns have that their Welsh is poor. The process of Anglicisation of these towns and their interaction with their rural hinterland needs further study as once the process is complete as seems the case in Holyhead, this will in turn affect their hinterlands. I sincerely hope it is not too late.

My fear is that we will follow the Irish path, lulling ourselves into a sense of false security with the census figures which reflect linguistic intent or political sentiment rather than practice.

Sent from my iPad

MH said...

Thanks for the spreadsheet, William. I've uploaded it here on Dropbox for anyone to download.

What it shows is quite horrifying. With the exception of the Roman Catholic school, Santes Fair, which has always had no children from Welsh-speaking families, all primary schools in Holyhead had a reasonable percentage of children who spoke Welsh at home back in 1968, with the average at 23.3%. Now the average for Holyhead schools is 5.7%, and virtually all Welsh-speaking families send their children to Morswyn.


Without wanting to subtract from that in any way, what I find interesting and surprising is that all schools (with the exception of Santes Fair RC) are now classed as Welsh-medium according to Fy Ysgol Leol. This should mean that all children in the five other schools should be competent in Welsh at the end of KS2.

The surprise is that, if that were the case, I would expect parents from Welsh-speaking families in Holyhead to now be sending their children to the nearest school rather than travel the extra distance (for I guess 80% of them) to Morswyn. Does this indicate that although the other schools are officially classed as Welsh-medium, the perception on the ground is that in reality they are not? Or does it indicate that the change of medium has only just happened, and therefore wasn't reflected in the Estyn reports for 2007-2010? I don't know, these are genuine questions.


I don't want us to talk at cross-purposes, William, for it's good for each of us to describe how things look from a different perspective. But I would approach things by asking not so much what has happened over the last 45 years, but what is now changing. I don't want to detract from the importance of Welsh being the language of the home and parental transmission. But I see the best, if not the only, way of restoring the language to be through WM education, especially if trying to rebuild from a low base. In essence the base of Welsh-speaking families is now so low in Holyhead that WM education is going to work in the same way as it does in the Anglicized parts of the eastern half of Wales.

However I would also make the point that WM education is just as important for Welsh-speaking families as it is for those who don't speak Welsh at home. You touched on the matter of native speakers having poor Welsh. From my own experience this was true for my mother's side of the family in the sense that although they always spoke Welsh with family, friends and quite a lot of social interaction, they tended to think that what they were speaking was not "proper Welsh" in the same way as, say, their doctor or the minister at chapel would use. However this was a sign of poor literacy in Welsh as opposed to what we would today call "oracy", because all of their formal teaching was in English, or at least based on English materials and books even though things might be explained in Welsh. One thing that the growth of WM education is doing is changing that so that speaking and listening skills are now matched (in some cases more than matched) by reading and writing skills. And with this comes a greater confidence in being able to use Welsh in all circumstances, including more formal ones.

More to come ..

MH said...

Now it's time for me to present some figures, the spreadsheet is here. I think I've made some sense of the KS2 Welsh first language assessments. In normal circumstances, the percentage of children being assessed in Welsh FL would match those who were being taught in Welsh, and therefore be a good indicator of a child's competence in Welsh. The "problem" is that the Welsh Government uses the number being assessed as a measure in the Welsh-medium Education Strategy, irrespective of the percentage that achieve the expected result. This creates a temptation for local authorities to meet targets and make themselves look good by assessing more children in WFL, knowing full well that they will fail because they are not prepared for the assessment.

This seems to have been happening in Môn. The volatility I mentioned before is that the percentage of the cohort being assessed in WFL reached highs of over 96% in 2007 and 2008, but slumped back down to 74% in 2009. However this was matched by a marked reduction in the percentage achieving the expected level (Level 4+) in 2007 and 2008. So I've brought together the percentages and numbers and done a calculation to show the number of the total cohort achieving WFL Level 4+. This shows a considerable improvement from 44.1% in 1999 to 62.2% in 2012 (although it must also be said that there is a general improvement in the other core subjects too).

However we need to be clear about what these figures mean. They are not a measure of the ability to speak Welsh or of fluency; they are a measure of oracy, reading and writing skills in Welsh in the same way as the assessments in English are a measure of oracy, reading and writing skills in English.

Not every child who speaks English, even as their only language, achieves the expected academic standard in English ... yet nobody would say such children didn't speak English fluently. The same is true in Welsh. In other words the figure that can speak Welsh is going to be higher than 62.2%. The Level 4+ figure for the English assessment is 83.8%. So we could say that 16.2% speak English fluently, but don't achieve the expected level. If we applied the same principle to the Welsh assessment, it would probably mean that some 75-80% of children in Môn are able to speak Welsh fluently at the end of primary school.

I find this figure very encouraging. But I do fully accept that ability to speak Welsh, and even speak Welsh fluently, does not necessarily mean that the language will be used. That is something that needs to be addressed in other ways. But at least they will have the choice. Change will be generational. It is not until children from non-Welsh-speaking homes grow up and have children of their own that they will be in any position to transmit Welsh to those children ... and maybe half of them wouldn't want to do it anyway (or perhaps couldn't because their partner did not speak Welsh). But the other half would and so, generation by generation, Welsh will again flourish.

MH said...

Finally, I'd like to pick up on what you said about towns and their rural hinterlands. I particularly like the phrase and think it is very relevant to what started this discussion. I would say that rural hinterlands tend to be influenced more by towns than towns are by their rural hinterlands. That is because towns tend to be where work is, and where shops and entertainment are. People in the hinterlands cannot ignore towns, townies can and do ignore the rural hinterland.

That, for me, neatly encapsulates why I am unhappy with the idea of concentrating developments that will be harmful to Welsh in towns like Holyhead. The fact that most primary education in Holyhead is now WM means that, in time, more Welsh will be spoken in Holyhead, more services will be offered in Welsh in Holyhead and this will benefit Welsh-speaking people in the hinterlands who need to come into Holyhead for vital things like work, shopping and entertainment. We should not pour cold water onto this growth. If things change for the better in towns, they will also change for the better in the rural hinterlands around those towns; and if things get worse in towns, they will also get worse in their rural hinterlands. But I don't think that what happens, one way or the other, in the hinterlands will have any effect on the towns. One of the ways Welsh is changing is that it is becoming more of an urban language, and the way towns and cities work is very different from the way smaller communities work.

William Dolben said...

Michael, you are of course right that we should look to the future where education can at least palliate some of collapse of Welsh as a community language in towns in Y Fro Gymraeg. Hopefully, residents who move out to the hinterland will have a greater chance of being fluent.

But as for "The fact that most primary education in Holyhead is now WM means that, in time, more Welsh will be spoken in Holyhead, more services will be offered in Welsh in Holyhead", this seems optimistic. There is general research which shows that pupils lose fluency when going to secondary school and lose the language altogether after leaving education. This is one of the few areas where the census is enlightening as it shows a loss of "speakers" in cohorts ten years later. School Welsh doesn't stick. It would be interesting to know if is more adhesive in these Anglicised towns in y Fro

I still however disagree with your objection to centralising the Wylfa B influx in Holyhead. The corollary of this will be 5,000 people across Welsh speaking Anglesey with many rural communities reaching the tipping point which will consign Welsh to oblivion (or maybe to being a school subject might be more apposite). These communities are still viable for Welsh and the existence of parallel networks of Welsh and incomers seems to protect Welsh even when the percentage falls below the magic 70% (as in Delyth Morris' s study of Bryngwran available here

MH said...

Thanks for your reply and the link to Delyth Morris's study, William. We've probably both said all we can on the other matters, but I'd like to say some more on education.

When you say that "school Welsh doesn't stick", I don't think census data back you up. I think the figures show that Welsh taught to second language standard in English-medium schools doesn't (usually) stick, but that the census percentages of speakers in their twenties for each LA does reflect the number that were taught in Welsh-medium schools. In other words, Welsh learned in WM schools does stick.

I've checked the Ynys Môn's education policy again, particularly the Information for Parents booklet, and all LA controlled schools primaries in Môn are now listed as Welsh-medium ... with Santes Fawr RC and Caerceiliog Foundation School (dual stream) as the only exceptions, because they are outside LA control.

Yet this is all very odd, for I've now done a similar calculation for KS1 as I did for KS2, and only 59.8% of the entire cohort were assessed in WFL in 2011. This seems to imply that the official information (that all schools are WM and that therefore the entire KS1 curriculum and 70% of the KS2 curriculum is delivered in Welsh) is an exercise in not only self-delusion, but misleading the Welsh Government. The Council is certainly not doing itself any favours.

The effect of the policy that all LA primaries are WM should be that all (or 95% plus, because of the one-and-a-half exceptions) will be assessed in Welsh FL at KS1 and KS2, and that something like 75% should achieve the expected level. What should then happen is for this to be reflected in secondary schools as children progress upwards. However none of the secondary schools on Môn can even remotely be described as a Welsh-medium secondary (classifications here). They are all classified as category 2B, with the exception of Caergybi which is category 3. For me, the only schools that can be justifiably be classified as WM are WM and 2A schools in which 80% of the subjects are only taught in Welsh. I find it incredible that there isn't even one WM or 2A secondary on the island.

In this respect Ynys Môn seems to mirror the situation in Ceredigion and Sir Gâr (which I know rather better, but I also know things are now changing) namely that most primary education is nominally WM, but that secondary education then switches to being predominantly EM. This is something that should now be addressed under the Welsh Government's policy of encouraging linguistic progression between KS2 and KS3, here... but if the council are fudging the issue at primary stage, they will almost certainly fudge the issue at secondary stage too.

Perhaps the only solution is a new council with the political will to make what is currently a nominal strategy into something that exists in reality.

I'd still very much appreciate it if you, William, or anyone else reading this can offer any insights or explanation about how much of the teaching in Ynys Môn schools is actually conducted in Welsh.

MH said...

I've just read what Cai Larsen has written in his latest post on Blog Menai, and left the comment that it would be better to re-read what I've written rather than misrepresent it in the way he has just done.

I'm not sure that Cai will be able to do this, but if others reading his blog have come to read what I actually said, I'll be very happy to continue the discussion with them.

Anonymous said...

I've taught at Ysgol Uwchradd Caergybi, nominally a bilingual school. The 11% who take a WFL GCSE will generally have a reasonable grasp of understanding of Welsh but the vast majority will be lucky to get higher than a C, even those getting A-A* in every other subject. None of them speak Welsh in school - the few that might have done under other circumstances (generally because they've moved from more Welsh-speaking areas) are completely drowned out by the majority. Many of them don't even speak Welsh with those staff members that speak Welsh (at least 50%). Ysgol Caergybi is *significantly* less Welsh-speaking a school - in terms of pupil achievement in Welsh, the use of Welsh socially by pupils within the school, and the frequency of Welsh conversations between staff and pupils - than at any Welsh Medium school in Wales, even those in the most anglicised areas.

Tim said...

There is some information about how Welsh Welsh Medium schools are in Gwynedd. A table showing how many subjects were taken through the medium of Welsh in 2012 GCSE. Since 2012 Ysgol Friars has changed deignation from "WM" to EW In acknowledgement of the situation I imagine. Ysgol Tywyn can hardly be considered WM either.

There is one for Ynys Mon as well but I can't find it. I have a saved copy though.

MH said...

I must admit to being surprised that the figure taking a Welsh First Language GCSE in Ysgol Uwchradd Caergybi is as high as 11%, 7:51. And by "vast majority" I assume you mean the other 89% (or whatever) are usually only getting a C in Welsh Second Language. Please correct me if I've misunderstood you.

However my point was that Caergybi is in fact a category C school according to the new classification. That means it is not classed as being bilingual. It is a predominantly English-medium school with substantial use of Welsh. So I agree with you that it makes significantly less use of Welsh than the other schools in the Ynys Môn council area.

However what is of greater concern is that none of the other four secondary schools (Bodedern, Syr Thomas Jones, Llangefni and David Hughes) can be described as a Welsh-medium school. They are all category 2B bilingual. This means that all subjects are taught in English, but that up to 80% are also taught in Welsh. This means it is quite possible for some children in these schools to receive no part of their education in Welsh except for Welsh as a subject. Because not every child in the school speaks Welsh, it means that Welsh cannot be the communal day-to-day language of the school since those who don't speak Welsh will be effectively excluded. There is a very marked difference between a 2A and 2B school, and this was a crucial factor in the decision, for example to make the new Maes yr Gwendraeth school in Sir Gâr a 2A rather than 2B school ... as I mentioned in some detail in this post.

I believe it would be better to make one or two of these schools into category 2A schools for this reason. It would enable children from non-Welsh-speaking homes to be more immersed in the language and help ensure fluency.

MH said...

To Tim, I would say that I'd be surprised if Ysgol Friars had ever been described as Welsh-medium. However the pre-2007 definition of a school as "Welsh-speaking" was actually very slack. To qualify a school only had to teach more than half its subjects either wholly or partly in Welsh. So a school teaching say 60% of subjects to only a fifth of its pupils would have been classified as "Welsh-speaking" even though it would actually only be doing some 12% of its teaching in Welsh. That anomaly is what the more detailed new classification system was designed to address.

To be honest, I think Gwynedd's classification of its other secondaries as Welsh-medium is fiction, and that the Welsh Government should have taken a grip on the situation and insisted the schools are classified more accurately. To be classified as a WM secondary, all teaching (except English as a subject) must be only in Welsh apart from introducing English terminology in one or two subjects. This is much higher than the equivalent WM classification for a primary school, where only 70% of the teaching need be in Welsh – a proportion that I think is reasonable and practical, especially in more Welsh-speaking areas where attention does have to be given to ensure that a child's English is up to scratch. That is part of the reason why I said that I regard a 2A secondary (80% in Welsh) as essentially Welsh-medium.

Thank you for the info on the medium of examination for GCSEs in Gwynedd. You say you have a copy of the same info for Môn, so please send it to me at this address, along with any others you might have. I'll certainly be interested and I'll put it up on my server for others to download.


I would also add one thing. I said that Ysgol Caerceiliog was dual stream. It is. But according to information I was sent by StatsWales for 2011, 99% are in the English stream and only 1% in the Welsh stream.

Tim said...

The figures are GCSE 2012
Caergybi Welsh L1 15 Welsh L2 76

Holyhead Secondary has been an EW school for several years, it changed at the same time that Ysgol Elian in Conwy changed to EW. It doesn't really make any difference; the change in designation is just a recognition that the pupils coming to the schools in question haven't learned Welsh well enough in primary to continue their education through that medium. The actual school profile is the same before and after change from BB to EW.

Tim said...

As I said above; Friars is no different for the change from WM to EW. WM in Gwynedd is not the same as WM in the official school's medium designation. Gwynedd refused to play ball on the graounds that their aspiration was for all schools to teach all subjects through the medium of Welsh. Last year they got in a tizzy with Friars because it had employed non-Welsh speaking teachers and the LEA finally admitted that Friars couldn't provide lessons through the medium of Welsh. The only school in Gwynedd that is a true "WM" school is Ysgol Tryfan Bangor. The reason that it can teach all in Welsh is because Friars is 200 yards away and takes all the children who can't cope in Welsh. Friars also takes a lot of kids from the Amlwch side of Ynys Mon and from Caergeiliog of course.....together with some from Conwy and all the EAL pupils in the northern half of Gwynedd.

MH said...

You'll need to provide a source for those figures and assertions, Tim. If you don't a have links, then please email me the documents.

I'm not sure what you mean by the profile being the same after a change from BB to EW either, and Bryn Elian is EM not EW anyway.

Tim said...

Yes you're right; Ysgol Elian has changed again. By the "same profile" I mean that no one took any subjects at gcse through Welsh when the school was "WM" and no one does now that it is EW. The change is just a paper exercise.... there are two or three other bilingual schools with fewer pupils taking Welsh First Language at GCSE than Friars or Caergybi...but they are still classed as bilingual (Welsh medium by the broad definition).

MH said...

Tim, I have now given you several opportunities to provide links or email me documents. You haven't done so. You cannot say what you have said without backing it up. If you don't do this, I will delete your comments. So make a copy, because you will have to repost what you've written if I do.

Tim said...

I emailed that address at 14.17 The attachment has all the data sets although I have to say that there is nothing particularly contentious about what I have said.

MH said...

Thank you, Tim. Sorry I hadn't noticed it before. It was caught in my spam filter. For others reading, it's a spreadsheet listing GCSEs taken through the medium of Welsh and English at the five secondaries in Môn, and can be downloaded here. Do you have any others? As you've mentioned Ysgol Bryn Elian in Conwy, I guess you should have the figures for Conwy too.

From the Gwynedd figures you linked to before, it looks likely that Tryfan does teach fairly exclusively in Welsh. The figures for the other schools show quite a variation. Most of them seem to have a fairly healthy mix, though Tywyn seems to teach much more in English. It is worth bearing in mind that the point of a broadly Welsh-medium education is to produce bilingual children, so I regard it as something quite healthy to take some GCSE exams through Welsh and others through English. For me, the key figure is the number that take WFL GCSE as opposed to WSL. Only Friars and Tywyn in Gwynedd fail to produce bilingual children by that measure.

If only a small handful of children take WSL, it is probably a sign that they are less academically inclined generally and are downtrading from WFL for the exam because they are struggling to get enough good GCSE grades.

In Môn the figures for WFL are surprisingly good, apart from Caergybi and David Hughes in Porthaethwy. On that reckoning I think Bodedern, Syr Thomas Jones and Llangefni are closer to becoming 2A. Perhaps this does indicate that children on Môn whose Welsh isn't up to scratch when they leave primary school tend to travel either west to Caergybi or east to Friars.

Anonymous said...

"I must admit to being surprised that the figure taking a Welsh First Language GCSE in Ysgol Uwchradd Caergybi is as high as 11%, 7:51. And by "vast majority" I assume you mean the other 89% (or whatever) are usually only getting a C in Welsh Second Language. Please correct me if I've misunderstood you."

You have misunderstood me, yes. 11% of the kids do a FL GCSE; of those, it is extremely unlikely that any will get higher than a C. Among the 89% that will do a second language GCSE I'd expect to see plenty of A-A* grades in Welsh - some are from similar backgrounds to the "First language" group, except that at some point down the line they got 1% lower in a test.

Tim said...

It's such a mixed picture MH. I've lived here all my life and gone to one of the Schools that we are talking about......all my kids went to the same schools but it is still hard for me to generalise. I've seen one primary change in ethos overnight with a change of Head. To go back to the original question; Holyhead is a strange place, many people there are of Irish descent and remarkably few people drive a car...not because they are too poor, but because Holyhead doesn't actually "talk to" Ynys Mon. If someone in Holyhead wants to go for a shopping trip they go to Liverpool on the train or Dublin on the ferry. They know little about Llangefni or Bangor and I bet there are people there who have never been to Amlwch in a lifetime.

I actually think that there are only two options when Wylfa Newydd comes to Ynys Mon.....keep the construction workers in Holyhead or build a complete new English Medium school in Cemaes. The alternative is that English, Polish, Lithuanian, Bulgarian...whatever, pupils are spread throughout the Primary schools of North Anglesey. Not just starting in reception remember but all ages starting in all classes. If there isn't a designated school then both incoming children and the established population will suffer.

Anonymous above isn't wrong.....getting a "C" in Welsh first language is a good result for pupils who don't have Welsh as a first language. On the other hand getting a A-A* in Welsh L2 is easy for them. Some schools hedge their bets by putting pupils in for Welsh second language in year 9 and then Welsh L1 in year 11.
Using "My local school" you can see that 10 pupils in Holyhead attained A*-C in Welsh L1 GCSE in 2012 and 38 pupils attained A*-C in Friars...that's 19% of all Friars GCSE cohort for 2012.

Anonymous said...

Trying to teach PSE (h.y. ABaCh!) through the medium of Welsh to a "First Language" group in Holyhead was enough to convince me that those quotation marks belong there. If I were being generous I'd have placed them in the 4th quartile of a typical WM school in Cardiff in terms of their understanding; but to be honest I think their understanding of Welsh wasn't even that good. These were bright kids, so we're not talking about low ability here but a systematic failure of the "English with a little bit of Welsh" arrangement to produce even remotely fluent Welsh speakers.

I've no direct experience of the other schools on Anglesey but I'm told that Bodedern is the closest on the island to being WM, and I've heard pupils from Bodedern speaking Welsh amongst themselves on the buses. It seems to be the preferred choice for Welsh-speaking families, certainly in the Western part of the island. I've never heard pupils from David Hughes speaking Welsh.

Tim said...

I'm glad that Welsh teaching in Cardiff is better than in Ynys Mon but a lot of the problem lies in the low aim at the end of Key Stage2. Level 4 does not equate to A*-C at GCSE and we all know that there is a "Bump" just into the qualification of level 4. That is, some pupils have been Squeezed over the mark of age appropriate competence.
The reality check comes when you look at level 5+ at KS2....all of these pupils can be expected to get A*-C 5 years later and there is no need to "cheat" the percentage because it isn't a measure for school success. So it's here that you start to see the truth of Welsh language acqusition....and what do you find? Lower levels than any other core subject. Pupils come to secondary school without high levels of Welsh language sophistication; it's no wonder that many drop out of Welsh L1 streams.

William Dolben said...

Tim said: I say amen
I actually think that there are only two options when Wylfa Newydd comes to Ynys Mon.....keep the construction workers in Holyhead or build a complete new English Medium school in Cemaes. The alternative is that English, Polish, Lithuanian, Bulgarian...whatever, pupils are spread throughout the Primary schools of North Anglesey. Not just starting in reception remember but all ages starting in all classes. If there isn't a designated school then both incoming children and the established population will suffer.

MH said...

To 18:29. As we can see from Tim's spreadsheet, 15 took the WFL GCSE, 76 took WSL, and 8 took the WSL short GCSE at Caergybi. That's 15% rather than 11%, although I'm sure it changes from year to year. I'm very surprised and disappointed that any took the WSL short course in this part of Wales That is a very damning idictment of the school's policies. I'd be interested to know the grades if anyone has that information.


I would make the general comment that it is very much more difficult to do a WFL course in a school which teaches predominantly in English. In schools where more teaching in other subjects is in Welsh, a pupil's Welsh grammar, vocabulary and style will be constantly honed and improved by being taught and doing assignments for those subjects in Welsh, and with Welsh being more used in a general day-to-day context. So I would not be surprised if the Caergybi WFL GCSE grades were lower than they otherwise would be. This might explain what 21:11 says. A small WFL group will struggle because of isolation.

I think this is a much better explanation than Tim saying it's because "they don't have Welsh as a first language". Not speaking Welsh at home is no impediment to getting good WFL GCSE results.


I'm not sure whether Tim can justify his assertion that Welsh teaching in Cardiff is better than it is in Môn, but he's welcome to try. And as he does so, I hope he will provide links or documents to back up the assertions in his 07:15 comment. He should know the rules by now.

I also find the idea that all children of immigrant workers (if Wlylfa B is built) should be housed in a separate school slightly strange, and the idea that it should be an English-medium school even stranger. The council's policy is for all primary schools it is responsible for to be Welsh-medium, therefore any new school would be Welsh-medium; but there's probably enough spare capacity in existing schools and the children of newcomers would be expected to learn Welsh and be integrated into them in the same way as happens now.


On a completely different note, did anyone reading this go to hear Meirion Prys Jones' talk in Wrecsam last night? After all, that is what started this thread.

MH said...

Answering my own question, I've just read this post on Plaid Wrecsam about Meiron's talk last night.

I'm sure he said much more, but the point highlighted was that the Welsh Government spends about £25m a year on promoting Welsh. The government of Euskadi spends €150m to €180m a year (£125m to £150) promoting Euskara. As the BAC population is about 2.2m, that works out at 7 or 8 times as much per head.

Tim said...

I don't mind providing support for my statement at 07.15 MH although I think that you may have posted the link yourself:

I said at 07.15:-"The reality check comes when you look at level 5+ at KS2....all of these pupils can be expected to get A*-C 5 years later and there is no need to "cheat" the percentage because it isn't a measure for school success. So it's here that you start to see the truth of Welsh language acqusition....and what do you find? Lower levels than any other core subject"

So at level 4+; that is all pupils getting the expected level (4) or a higher level, these are the core subject percentages for all Wales:

Welsh L1..84%

So there is already an indication that attainment in Welsh is lower than other core subjects but not by much.

Then look at the level 5 percentage and add to it those small percentages of pupils reaching level 6.

Welsh.......27% ( all rounded up)

This is what I mean by saying that Welsh L1 has the smallest percentage attaining level5+. In this case it isn't a marginal difference.

Too much time is spent by pundits moaning about Welsh L2 when the real problem for Welsh in schools is poor attainment in Welsh L1.....that's just my opinion MH.

The next thing that everyone should be aware of is the socio economic status of Welsh medium primary schools. Whilst there are WM schools at most FSM benchmarks, most WM schools have relatively few pupils on Free School Meals and therefore the average overall results in WM schools can be expected to be higher than the overall average percentages.

The Welsh L1 figure is for schools that have fewer pupils from deprived backgrounds than the Maths, English and Science figures, which are all averages across all schools both EM and WM.

You can find the Free School Meals entitlement by school and medium for 2013 here:-

MH said...

You haven't provided any evidence to back up your assertion that Welsh teaching in Cardiff is better than it is in Môn, Tim. So you just changed the subject instead.


The figures you quote for levels of achievement at KS2 are not in contention. I don't think the differences are as significant as you seem to want to make out, and certainly don't make WFL a "real" problem compared with WSL. WSL (as now taught, although this may well change following the Un Iaith i Bawb report by Sioned Davies) is a much greater problem, not least because some 80% of the school population only do WSL ... and then don't achieve very highly. But that is a whole new subject.

As for your last three paragraphs, again, who doubts that WM schools have relatively fewer pupils who are entitled to free school meals? However the link to the spreadsheet on that page is not working. This is not your fault, but would you please send me a copy of it directly.

Tim said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
MH said...

The 21:11 comment mades no mention of quality of teaching in Cardiff being better than in Ynys Môn. That is something that you asserted in the 07:15 comment. And something that you weren't able to back up.

You know the rules.

Tim said...

"The 21:11 comment mades no mention of quality of teaching in Cardiff being better than in Ynys Môn. That is something that you asserted in the 07:15 comment. And something that you weren't able to back up"

Indeed not but it was a reasonable assumption based on an informed opinion offered by an obviously experienced teacher. It is a little draconian to delete my postings on that basis.

Anyway I have contacted the Information officer to point out that the Data set showing all Welsh schools by teaching medium, Free school meals entitlement and Eal (A-C) percentages can't be accessed so that should be sorted shortly.

Tim said...

OK they've fixed it now by putting up a new page on this:-

Trent Report said...

To me what is more worrying about Holyhead is the fact that so few children spoke Welsh at home as early as 1968. Why was this so? Had there been a wave of immigration to the town earlier last century that had anglicised the town? It would be interesting to see some statistics on other anglicised towns in the Fro Gymraeg for the period 1960-1980. With regards to Holyhead, a decline since 1968 was inevitable, once Welsh as a home language is that low, intermarriage etc will only reduce it further. Clearly in Wales, linguistic coexistence is only possible when the indigenous language is above the 70% threshold, or close to it. Had Holyhead been above 80% in 1968 both in census terms or as a first language in schools, I am sure that it would have remained so like LLangefni and particularly so, since Holyhead isn't a number 1 destination for beauty-seeking incomers today is it? and Welsh would be in a stronger position not just in the town itself but elsewhere. Thus whatever happened to Holyhead before 1968 is bad news for the island as a whole since a) Welsh has around 10,000 fewer native speakers than it would with a Welsh Holyhead and b) were a welsh speaking child from LLangefni to become friends with someone from Holyhead, their friendship would of course be in English, this means that for the child from Llangefni, his or her social life is more anglicised and that could have ripple effects among the youth of LLangefni.

Clearly, a problem exists even for those stronghold areas which remain above or close to 80% (either in the 2011 Census or as a home language in schools.) None of these areas are that far from anglicised areas: Caernarfon and Bethesda are close to Bangor, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Trawsfynydd and Bala etc are hemmed in on one side by Corwen and on the other by Harlech-Dolgellau-Barmouth-Tywyn. Inter-friendship between stronghold and more anglicised areas results in the youth of stronghold areas being more anglicised themselves, although given that children tend to be closest to other children in their own neighbourhood/playgrounds, you might have a case of stronghold children speaking/playing in Welsh with their closest friends but English with ones from further afield; a bilingual social life.

A village I know quite well is Y Felinheli since although I am 20, and from London, a family friend moved there from England in 2000, and we went to stay with her often. Y Felinheli fell from 72%-64%; below the magic threshold. A neighbour of this family friend, who is himself first language Welsh, who I know quite well, speaks Welsh to his village friends but does use English a lot with people from Bangor. Another guy I know there, is also first language Welsh, but went to the English secondary school in Bangor and being immersed in English for 6 hours a day, now insists on speaking English to his friends back in the village.

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