Figures for Welsh rise again ... at least a bit

While reading through Estyn's report on Welsh in the Foundation Phase published last week, I noticed in paragraph 23 that 22.9% of pupils in Wales were assessed in language, literacy and communication skills (Welsh) at the end of the Foundation Phase (Key Stage 1) in 2012.

This figure is different from the one quoted in the latest annual report on progress towards meeting the targets in the Welsh Government's Welsh-medium Education Strategy, which states that the percentage of Year 2 learners assessed in Welsh first language in 2012 was 21.9% (7,229 out of a cohort of 32,960).

I asked Estyn which figure was right, and the bad news is that their 22.9% was a typographic error. They will correct the online versions, though that is obviously going to take a little time. But the good news is that the figure for 2013 is 22.4%.


As I mentioned in this post a couple of weeks ago, progress towards meeting the targets in the WMES has been painfully slow. The figures for Outcome 1, the percentage of seven-year-old learners being taught through the medium of Welsh, had only increased by 0.1% over three years. So I can now, at least unofficially, update the table.

Outcome 1
More seven-year-old learners being taught through the medium of Welsh

Baseline (2009) ... 21%
Target for 2015 ... 25%
Target for 2020 ... 30%

Actual percentages
2009 ... 21.0%
2010 ... 21.8%
2011 ... 21.9%
2012 ... 21.9%
2013 ... 22.4%

Progress to date ... 1.4% ... still 2.6% short of 2015 target

It's not a huge increase, but it's certainly better than being at a standstill.

However this increase, welcome as it is, doesn't detract from the point I made in that previous post. The Welsh Government has admitted the targets won't be met, but they plan on doing absolutely nothing about it until after the 2015 figures have been released. This is shameful and unacceptable. The whole point of annual progress reports is to ring alarm bells so that remedial action can be taken before it is too late. But instead of doing that, Huw Lewis and Carwyn Jones have put their fingers in their ears.

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Anonymous said...

Carwyn JOnes has absolutely no ambition for Welsh and Huw Lewis has absolutely no interest.

It was an insult for Carwyn Jones to try and bask in Nelson Mandela's death by paying a tribute to Mandela. Nelson Mandela was a brave man - Carwyn Jones isnt brave.

It's not going to improve. The cuts in local government will give places like Swansea, Cardiff and all other Labour-run councils the excuse they always wanted to scale back on Welsh medium education. Goodway etc can't believe their luck!

Labour is driving Wales into the grownd. We really need a ABL (Anyone But Labour) government ASAP and that includes a Rainbow Coalition. We just can't allow this party to misrule us until 2021.

Anonymous said...

09:17, What does scaling back on Welsh medium education have to do with driving Wales into the ground?

Or isn't this what you meant?

Anonymous said...

MH - to change subject, what's your take on latest opinion poll (implying Plaid will lose their Euro seat) and the by-election in Cardiff last week?

It's no slight at the candidate but at a time of awful PISA results and the Labour council only a day or two before the election renaging on their election promise not to raise Council Tax and then increasing by 5%, this should have been a golden opportunity for Plaid.

Is the 'positive message' mantra a big mistake. After all, people vote on fear or seeing the opposition as worse as much as on hope. Labour offer no hope only anti-Tory jingoism.

Why is Plaid making no headway, in fact, seem to be falling behind.

My view is that Plaid took some historically bad decisions in the first Assembly - getting rid of Alun Michael; getting rid of Wigley .... and then when in power, Ieuan Wyn failed (refused) to present himself as a statesman - happy to be Labour's juniour partner. Compare that with SNP and Salmond and I think we've made a historic mistake of which I can't see us getting out of.

Cymro Balch

Anonymous said...

Plaid is making little headway because Labour is popular. Labour is seen as being in opposition to the Tories from Wales. In Scotland the SNP plays the same role. But would be interesting to see Syniadau's views.

Anonymous said...

Any thoughts on whether the new super school in NPT will open the way for a wm secondary in the south of the county?

Anonymous said...

So, since Devolution - under Labour rule - the percentage of Welsh medium pupils has only risen within the margin of error!


Anonymous said...

Surely now is the time to really push for WM education. After all, no sensible parent with a choice is willingly going to want to send their kids to any state controlled Welsh school at the moment, WM or otherwise. As such, it's mainly kids of 'the rump' that we are educating, those with no choice and not much of a family history of education.

Who's to complain?

Anonymous said...

The depressing thing about these figures is that 25% by 2015 was absolutely achievable. It wasn't some mad figure.

That percentage would have been reached quite easily if Labour contolled councils stopped playing games and giving excuses and opened the school where there is demand.

One can, off hand, think of a newly converted WM school in pretty well every local authority in Glamorgan and Gwent. There isn't a need even to build new schools - a matter of shifting the pieces of the 'jigsaw' of under capacity EM schools with areas of demand. It is, comparatively, easy in densly built areas in the south.

It really wasn't a difficult target at all. it just shows a total lack of will, vision and planning by local Labour authorities and, with the exception of Leighton Andrews, the total lack of vision and bravery on behalf of Carwyn Jones and Rhodri Morgan to push the issue even a little bit with their Labour councillors.


MH said...

I'll deal with the "off topic" points first.

I would certainly agree that it would not be good for us to continue to be governed by Labour for another 5 years after the 2016 election, 09:17. I'm not sure it would be fair to say that they're running Wales into the ground, though. I think it's better to say that they are singularly inactive and unambitious, and that Wales is running into the ground because they have no ideas about what to do to stop it.

They're not interested in big picture stuff, they just want to stay in charge of running the small things the way they always have. To turn Wales aroud, we need a different government.


It is very good news that this new poll is the first of an ongoing Welsh Political Barometer, Cymro Balch. It is a very welcome development and I congratulate all concerned for making it happen

The EuroParl election figures probably sound worse than they would be in practice. Labour win three out of four seats because they get more than three times the vote of Plaid and UKIP, and it is hard for me to believe that this will actually happen next May.

I am very disappointed with the Plaid figures, and I'd agree with 14:30 that Labour's high showing in Wales is because they are seen as Wales' opposition to the Tories. I think it would be fair to say that all three sets of figures (Westminster, the Senedd and Europe) as too far away to focus minds, and therefore the figures predominantly reflect the current Labour vs Tory Westminster narrative. Things will probably change as each individual election looms closer. In particular, the result of the 2016 Assembly election will be very heavily affected by what happens in the 2015 Westminster election. If Labour were to form a government at Westminster, then Plaid would almost certainly do better in 2016 than they would if the Tories were to form a government.

I think the biggest reason Plaid aren't doing well is because we haven't yet presented a convincing national picture of what we want for Wales and what we'd do if in power to achieve it, and therefore we are still seen as irrelevant outside our heartlands. As I said at the time, the Ynys Môn election did us more harm than good at a national level because there's no way we can have 40 different sets of policy for 40 different constituencies. We therefore have a lot of work to do in developing and presenting coherent national policies now.

Whether or not we made mistakes in the first Assembly, I don't think it is going to hang like an albatross round our neck forever. Old figures have now left the scene, or have announced that they will leave, and we therefore have new faces and new blood. Leanne's leadership is the major positive factor, but I don't think she's being given as free a hand as she'd like by the old guard on the NEC. Maybe these poll figures will convince her obstructors to be less obstructive.


Yes, I have no doubt that one of the schools due to close when the new school is built will be converted into a Welsh-medium secondary, 21:10.

The original consultation document for the proposal is here, and it says that the Sandfields and Traethmelyn sites will be available for a new WM secondary and WM primary. There's a story on WalesOnline, but the information in it seems to be based on the consultation document.

MH said...

Turning now to the "on topic" comments.

There is no "margin of error" in these figures, 09:53. The numbers and percentages are precise.


I would agree that we need to push for much more WM education, 11:18. But I don't agree that no sensible parent would willingly want send their kids to a state school.

In one sense we would be pushing at a door that is already ajar, because every survey of parental preference that I am aware of shows that demand for WM education is much higher than provision. The thing that we need to push against is the inertia or outright reluctance of local authorities to provide it.

The next big step will be the publication of each local authority's WESP (Welsh in Education Strategic Plan) now that these are on a statutory footing and, much more importantly, how ministers in the Welsh Government respond to them. They have the power to reject or amend those that aren't up to scratch and, given the failure to make progress towards meeting the targets in the WMES, this provides Huw Lewis and Carwyn Jones with the perfect opportunity to take meaningful action.

There are some people who will complain at any expansion of WM education, but that isn't the point.


I fully agree with you that, when first published, the targets in the WMES were on the low side rather than ambitious, M.

It's hard to put a finger on exactly what has gone wrong, but I think the major reason for slow progress has been changing demographics. For some years the number of children of school age was declining, but now it is starting to increase again. This has decreased the number of projected surplus places in EM schools, and saved some from closure, meaning that the supply of unused buildings that could be used for new WM schools has decreased. While there was a lot of "slack" in the system, it was comparatively easy to close EM schools and open new WM schools in their place. Now it is that much harder.

The second factor is, I believe, that at a local level increasing WM provision was considered only in numerical terms rather than in percentage terms. It is understandable for a local authority to think it would meet the targets just by providing more intake places, but take its eye off the ball by failing to put this in the context of the overall demographic increase.

So, for example, although there was only a 0.1% change in the percentage of children being assessed in Welsh at the end of the Foundation Phase between 2010 and 2012, there was a fairly substantial increase in raw numbers of 168 and 501. It's just that these were subsumed into the increase in the overall size of the cohort. As the latest annual report states:

In 2012, the number of seven-year-old learners assessed in Welsh reached its highest level since such assessments were introduced in 1999, crossing the 7,000 figure for the first time and recording the largest percentage annual increase (7.4 per cent). However, this increase was achieved in the context of an unusually large annual increase (7.5 per cent) in the total cohort, resulting in the target measure remaining unchanged.

As for Leighton, I do agree that his heart was in the right place. My criticism of him would be that there was perhaps rather too much "tough talk" and "bluster" but not enough concrete action to deliver. In part, his hands were tied because (as I said above) the WESPs were not at that time statutory.

A third factor is that many local authorities are playing games. Their attitude could be summed up as, "These are Welsh Government targets, not ours, so if they want us to provide more WM places they need to cough up the money for us to build them." But as you say, these places could be provided by "shifting the pieces of the jigsaw" instead.

Anonymous said...

Good points MH. What I meant by 'margin of error' was, that in an opinion poll 3% either way of a figure is considered a margin of error, so, as you know a party on 22% of the opinion poll could be the same as on 20% or 25%.

So, the growth in percentage of WM pupils hasn't broken out of the margin of error percentage associated with the initial 21%.

Sorry, hope that's clear.

... not sure if the comment was worth the effort! ;-)


MH said...

Thanks, but it probably wasn't worth the effort, 18:50. The initial 21% in 2009 was also a precise figure (6,365 out of a cohort of 30,329), not an estimate.

Anonymous said...

again off topic.

Catalonia is now holding a referendum on independence on 9 Nov 2014.

Wales is being totally left behind, we're not even showing any support for Scotland and Catalonia. By doing so, we're renaging from raising the issue and option for Welsh independence for Welsh people and don't get any press coverage.

LIke everyone I've far too much on my plate, but is any one else up for organising a rally along the lines of 'Wales support Scotland', 'Independence in Europe' in Cardiff in early summer? Unless we make the case then we can't complain when the press ignore us, Westminster and EU ignore us and the publlic are afraid of independence.

Plaid still seem to think that churning out press releases will make a difference. Like the LibDems - loads of press releases and policies which nobody takes notice of. We need to change the weathe and raise people's expectations and confidence.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't seem that bad an idea to have a rally, but it would go over the head of people in Wales. We're not "left behind"- we've always been behind. We had the Wales office after Scotland had the Scottish office. We had a law-making Assembly after Scotland had a one. We will have tax-varying powers (of some sort) a few years after Scotland. Do not be surprised if we have independence after Scotland as well. Wales' position is completely normal if you look at Welsh public opinion. We're behind Scotland, Catalonia and the Basques in mentality, but probably ahead of Galicia, Corsica, Brittany.

Anonymous said...

Anon 19.08. I find your attitude baffling. OK, we know we're behind Scotland and Catalonia but nothing's going to change unless we force it.

Let's take charge and try and set the agenda. I think, with organisation and with Plaid supporting it - though maybe not necessarily making it a Plaid event - it could be a big success.

Even if there's only 300 people it's still making a mark in the sand and starting the discussion. We're not even on the agenda at the moment. At least some people will be inspired, some people will start asking questions, it will be on the press's radar.

I think we can get over a thousand there - if Plaid help. I think it could bring in new people. I think there are a lot of people out there who just want to show they're Welsh and for an independent Wales but just aren't into party politics or conferences or the details of party policy.

Let's be brave for once. Let's be honest.

Lets do it!

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