Each year at this time I take a look at what the GCSE results can tell us about the way Welsh is taught in our schools.
There are three different types of Welsh GCSE: Welsh First Language, Welsh Second Language (full course) and Welsh Second Language (short course). However a substantial number of Year 11 students, even though they study Welsh, still do not take any Welsh GCSE. The number of entries for each can therefore be used as one indicator of the state of Welsh teaching in our schools.
This year the figures are again quite positive. Although the size of the cohort has decreased by about 1,100 compared with last year, the overall number taking Welsh GCSEs has increased by more than 200, and the number of students not taking any form of Welsh GCSE has fallen from 5,768 to 4,447 ... its lowest level ever in both numerical and percentage terms. These are the figures:
Total number of students aged 15 at start of year
35,262 (was 36,361) ... down 1,099
Welsh First Language
5,591 entries (15.86% of year) ... was 5,636 (15.50%) ... down 45 (up 0.36%p)
Welsh Second Language (full course)
10,566 entries (29.94% of year) ... was 10,183 (28.01%) ... up 383 (up 1.93%p)
Welsh Second Language (short course)
14,668 entries (41.60% of year) ... was 14,774 (40.63%) ... down 106 (up 0.97%p)
Total Welsh Entries
30,815 entries (87.39% of year) ... was 30,593 (84.14%) ... up 222 (up 3.25%p)
Number who did not take any Welsh GCSE
4,447 (12.61% of year) ... was 5,768 (15.86%) ... down 1,321 (down 3.25%p)
The graphs below show how the numbers and percentages have changed over the last couple of decades, and a spreadsheet with full details is available here:
Although the Welsh First Language entry is down very slightly in numerical terms, it has again risen in percentage terms. The long term trend should continue steadily upwards. The latest figure for Year 2 assessments in WFL is 22.4% of the cohort and, given the new emphasis on continuation between primary and secondary school, this should mean that the figure for WFL GCSE entries will be comfortably over 20% when these pupils reach Year 11.
In terms of Welsh Second Language teaching the percentage entries for both full and short course GCSEs have risen, but it is encouraging to note the significant increase in those taking the full GCSE rather than the short GCSE. It probably won't be very long before the short course is phased out altogether, and the challenge will be to make sure that pupils do in fact take the full GCSE exam rather than opt out of taking any exam in Welsh at all.