Posted: Fri 19th May 2023

One million Welsh speakers target “in jeopardy” due to lack of teachers

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Friday, May 19th, 2023

The Welsh Government will fail to hit its target of 1 million Welsh speakers by 2050 without a substantial increase in Welsh speaking teachers, according to a Senedd Committee report. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

The report by the Senedd’s Communication, Culture, Welsh Language, Sport, and International Relations Committee found shortcomings in how local authorities are planning and expanding Welsh language education across the country. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

It reveals not only a lack of staff to support the necessary growth in Welsh-medium schools but also a lack of Welsh-medium teaching in English-medium education. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

According to the Office for National Statistics, there has been a decrease in children and young people being able to speak Welsh over the last ten years – particularly between the ages of three and fifteen. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

At the time of the last Census on 21 March 2021 an estimated 538,300 “usual residents” in Wales aged three and above reported being able to speak Welsh. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​ This is the equivalent of 17.8 per cent of the population ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

One way the Welsh Government is attempting to improve this is by increasing the numbers of Welsh speaking teachers by providing free lessons to those wishing to develop their language skills. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Training ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

A key focus of the Senedd Committee’s inquiry is the effectiveness of these training programmes. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

The Sabbatical Scheme encourages existing teachers to learn or improve their Welsh and the Iaith Athrawon Yfory scheme provides grants for new teachers to encourage them into Welsh-medium education. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Dyfodol i’r Iaith, who campaign to increase the numbers of Welsh speakers, estimate the need for 17,000 teachers to be enrolled on the Sabbatical Scheme if the Welsh Government is to hit the 1 million Welsh speakers target by 2050. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

To tackle the lack of Welsh-speaking staff in schools, the Committee is calling on the Welsh Government to invest substantially to make sure that more teachers, teaching assistants and lecturers enroll on the Sabbatical Scheme to increase their Welsh proficiency. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

The inquiry also suggests that the scheme could expand to include early-years practitioners working with younger children in nurseries. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Accreditation ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Teachers who teach in the medium of Welsh are trained to educate on a broad range of topics, but not necessarily to teach in different settings. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

For example, if they move from a school with a high number of children from Welsh speaking backgrounds to one where the natural language is not Welsh. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

The Committee heard evidence from Professor Enlli Thomas of Bangor University who argued that this difference requires specialist training for teachers as the linguistic and cultural needs of each school and area are different. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

The evidence led to the Committee recommending the Welsh Government take a more nuanced approach to Welsh-medium education by exploring the feasibility of an accreditation system for teachers who teach through the medium of Welsh. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

This would ensure that teachers learn specific skills on how to teach in Welsh across the country, the committee argues. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Delyth Jewell MS, Chair of the Culture, Communications, Welsh Language, Sport, and International Relations Committee, said: “Welsh is a language that belongs to all of us in Wales and it should concern us deeply that the number of speakers isn’t increasing. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“This Committee is supportive of the target of 1 million Welsh speakers by 2050, but that ambition is in serious jeopardy if things continue as they are. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“It’s clear that having enough teachers who can speak Welsh is crucial to addressing this issue and we need the Welsh Government to show real ambition over the next few years. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“More teachers should be encouraged to learn Welsh and those working in early-years education should also be able to access the same opportunities. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“We should also recognise that the linguistic map of Wales is quite varied and that a one-size fits all approach might not always work. We would like the Welsh Government to explore a training and accreditation system for Welsh-medium teachers so that each child has the best opportunity to learn our language. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“Wales has reached a crucial moment and now is the time to introduce change. We urge the Welsh Government to accept and implement our recommendations before it’s too late.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

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