Wednesday, March 25, 2009

History of Welsh medium education

Trip yr Ysgol (School Trip) was shown on S4C a few weeks ago (and is on-line for another 7 days). The hour long programme, presented by rugby player Nicky Robinson charts the rise of Welsh medium education in Wales, from the first privatley funded school in the 1930's to the present day where more than a quarter (if I remember correctly) of all pupils in Wales are now taught through the medium of Welsh.

The programme was quite light hearted and possibly a bit too superficial in parts, but it gave lots of important dates and statistics which were new to me. Nicky (accompanied by pupils for Ysgol Gyfun Bro Morgannwg, Barry) intervied people with links to the various school featured - they even visited my old school, Ysgol Glan Clwyd, which was the first Welsh medium secondry school in Wales.

As almost all the pupils from Ysgol Gyfun Bro Morgannwg came from homes where no Welsh is spoken, the programme inevitable touched upon the use of Welsh outside the classroom and how relevant they see it in their lives - but that's another subject for another programme (or even series!). when they talked to present day students at Ysgol Glan Clwyd, they obviously had quite different experiences of the language. Corrie from Barry complained that he knew of no Welsh rappers - Corri, if you're reading this, then check out Dybl-L, Cofi Bach a Tew Shady, Y Tystion, Y Diwygiad, Lo-Cut a Sleifar and many more on MySpace/YouTube.

I can understand why, but the programme didn't really show how hard it must have been to persuade the authorities of the need/demand for Welsh medium education, something that persists today. Obviously new schools can't be opened overnight, but as Trip yr Ysgol showed, demand has been high since the early 1980's, and demand outstips demand in many aeas, mainy due to poor planning and serious underestimating on behlf of clue-less education departments.

In 2007, a survey by Wrexham council of parents of under 3 year in olds showed that 60% wished for their children to be taught in Welsh.

According to RhAG a survey conducted by Swansea County Council showed that 28% of parents want Welsh medium education for their children. If a Welsh school were available conveniently, the percentage would rise to 38%.

In Cardiff, demand is just as high, and a bitter dispute has centred around one school in particular, Ysgol Treganna in Canton. the school is at bursting point with many children being turned away, even those with older siblings at the school. Succesive administrations have failed to come up with suitable solutions, and almost all plans involve relocating or closing English medium schools, which of course causes resentment. My local Labour councillor did little to help this when comparing Welsh medium educaiton to "ethnic cleansing". There was a programme about the school on Taro 9 (a sort of Panorama programme) last week, which I managed to miss.