Welsh Government remains committed to free swimming despite critical review

(Title Image: BBC Wales)

The first international relations and culture questions in the Senedd took place earlier this afternoon.

Use vs Taught (and the important distinction)

Both shadow spokespeople – Sian Gwenllian AM (Plaid, Arfon) and Suzy Davies AM (Con, South Wales West) – focused on proposals in the new National Curriculum and its impact on the use of Welsh and English in nurseries.

At the moment in Welsh-medium settings, only Welsh is used until children are seven years old under a process of language immersion. While English is used in these settings, it isn’t formally taught – the new curriculum seems to mandate that English is formally taught alongside Welsh, which Sian in particular believes will undermine language immersion programmes and targets to create 1 million Welsh-speakers by 2050.

Minister for International Relations & Welsh language, Eluned Morgan (Lab, Mid & West Wales), said matters relating to the curriculum are for the Education Minister, but a commitment to immersion remained and she didn’t anticipate major changes from present arrangements:

“I hope that they (Mudiad Ysgolion Meithrin) will understand that there is no need for them to change the way in which they are actually operating at present. This is a White Paper of course, and I am sure that the Mudiad Ysgolion Meithrin will make it clear that—I’ve made it clear enough that there will not be any change in the current system when it comes to the nursery schools.”
– Minister for International Relations & Welsh Language, Eluned Morgan

Island Games a “huge opportunity” for Anglesey

Mandy Jones AM (Ind, North Wales) asked what the Welsh Government were doing to support major events, not only in Cardiff but across the country.

The Minister replied that £6million had been spent on events in north Wales, including Wales Rally GB, Festival No. 6, the Tour of Britain and Llangollen International Eisteddfod. In response to a question from UKIP, the Minister was also open to supporting a joint-UK bid to host a major football tournament.

Rhun ap Iorwerth AM (Plaid, Ynys Môn) raised Anglesey’s bid to host the 2025 Island Games:

“The executive committee of the Island Games internationally has been very supportive of our plans and I’m very grateful to them for that, and we will be submitting our final bid in a matter of weeks, so this is a crucial time….Do you agree with me that this is a priceless opportunity for Anglesey, which will be an economic boost, which will be good for health, fitness and sports and leave a legacy for many years?”
– Rhun ap Iorwerth AM

The Minister told the chamber the Games were “a huge opportunity”. The Welsh Government supports the bid in principle and is working on a business case with Anglesey Council – which needs to be ready by March 8th 2019.

Government remains committed to free swimming

Following a review into the Welsh Government’s flagship free swimming scheme, which was published towards the end of last year, Mohammad Asghar AM (Con, South Wales East) focused on some of the report’s findings, notably that it only costs half of the £3million budgeted towards it, but many councils were reliant on this money due to budget cuts. Did the Welsh Government continue to support this?

Mike Hedges AM (Lab, Swansea East) outlined why the programme was beneficial and the government was better off trying to prevent people lapsing into poor health in the first place.

The Deputy Minister reaffirmed the government’s commitment to free swimming:

“….there are no plans to scrap free swimming for either the 16-and-under age group or the over-60s. However, there are issues surrounding the effectiveness of the scheme, which are set out very clearly in the reports I’ve already received, and as soon as I have some information I will make a further statement to Members.”
– Deputy Minister for Culture, Tourism & Sport, Dafydd Elis-Thomas (Ind, Dwyfor Meirionnydd)

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