Criticism of local authority Welsh-medium school u-turns

(Title Image: via Senedd TV)

Here’s a summary of this afternoon’s education questions.

Minister critical of Welsh-medium school u-turns

Sian Gwenllian AM (Plaid, Arfon) welcomed positive changes to Welsh-medium Education Strategic Plans (WESPs), but some local authorities were flouting existing rules, causing frustration for parents demanding expanded Welsh-medium provision.

“The recent situation in Blaenau Gwent encapsulates this for me. The residents of the Tredegar area….have been battling for years for a second Welsh-medium school. At last, the council agreed to do that after the campaigners had gathered the data that assessed demand. A number of cylchoedd meithrin (Welsh-medium nurseries) were open to prepare for this, but then, last month, there was a U-turn from the council and a decision was taken not to open these cylchoedd meithrin, which is certainly a mistake, to my mind.”
– Sian Gwenllian AM

Education Minister, Kirsty Williams (Lib Dem, Brecon & Radnor), wasn’t happy. She said it was “remarkable” that a local authority would bid for funding for a new school and then do a u-turn. The Welsh Government would look to see how the original plans can be honoured and her officials will take it up with Blaenau Gwent Council.

The Minister later added that as a non-Welsh speaker who’s chosen Welsh-medium education for her children, the cylchoedd meithrin are a crucial element in meeting the Welsh Government’s million Welsh-speakers target by 2050.

Skilled Welsh-medium primary teachers will be able to “level up” to secondary schools

Shadow Education Minister, Suzy Davies AM (Con, South Wales West), mentioned that despite the Education Workforce Council setting targets for the number of graduate trainee teachers (PGCE) in certain subjects – including Welsh and modern foreign languages – there was a distinct shortage.

As mentioned a few weeks ago, just 12 teachers qualified to teach Welsh (as a subject) at secondary school level in the previous year compared to a target of 75. For modern foreign languages, there were only 18 qualified teachers with a target for 59.

The Minister accepted that the approach hasn’t been successful, but changes are on the way.

“I am currently considering an entire systematic reform of how we support initial entrants into our (initial teacher training) provision and teachers through the first few years of their career, with specific mention of Welsh-medium provision in secondary schools, which is of concern to me. The Member will be aware that, only this week, we launched a new scheme, where those who have qualified to teach in a primary school but have the potential and the skills to teach either the Welsh language or through the medium of Welsh in a secondary school but are not qualified can gain additional professional learning opportunities to allow them to transfer into a high school.”
– Education Minister, Kirsty Williams

Tackling bullying

Joyce Watson AM (Lab, Mid & West Wales) asked what was being done to address and prevent bullying, with 10% of Welsh secondary school pupils experiencing bullying at least once a week. She welcomed the recently-issued guidance, but wondered whether schools are actively encouraging parents and guardians to look at the resources there are so there’s a message at home and in school that bullying is wrong.

Paul Davies AM (Con, Preseli Pembs.) asked what steps were being taken to ensure schools properly record bullying? While Mandy Jones AM (BXP, North Wales) raised concerns from a constituent that their local school wasn’t taking bullying seriously enough.

The Minister said there were a variety of ways to draw attention to the guidance and resources available. The new guidance makes proper reporting of bullying incidents mandatory and also requires local authorities and schools to monitor trends. Any parent or guardian who isn’t satisfied with how a school addresses bullying should, first of all, raise it with the chair of governors.

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