The nationalistic press in Britain is currently lathering itself up into paroxysms of anglophone outrage over alleged “discrimination” against English-speaking children attending schools in Wales. According to several right wing newspapers pupils attending classes in the majority Welsh-speaking region of Ceredigion – a “Welsh-speaking stronghold” in the militarised language of the Daily Mail – have been instructed to speak solely in the Welsh language by their teachers. Or at least this is the accusation made on a rather mysterious website claimed to have been set up by concerned local parents. Parents who remain entirely anonymous despite the fact that they have been briefing a number of journalists about their concerns.
According to the BiLingo website the evidence for discrimination includes:
- Reports of children being admonished for speaking English in the classroom.
- Reports of children being admonished for speaking English socially in the playground in their break time.
- The use of such devices as ‘traffic light’ systems in some schools, where pupils ‘caught’ speaking English face punishment.
- The refusal or reluctance of some schools to provide contact to parents in English.
- The advice from some teachers that parents stop reading to their children in English at home because it ‘hinders’ their Welsh reading.
- Reports of young children being too scared to speak English to their parents and family at home for fear of punishment.
So far no one has seen any of these “reports” which seem to be little more than anonymous, unsourced, online hearsay. The Daily Telegraph claims that the Children’s Commissioner for Wales has been contacted in an email by the parental group and he will look into the stories of supposed abuse. But so far no one has presented any actual facts to back up the claims.
Of course this is not the first time that Ceredigion has been in the news recently. Back in April I reported on a campaign by anglophone business people in the area which threatened jobs and the local economy over the use of the Welsh language in preference to the English one by the region’s predominately Welsh-speaking population. Again this centred on the education system and demands by English-speakers that indigenous Welsh-speaking pupils be taught entirely through the medium of English.
With the Welsh-speaking citizens of Wales increasingly on a level footing with their English-speaking peers is it any surprise that this sort of “culture war” is taking place in the country? For centuries speakers of the Welsh language were discriminated against as the norm in Britain, both legally and socially. Anti-Welsh racism remains virulent in British society, especially in the media, and any opportunity to engage in it is eagerly seized upon. No matter how dubious the circumstances.
When inequality is threatened by equality there is always a reaction. And when those who formerly exercised unchallenged power now find themselves without it – well, just look to the reaction of those who greeted with dismay the re-election of a black man to the White House.
UPDATE 16/11/12: More on the mysterious BiLingo website.
- An English-Speaking Supporter Of The Welsh Language (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Speak Welsh? Get Out! (ansionnachfionn.com)