58% Support Welsh Teaching For Children In English-Speaking Schools

An Bhreatain Bheag - Cymru - Wales

ITV News in the UK has a headline-grabbing story on its website: “Exclusive poll: 64% oppose compulsory Welsh to age 16”. The article goes on to state that:

“…nearly two-thirds of people oppose the current situation where it is compulsory for schoolchildren to learn Welsh [as a] second language up until the age of 16.

Around a third of those who responded to the poll, conducted by YouGov, said it should not be compulsory for pupils in English-medium schools in Wales to learn Welsh at all.”

However using the same data one could write a headline truthfully stating that: “…58% support compulsory Welsh for children in English-speaking schools in Wales”. Or how about, “…only 33% oppose compulsory Welsh for children in English-speaking schools in Wales”? We could even recast those first two lines in the report:

“An exclusive poll for ITV News has found that well over half of people support the current situation where it is compulsory for schoolchildren to learn Welsh [as a] second language.

Only around a third of those who responded to the poll, conducted by YouGov, said it should not be compulsory for pupils in English-medium schools in Wales to learn Welsh at all.”

Of course that does not detract from the original poll finding on the age at which second-language teaching should end (though the overall figures do match a previous survey showing majority support for obligatory Welsh language education). However it does illustrate the manner in which some news stories can be presented, often to satisfy the pre-existing prejudices of those who write them or those who read them. Perhaps a more interesting question would have been one that focused on the huge, yet frequently ignored, demand for Welsh-medium schools across Wales?

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11 comments

  1. But only 9% support Welsh teaching properly (Up to age 18).

    In Latvia English is taught from the 1st grade (age 5-7) till the 12th grade (age 17-19). And usually at university/college too (another 2-4 years).

    Unless the Welsh do the same – it’s a waste of time and money.

  2. Janis
    In the questioning of ” headline grabbing and distortion of statistics ” the author leaves me wondering about that 9% and what is “properly” because being in school until 18

    1. Apologies for glitch
      Being in school for 14yrs of ones life doesn’t mean that one is being taught or is learning to the optimum

      1. Yes – even the best school can’t teach anything if the student doesn’t want to learn.

  3. Certainly a rather odd slant on the situation, a bit like saying “Almost 50% of Welsh teachers are below average!” Shock! Horror! Etc. But seriously …

    First off there is an increasing demand for Welsh medium education (WME) that is immersion teaching of almost all subjects through Welsh. The local education authorities aren’t keeping up with the demand and the Welsh devolved government is threatening to get tough with the ones who don’t meet the official targets (but this could be just political posturing?) There are actually slightly fewer kids in WME now than a couple of years ago. The current figure is 15.7% :

    http://www.golwg360.com/newyddion/iaith/192787-beirniadu-cynlluniau-addysg-gymraeg-cynghorau-sir

    (Ask if you want a translation)

    Secondly, there was a report about two years ago that was very critical of “Welsh second language” teaching, that is Welsh classes in English language medium schools in Wales. Basically they’re not much use, even the kids who pass the exams rarely seem to be able to communicate in the language … sounds familiar? So the plan, if and when the government ever gets around to acting, is to move to teaching at least part of the curriculum through the medium of Welsh, i.e. moving from English medium schools to sort of half-and-half genuine bilingual schools. At least I think that was the conclusion. I’ll try to find the report … ah here it is :

    http://gov.wales/docs/dcells/publications/130926-review-of-welsh-second-lan-en.pdf

    Related material here :

    http://gov.wales/topics/educationandskills/publications/wagreviews/one-lanuage-for-all/?lang=en

    From the introduction to the report :

    “Aside from developing future Welsh speakers, we also have an obligation to the young people in our schools who are trying to learn the language. According to the
    evidence, this is a very tedious experience for large numbers of them – they do not
    regard the subject as being relevant or of any value to them. They are not confident enough to use Welsh outside the classroom – the opportunities to do so are actually very limited – and there is no incentive therefore to learn the language.”

  4. Hi there, Tom here from ITV Wales – I wrote the report.
    I would argue that our reporting of the poll reflects the fact that around two-thirds of respondents opposed the current situation, which is Welsh second language compulsory until 16. It has not been reported to satisfy any pre-existing prejudices – but perhaps rather (as very well expressed by J.Jones here: http://blogs.cardiff.ac.uk/electionsinwales/2015/07/10/welsh-political-barometer-details-available/) illustrates “the dislocation between government policy and public opinion.”
    I would also say that the word ‘primary’ needs to be added to your 58% title to be an accurate reflection of the poll, as that figure does not stand for schooling as a whole. I hope this is not taken as me being pernickety – but rather shows how difficult it can be to capture the findings of a poll in a headline!
    I agree, growing demand for Welsh-medium education is an interesting subject, particularly in the context of the poll’s findings. I would disagree with the suggestions this is ignored though.
    Finally, the lead author of the report you refer to, Marconatrix, appears in our report (see original link above). As well as referring to current shortcomings, Prof Sioned Davies spoke about her frustration at government inaction on Welsh second language teaching.
    Thanks for the feedback – I’m pleased that this has provoked debate…

  5. I’d go a step further and make it compulsory for schools in England and Scotland to be taught basic Welsh. After all, it’s the oldest living language on these isles and was once spoken the length and breadth of it 🙂

    1. Hi Steve. I certainly agree that Welsh should be taught in schools in England at an introductory level, with a few simple or commonly encountered phrases, and then voluntary for anyone who shows an interest.

    2. Be careful not to overstate your case. Welsh/British can only be shown to have been spoken up to the Forth-Clyde line. North of that Pictish may or may not have been a (closely??) related Celtic language. But yes, Welsh could be described as “the Senior Language of Britain”.

      Anyway, I’ve just come across this piece which may be of interest. I’ll leave you all to figure out to what extent ‘Ireland/Irish’ can be substituted for ‘Wales/Welsh’ :

      http://sabotagetimes.com/life/mind-your-language

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