Welsh Students to be lost

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Wed May 18 12:50:25 UTC 2005

'1,000 Welsh-speaking pupils to be lost' May 17 2005

Gareth Morgan, Western Mail

UP TO 1,000 pupils could potentially be dumped out of Welsh-medium
education if a "modernising" programme takes place at village schools,
campaigners have warned. Carmarthenshire is the first of many local
authorities around Wales to be considering the closures and mergers, a
Welsh language pressure group claims. Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg says
other counties are waiting with bated breath to see if Carmarthenshire
County Council's "audacious" plan reaches completion.

The council's Modernising Education plan, announced last year based on a
strategy adopted back in 2001, promises improvements and better facilities
at schools across the county. The council says it is not prepared to "sit
back and do nothing" while children are taught in antiquated facilities.
But Cymdeithas said yesterday that this modernisation will come at the
expense of keeping communities of children together - and at the expense
of Welsh-medium education that has been the norm in the area for more than
20 years. Research by the group suggests half of the Welsh-medium
(category A)  primary schools in the county could be closed and in excess
of 1000 pupils would lose their automatic access to Welsh education.

And it claims that this strategy would herald an "immediate end" to
current language policy for primary schools in Carmarthenshire, which is
based on teaching all children in Welsh-speaking communities through the
medium of Welsh. Ffred Ffransis, Cymdeithas education spokesman, said, "If
they get away with it then it is going to happen all over Wales. "That is
why people from all over the country are up in arms about this.  This is
the frontline in Carmarthenshire because no other county has been so
audacious, but other local authorities are watching with bated breath."

Cymdeithas has been pressing Jane Davidson, the National Assembly Minister
for Education, for a meeting to discuss the issue for months - and has now
decided to organise the meeting itself. The society has invited all those
concerned with the future of Welsh village schools to meet her on Monday,
May 30, at the Urdd Eisteddfod in Cardiff. "She is going to have to think
of a very, very good excuse not to turn up to this meeting on a Bank
Holiday Monday," said Mr Ffransis. "It is happening just 200 yards from
the Assembly building.

"She could snub Cymdeithas, but will she snub all the parents and
governors, and the other concerned people from counties like
Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion and Denbighshire where there
are also worries about village schools?" Last night Carmarthenshire County
Council hit back at the accusations, saying it was committed to fostering
the Welsh language. It said no-one was in danger of losing access to
Welsh-medium primary education.

A spokeswoman said, "We stress again the draft plans and proposals for
each individual school will be subject to full consultation and discussion
at the appropriate time. Everyone in the communities will be able to give
their views, all of which will be taken into consideration as each
individual decision is made. "We are committed to providing the best
all-round education for every child in the county and we are also
committed to promoting the Welsh language and culture.

"The new schools we are planning to build and the investment in others
will reflect those aims and reinforce our dedication to education, and to
the Welsh language, here in Carmarthenshire. What we are not prepared to
do is to do nothing and leave many pupils in schools that are just not fit
for the modern age."


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