7. Statement by the Minister for Education and Welsh Language: Welsh in Education Planning

Part of the debate – in the Senedd at 5:34 pm on 31 January 2023.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Jeremy Miles Jeremy Miles Labour 5:34, 31 January 2023


I thank the Member for welcoming the statement. I agree with several points that she made in her question. In terms of the investment in immersion, we do have ambitious plans in that regard. We have a budget of just under £7 million for the period between now and the end of this Senedd term to invest in late immersion. What's great—. I gave an example in my statement of a new school in the Vale of Glamorgan that has established a late immersion unit. All authorities are at different places in terms of immersion, of course, but all of them have shown an interest in expanding provision across Wales, so I think that that's very encouraging. And the budget is available over several years, so there is an opportunity to expand that even further. I think I mentioned last week that I was interviewed by a six-year-old pupil who had been in an immersion centre since September. She came from England, of Mexican heritage—her family was from Mexico—and she interviewed me in Welsh. And the whole thing was very striking. So, investing in immersion is very important. But, as you've said, the purpose of that, ultimately, is to secure access to Welsh-medium education, on the whole.

So, the other aim is to ensure that people leave education of any medium in Wales as confident speakers. That's very ambitious, but that concept is very important in terms of unifying the education system, I think, so that we don't have that difference in terms of Welsh speaking ability between the Welsh-medium sector and the English-medium sector. And the challenges are different in those two contexts. We have a lot more to do in that sense. We've published the framework already, but we need resources and training to accompany that to ensure the provision. And it is an ambitious and long-term plan. This is not something that can happen overnight, but I certainly think that this is one of the findings that emerged from the census results, that we need to focus on provision in the English-medium sector. We have a scheme for 23 new Welsh-medium schools and for moving 25 along the continuum towards category 3, but for decades we will still have very large numbers of English-medium schools, and we can't be in a situation where children leave English-medium schools not being confident in Welsh. So, we have to ensure an emphasis on that as well.

You're right to say that the workforce is a challenge. I've been clear about that. We do have a 10-year plan that correlates with the 10-year WESPs, but we do need progress every year, not just over the long term. So, I have said that we'll be very practical about that. There are lots of things, lots of actions in that plan. The things that work, we'll do more of them; the things that don't work, we'll stop doing them. So, this is an entirely practical exercise to increase those numbers. 

And in terms of the final question, on accountability, there are weaknesses in terms of the ability to enforce these objectives, we know that, and that is one of the things that we're discussing with Plaid Cymru in terms of the new Welsh-medium education Bill.