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

Part of the debate – in the Senedd at 5:15 pm on 31 January 2023.

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Photo of Jeremy Miles Jeremy Miles Labour 5:15, 31 January 2023


Thank you, Llywydd, and it's my pleasure to be here today to update Members on our progress regarding Welsh in education planning.

Since my last statement, I’m pleased to say that all 10-year Welsh in education strategic plans by local authorities have been approved and published and are operational. Not only that, I've received 22 action plans, setting out in detail how local authorities will deliver their WESPs during the first five years. I’d like to thank everyone at local authority and stakeholder level for their continued support and their involvement in this agenda. It demonstrates to me a real commitment and understanding of the need to keep moving forward, together, with a clear vision.

And delivering on their commitments is exactly what they intend to do. This is a clear message from council leaders and directors of education during our meetings to discuss their WESPs last term. We all know that education and language planning aren't easy, particularly as the starting point of each local authority is different. We need to continue, therefore, to work together to make sure that the decisions that we make and the actions that we take bring us closer to our 'Cymraeg 2050' ambition, namely a million Welsh speakers. For my part, I intend to make sure that the guidance issued to local authorities reflects our 'Cymraeg 2050' commitments. New guidance has already been issued around the capital grants for sustainable communities for learning and the WESPs, so that investment plans are assessed against the WESPs to ensure that they provide the capability to meet the targets. We also intend to review the school organisation code, with work already under way to identify which changes are needed.  

I was pleased to be able to allocate a further £7 million in capital funding during the autumn term to support our WESP commitments of local authorities. This is on top of the £105 million approved since 2018. The £6.6 million to expand late immersion provision across Wales over this Senedd term is gaining momentum, with all bids by local authorities operational since September. The funding will allow local authorities to employ more than 60 late immersion specialists over the coming years. For example, in the Vale of Glamorgan, they have been able to open their first late immersion unit in Ysgol Gwaun y Nant through the use of this grant. We’re also supporting the virtual immersion learning programme in Gwynedd, using VR technology, a resource that will benefit the whole of Wales.

We launched our network to support Welsh language immersion in December last year, bringing local authorities, schools and late immersion specialists together to ensure developments in late immersion practices are based on knowledge and research. I'm very proud of what we've achieved in this area. Our late immersion provision is unique to us in Wales, and the potential for us to go even further is clear to see.

We can't, however, ignore the census results on the Welsh language, published on 6 December. The figures relating to three to 15-year olds were disappointing, as we know that there are more learners in Welsh-medium education today than there were 10 years ago—over 11,000 more. As I said in my statement on the Welsh language census results on 24 January, the Welsh Government remains absolutely committed to our aim of a million Welsh speakers and doubling the number of us who use Welsh every day by 2050.

Maintaining a better understanding of the data is a key part of Welsh in education planning. A local Welsh language data profile was provided to local authorities during the preparation of their WESPs, which will be updated annually. I will also publish a national overview based on review reports on the WESPs.

Since publishing our 10-year education workforce plan in May 2022, we’ve also been working with some local authorities to develop a consistent method of analysing data collected by schools and local authorities. This will enable a more detailed understanding of how many additional teachers are required to deliver local authority plans to increase the number of learners in Welsh-medium education, and it will also enable stakeholders to better target our support for all practitioners to develop their own Welsh language skills.

We want to ensure that all learners in all schools have the best opportunity to become confident Welsh speakers. We've committed to establishing and implementing a continuum of Welsh language learning so that learners, teachers, parents and employers have a shared understanding of the journey to learn Welsh and the expected linguistic outcomes on each stage of that journey. A crucial aspect of this work will be to ensure that the continuum can be used both within the statutory education system in support of the Curriculum for Wales as well as in post-16 and adult learning. We have been exploring with stakeholders opportunities to use the common European framework of reference for languages, CEFR, as a basis for developing a Welsh language continuum. Embedding the continuum will take time, but I’m committed to ensuring that the opportunity to learn Welsh is available to all.

We’ll continue to work across all schools and settings to ensure that the way in which we teach Welsh is innovative and is supported by professional learning and resources. We must refocus our efforts in the English-medium sector. I applaud the hard work that's going on in schools, and I know that there is appetite and enthusiasm among Welsh teachers to take advantage of the opportunities afforded within the Curriculum for Wales. We've already published the framework for the Welsh language in English-medium education, and the free Welsh lessons delivered through the National Centre for Learning Welsh for learners aged 16 to 25 and also for the education workforce is a great example of the collaborative work going on with our partners.

Since September, we've funded the centre and Say Something in Welsh to develop an app to reinforce the Welsh language skills of learners and develop their confidence. Developments such as these have the potential to increase the use of Welsh in all of our schools. We intend to roll out this pilot to 10 other English-medium schools, and the planning for that starts immediately. We will also develop more resources to ensure that our Welsh language learners are well supported to become confident, proud speakers. Of course, one size will not fit all, and we must continue to find a suite of different interventions to support all learners, wherever they are on their language journey.

These are all small but significant steps, which we need to celebrate. Cymraeg, Welsh, belongs to us all, and I am confident that, in partnership, we can deliver.