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Revolutionise language teaching in schools - Plaid Leader

10/08/2022

Children currently being deprived of achieving multi-lingualism, says Plaid Cymru Leader Leanne Wood AM.

Plaid Cymru Leader Leanne Wood AM says this week that one of her aspirations is to give the next generation of children in Wales the opportunity to be trilingual.

In a speech at the National Eisteddfod this week the Leader will confirm that Plaid Cymru will assess how it can target resources to support effective language learning in our primary schools, enabling children in Wales not only to improve their grasp on Welsh but also on other modern languages.

Ms. Wood will highlight Estyn reports which have confirmed that the standard of Welsh teaching in English-medium secondary schools is getting worse, with only one in five schools offering a provision that is considered "good". She will argue that it would be better to introduce more Welsh, together with a third language, as they learn through play and through the period where they are learning basic skills during their primary education. The aim, says the leader, will be to get to the point where all children receive a significantly higher percentage of their education in Welsh by the end of Key Stage 2 and are able to have basic conversations in another – third - language.

To that end, Leanne Wood will call for establishing a "Language Academy", to improve teachers' skills and to explore and develop the best way of teaching languages to children and to adults, to ensure economic benefits to Wales and to create a multi-lingual nation.

Leanne Wood AM will say:

"In our communities, the growth of Welsh medium education continues - and the growth in demand for Welsh medium education is even greater. There are examples close to the Eisteddfod field where parents feel they have to choose English medium, not Welsh medium, education for their children because the local Welsh medium school in full. It is appalling that local authorities are still failing to respond quickly enough to demand and it is a problem that turns people away from Welsh-medium education. It is stopping our young people from becoming bilingual.

"And for the young people who go to English-medium schools, how much opportunity is there, in fact, to learn Welsh and to be bilingual? Estyn reports have confirmed several times that the standard of Welsh language learning in English schools is getting worse, with only a fifth of schools offering good provision, while Welsh as a second language is one of the subjects with the worst results of all.

"Is it time to re-think how we teach language to children? Is it by teaching 11-16 year olds in a formal, boring, ineffective method, as happens too often at present? Or would it be better to introduce Welsh, as well as another language, to our children at three years old, and immerse them in the language during the period when they are learn through play and are learning basic skills throughout their primary education? Doesn’t every child in Wales deserve the opportunity to learn Welsh when it is easy for them, instead of leaving it until it's too late?

"I want every child in Wales to have the opportunity to speak more than one language. I want everyone to have the opportunity to be not only bilingual, but trilingual. To turn this opportunity into reality, Welsh and one other language should be introduced earlier to everyone, during primary years and also as part of child care services generally. We have a Welsh Education Strategy for the first time - again thanks to Plaid ministers and people who have campaigned for Welsh medium education for years. But, so far, unfortunately, relying on local authorities to implement a national strategy has failed, and we cannot wait until the strategy’s official evaluation in 2015 to hear that.

"We need a proper strategy, led nationally, not at the discretion of local authorities, and with clear, results-led targets to measure progress. To make this work, we need to plan and we need to train our teachers to become experts in language teaching.

"This week therefore I have asked Councillor Cefin Campbell, one of our foremost experts in language planning, to report to the party on a new strategy to ensure that all children in Wales receive some of their education through the medium of Welsh from foundation phase to key stage 2 by the end of the Plaid Government’s second term in 2024. How can we create a language academy - to improve teachers' skills and to explore and develop the best ways to teaching language to children, but also to adults? Think about the economic benefit to Wales if all our people speak several languages in the future. This is entirely possible.

Luxembourg, a country with a population roughly the same and Cardiff and Vale together, successfully introduces three languages - Letzeburgesch, French and German - one after the other by immersion methods, by the time pupils reach secondary school.

If they can do that, there's no reason why we cannot. By 2025 I want to see a third of secondary schools in Wales teaching core subjects in a foreign language, using the same immersion methods that will be used to teach Welsh."

Plaid Leader Leanne Wood will deliver her tribute speech Gwynfor Evans at 1230 on Friday, August 10 at the Pagoda on the National Eisteddfod field.