Now is the time to expand Welsh language education

01/04/2022

By Lleu Williams.

I left Sixth Form at my comprehensive school some six or seven years ago now, at a time when if you wanted to pursue a Welsh medium education at post-16, you stayed at comprehensive school. Or if you were one of the lucky ones, you might be able to attend the odd course at your local further education college to study Welsh A levels as well as one or two other subjects, but that's if you were lucky.

Fortunately for myself, I was more than happy to stay put at my local Welsh medium comprehensive to do my A-levels through the medium of Welsh, but this wasn't the case for many of my class mates who I am sure would have been better suited to college life. But the option wasn't available to them.

By the time I reached University, I was lucky to be part funded on my Geography course to do parts of the course through the medium of Welsh under the Mantais scheme. And thanks to Plaid in government, students from September this year will be able to study through the medium of Welsh in a variety of courses through the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol. But there seems to be an obvious gap to plug in Welsh medium provision, and that is in further education.

As I stated earlier, there is some provision in our further education colleges through the medium of Welsh, but for many students attending the option isn't given to them. As I have said, yes you can study Welsh language A level at the odd college, but what about other A levels, and more importantly modern apprenticeships, BTECs and other vocational courses?

Staffing could be an issue, but not necessarily. Some staff who already teach, say carpentry, could be fluent through the medium of Welsh, but due to a lack of investment in their skills, do not have the confidence or ability to teach their course in this medium. For any individual with some common sense this might sound baffling, but this is the reality that we face in our colleges. There are hundreds of staff who are fluent in Welsh, but unfortunately are unable to teach through the language as they don't have the skills or confidence.

Colegau Cymru launched their Welsh Medium Strategy for FE last year at the Royal Welsh, a very detailed and well thought out strategy that answers many of the issues facing plugging the Welsh medium gap in further education. It went much further than just providing Welsh medium education, but also ensuring that there was a Welsh feel to colleges with bilingual signage, and that the culture at colleges must be bilingual for Welsh medium education to thrive and succeed.

With the Welsh language being integral to many communities in Wales, having a work force that can deliver through the medium of Welsh is essential. Many people in Wales who are fluent Welsh speakers would most likely prefer to employ a carpenter with skills through the medium of Welsh as it's a part of their culture and way of life. As well as a language they are most comfortable in communicating through.

There is a clear opportunity at our fingertips to continue the work that has been delivered on Welsh medium education to plug the gap at further education level.

With the Welsh language use on the rise, and the demand for Welsh medium education growing every day, now is the time to create a body for the future of funding of Welsh medium further education to ensure that people in Wales not only have the opportunity to study throughout their careers in Welsh but that we have a bilingual economy and workforce to meet the needs and demands of an ever changing and better Wales.