Claims English-learning kids are 'second-class citizens' in Wales

EXCLUSIVE: Welsh parents who want their children to be taught in English are told to drive their children to school on 10-mile round trip – while council lays on free bus for those wanting to learn in Welsh

  • Parents of children wanting to be taught in English say they are victims of bias
  • Dual-stream school now only conducts lessons in Welsh after council ruling
  • It means some children have to travel miles to receiving classes in English
  • Cost is down to parents, but pupils that have to travel to be taught Welsh is free
  • The move is due to government plan to try and get one million Welsh speakers 
  • English-learning children are being treated as ‘second-class citizens’ in Wales, says parents who are being forced to drive them miles to other schools if they don’t want to be taught in Welsh.

    New pupils face having to be shuttled by their mothers and fathers by car out of their home villages over the hard-line policy.

    The problem has been sparked by the Welsh Government’s Cymraeg 2050 Strategy, which aims to have a million speaking Welsh in 28 years’ time.

    Council staff – in their eagerness to pursue the plan – have left many children unable to attend their nearest school.

    It is perfectly captured in the pretty village of Trefeglwys, where Ysgol Dyffryn Trannon school has just axed its English-medium element – after approval from Powys County Council.

    From September parents who live there and want their newly-starting children to learn in English will have to take them to Ysgol Gynradd Llanidloes Primary School five miles away at their own cost.

    But in the reverse situation – pupils wanting to learn in Welsh but whose local school does not provide that – the council foots the bill for their transport.

    A parent, who wants their child to be taught in English, told MailOnline: ‘This is treating our children as second-class citizens.

    ‘It is biased at best. At worst the council is using children to force them to learn Welsh.

    ‘We all live in Wales, we all like the Welsh language and if our children could learn as well using it, we would have no problem at all.

    Caroline Harries, the head teacher of Ysgol Dyffryn Trannon, which she calls 'a special place where we value every child'

    Caroline Harries, the head teacher of Ysgol Dyffryn Trannon, which she calls ‘a special place where we value every child’

    Ysgol Dyffryn Trannon was previously a dual-media school but now only teaches in Welsh

    Ysgol Dyffryn Trannon was previously a dual-media school but now only teaches in Welsh

    ‘But the fact is, not all children do learn as well in Welsh – and those that want to learn in English are being penalised by this hardline language push.

    ‘There will be hundreds of children across the country affected by this – it is not fair.’

    In Trefeglwys there is no suitable public transport and no school bus laid on for the young would-be English learners.

    It means parents face costs up to £10 a day by having to drive their youngsters elsewhere.

    The nearest Ysgol Gynradd Llanidloes Primary School teaches in mainly English but also includes Welsh language classes, as does every school in Wales.

    During the consultation on the school teaching language change, the council said it did not think the move was discriminatory.

    The nearest Ysgol Gynradd Llanidloes Primary School, pictured, teaches in mainly English

    The nearest Ysgol Gynradd Llanidloes Primary School, pictured, teaches in mainly English

    What is the ambitious Cymraeg 2050 plan? 

    The Welsh Government wants to see the number of people able to enjoy speaking and using Welsh reach a million by 2050.

    It admits it will be a challenging ambition.

    The government announced the strategy on the fiftieth anniversary of the first Welsh Language Act in 1967.

    It said: ‘We now live in different times and the status of Welsh is enshrined in legislation made in Wales.

    ‘The 2011 Census results presented us with an opportunity to have frank conversations and re-evaluate the future that we want to see for the language. Things need to change. We need to renew our energy, be systematic in our approach to planning, and improve collaboration in order to secure the legacy our language deserves.’

    Despite the hardline it and some councils are taking, it admits it cannot insist that parents and carers use the Welsh language with their children.

    The government added: ‘Education is central to our vision, but we must ensure our young people come out of the education system ready and proud to use the language in all contexts.’

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    It insisted it was based on what it described as a ‘small number of pupils’ currently accessing the English-medium stream at Ysgol Dyffryn Trannon.

    But it went on to admit its ‘priority is to increase the number of pupils accessing Welsh-medium provision, to increase the number of Powys pupils that are fully bilingual in Welsh and English’.

    The Welsh Government wants to see the number of people able to enjoy speaking and using Welsh reach a million by 2050.

    It admits the Cymraeg 2050 Strategy will be a ‘challenging ambition’ but it insists it is needed to save the Welsh language.

    A spokesperson for Powys County Council told MailOnline: ‘In September 2021, the Council agreed to proceed with gradually changing the language category of Ysgol Dyffryn Trannon, Trefeglwys from dual stream to Welsh-medium on a phased basis from September 2022. This would mean that eventually, all pupils attending the school will be taught through the medium of Welsh and will be fluent in Welsh and English, contributing to the Welsh Government’s aspiration to achieve a million Welsh speakers by 2050. The current dual stream model means that whilst pupils attending the Welsh-medium stream become fully bilingual, fluent in both Welsh and English, whilst pupils attending the English-medium stream do not.

    ‘The process to change the school’s language category was started due to the small number of pupils choosing the English-medium stream at the school, which has reduced significantly over the last few years.

    ‘Consultation was carried out as part of the process, and having considered the issues raised, the Council decided to proceed with the change.

    ‘To minimise the impact on any pupils already attending the school, the change to the school’s language category is being introduced on a phased basis as current pupils move through the school. Any new pupils joining the school in the future will be able to access Welsh-medium provision when they start school, meaning that they will be fully immersed in the Welsh language, and would have the Welsh language skills needed to access Welsh-medium provision throughout their time in school. Across Wales, a significant proportion of pupils that access Welsh-medium education come from homes where no Welsh is spoken, and this does not impact on their ability to succeed in their education. Pupils from families who do not speak Welsh are welcomed at all Welsh-medium schools in Powys and throughout Wales.

    ‘Whilst acknowledging that some pupils may choose to access English-medium provision elsewhere instead of accessing Welsh-medium provision at Trefeglwys, the Council’s hope is that all pupils living in Trefeglwys will access Welsh-medium provision at Ysgol Dyffryn Trannon. However, parents are entitled to apply for a place in any school they choose, and can apply for a place at an alternative English-medium school should they not want their children to attend Ysgol Dyffryn Trannon.

    ‘Ysgol Dyffryn Trannon is one of four primary schools in the Llanidloes catchment. Whilst Ysgol Dyffryn Trannon will become a Welsh-medium primary school, the three other primary schools in the catchment, all of which are located within a few miles of Ysgol Dyffryn Trannon, are English-medium. It is correct that under the Council’s current home-to-school transport policy, pupils living in Trefeglwys would not receive transport to English-medium provision should they live closer to Welsh-medium provision.’