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Call to champion native language

"Bilingual champions" should be set up in every further education college in Wales to develop partnerships with schools and ensure better provision for Welsh-speaking students, college leaders have been told.

Bilingual students are sometimes ill-served by their local FE college but most are making improvements for Welsh speakers, according to Ann Jenkins, head of the bilingual unit at post-16 funding agency ELWa. She also called on colleges to build on work done in schools.

Speaking at the annual conference of fforwm, the college leaders'

organisation, she said: "We have 700 Welsh-speaking tutors but only 40 in place full-time, and the training they have had is quite weak. We need to develop a qualification like TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language)."

In 2003-4, only 0.4 per cent of courses in FE colleges were delivered entirely in Welsh, with another 2.3 per cent of provision delivered bilingually.

As reported last month in TES Cymru (May 20), FE lecturers are to be offered three-month sabbaticals for Welsh-language immersion courses from next year.

Mrs Jenkins said: "We're targeting people with a certain level of competence. They will have to say which educational area they will develop, and will work on documents and resources they can use when they return."

Three colleges in Wales are to have bilingual champions working with schools, and one of them has called for a national network. Liz Saville, from Coleg Meirion Dwyfor, also wants a senior manager in each college to have responsibility for bilingualism, and a bilingualism officer.

"Front-line staff should have badges saying they are Welsh speakers. Where things work well, there's a cross-section of people involved in the scheme," she told fforwm conference delegates.

"People should not be put off from applying for posts where Welsh is required. We need to emphasise oral rather than written skills. There should be bilingual teaching and, for some subjects, groups formed on the basis of language to create a Welsh ethos."

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