Bore da, sut wyt ti?

12th January 1996 at 00:00
Or Good morning, how are you? Apart from having to learn the language, teaching in Wales has much to recommend it, says Frances Farrer. The principality of Wales beckons you to its green hills, its peace and quiet, its pure air, its legendary choral singing, and its reasonably priced houses.

Perhaps you would like to put some distance between yourself and urban stress, industrial conurbations and a life of traffic jams? Perhaps your partner has got a job in Wales and you would like one too? Whatever your motives for looking for your first teaching post across the Marches, some logistical questions will need to be considered.

Your teaching qualifications are all right, but there are differences of syllabus and language which vary from one part of the country to another. How necessary it is to speak Welsh or be willing to learn it depends partly on the subject and age group taught, and partly on the area of Wales in which you teach them.

The only generalisations that apply are the job-seeker's constant rules: research each situation precisely, ask questions, ring everyone up, only apply for appropriate posts, prepare yourself well for your interview.

The language question is a serious consideration. A recent Welsh Office report says Welsh is taught as "either a first or second language in the majority of schools in Wales: in the primary sector 97 per cent of schools either use Welsh as a teaching medium or teach Welsh as a second language". But the emphasis varies, from the schools in north Wales that use Welsh a great deal, to some on the border that use it so little the Welsh Office has lately demanded an explanation from them.

Since at primary level 27 per cent of schools use Welsh as the sole or main medium of instruction it is clear that this is the level for which English newly qualified teachers are most likely to expect, if hired, to have to learn the language.

According to Dr Muriel Adams, acting dean of the Faculty of Education, Humanities and Science at Gwent College of Higher Education, most primary teachers are being taught to teach Welsh. She says that at key stage 1 the level of Welsh is easily attainable by a learner, and she sees no problem higher up. The phrase, well she would say that, wouldn't she, springs to mind. However, she is backed up by people who have learned it.

A group of Powys primary teachers receiving diplomas after a three-year in-service training Welsh course just before Christmas were entirely in accord with Dr Adams's view. "It's been hard work, but very enjoyable," they said, praising particularly the strength gained from joint effort. "You're working with the same people and it creates a good relationship . . . it helps that you can keep in touch."

The course starts with 10 intensive days followed by one day a term. This sounds very little, but it is supported by massive peripatetic help. "The peripatetic teachers can be in each primary classroom up to three times a week," says Gwynfor Evans, assistant director of Powys education authority.

The students of Welsh say the peripatetic Welsh teachers ask what the class topic is and then work with it, arriving in the school to take the lessons with the Welsh learners acting as helpers. They make tapes of work with the children which the learning teachers can use in between times. Apparently this amuses the children, who delight in tripping up the teachers who are learning Welsh often only a step or two ahead of the class. It also arouses the interest of parents, many of whom take up Welsh evening classes independently.

At secondary level the opportunities for employment without the language are likely to be greater and if you teach a scarcity subject there may be no need to learn Welsh at all. If the school particularly wants a Welsh speaker it should say so in the job description. Check the detail of the advertisement carefully and ring up if in doubt.

Curricular differences between the countries are said to be only of emphasis, and well within the grasp of professionals. The ACAC Guide to the National Curriculum covers the variations in curriculum Orders. It was published in early December and copies sent to all colleges and universities concerned with teacher training. Ask your tutor if you can see a copy, they are easily accessible.

Simply: history, geography, art and music are taught slightly differently in Wales. There are differences of local detail and of focus. At key stage 1 in geography, for example, you may find that in England one environment is studied and in Wales two. History is seen from a Welsh viewpoint. In art and music, the work of Welsh artists and musicians is emphasised.

Gwynfor Evans sees no problem in any of this for hopeful newly qualified teachers and is comforting about their prospects once they get to the interview stage. "In my experience of attending interviews, if people are prepared to undertake training and are acceptable in all other respects, there's no problem," he says. With curricular differences, however, newly qualified teachers should be aware that nobody would expect to have to train you: you would have to bring yourself into line with the local requirements by your own efforts.

It would seem that, once you can say Bore da (good morning), Sut wyt ti?(how are you?) and ewch i olchi eich dwylo (go and wash your hands), and assuming you are happy to show willing in the matters of pushing your knowledge of the language a bit further and investigating the curriculum, the general prospects for Welsh employment could be good. In the initial stages finding a job in Wales appears to be no more complicated than finding one in England.

Residual anxiety about the language should be put to rest. Comfort yourself with the reflection that learning one language always makes learning the next one easier. And to those who refer churlishly to the limited usefulness of Welsh outside Wales, native speakers offer the reminder that the language is spoken in that celebrated part of Patagonia where if you like you can teach voluntarily for a year (fare paid), and where the climate is said to be delightful.

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