English mediums urged to teach in Welsh

1st May 2009 at 01:00
Government publishes strategy for bilingual Wales as union pushes for national training scheme

Teachers in English medium schools who can speak "the language of heaven" could be asked to teach some lessons entirely in Welsh to increase fluency among pupils.

The idea to rally Welsh-speaking teachers to the bilingual cause of Iaith Pawb (everyone's language) is one of a series of proposals to be included in the draft Welsh medium education strategy due to be published by the Assembly government later this month.

Speaking at the annual conference of the Welsh medium teachers' union UCAC in Llandrindod Wells last weekend, David Hawker, director of the Department for Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills, hinted that the strategy would address delegates' concerns - including poor standards in second language Welsh teaching and a lack of qualified teachers.

Dr Bill Maxwell, chief inspector of schools, also lamented the quality of second language teaching in his annual report earlier this year.

As expected, the Welsh language was high on the union's agenda, with eight resolutions passed on the subject. These included calls for a review of how the subject is taught and the setting up of a national training scheme for teachers.

Huw Richards, a Welsh second language teacher at Ysgol Uwchradd Caereinion in Powys, said questions must be asked about whether conditions were right for effective teaching of Welsh.

"In lots of schools there aren't enough qualified teachers and they just look around for someone who can speak Welsh and ask them to help with the teaching," he said.

Emrys Wynne, the union's outgoing president and a Welsh second language teacher at Ysgol Dinas Bran in Denbighshire, said many newly qualified Welsh second language teachers got a shock when they entered the classroom because they were so unprepared. He called on training colleges to rectify this.

Professor Hawker told delegates there must be "adequate training" for teachers to develop language skills so they had the "confidence to teach other subjects in Welsh in non-Welsh medium schools".

He said the education system was "crucial" to achieving a bilingual Wales. He also said local authorities needed to get better at anticipating the demand for Welsh medium education. Some had been "caught out", he said, by the level of parental demand that "comes out of the woodwork when a Welsh- medium school is built".

At the conference, the union also launched a campaign for fair funding for post-16 education. Elaine Edwards, UCAC's general secretary, said a clear, equitable and transparent system would allow schools to plan their sixth- form provision "effectively and professionally".

Delegates passed 24 out of 25 resolutions relating to teaching - 12 on education matters and 12 on terms and conditions.

Welsh language provision in the vocationally led learning pathways initiative remained a major concern for the union. Aeron Rees, head of Ysgol Dyffryn Teifi in Llandysul, accused the Assembly government of a "lack of respect" towards the Welsh language in the proposed 14-19 measure.

He said campaigning by the union had forced the government to include an amendment on Welsh medium provision, which had strengthened the union's position. "Now we need to make sure that it is implemented and not rest on our laurels," he said.

Gwynn Griffith, head of Ysgol Gynradd Llanddoged in Llanrwst, was sworn in as the union's new president.

`Heads should not be site managers'

Beleaguered heads are increasingly taking on the role of "school site managers" because of a lack of local authority support, UCAC conference delegates claim.

Rolant Wynne, head of Ysgol Gynradd Dolbadarn in Llanberis, proposed an emergency resolution to fellow union members calling on local authorities to employ properly qualified staff to carry out health and safety work. He said heads were increasingly expected to review measures such as fire regulations.

"Heads are used to wearing different hats and that's fine, but this is a step too far," he said. "Enough is enough. Heads are there to teach and manage the school, but not (to undertake) all the responsibilities that go with the building to boot."

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