Language on the march

15th August 2003 at 01:00
ADDYSG GYMRAEG, ADDYSG GYMREIG (Welsh Medium Education, Welsh Education). Edited by Gareth Roberts and Cen Williams. School of Education, University of Wales, Bangor pound;14.95

Karl Davies welcomes a book that charts the resurrection of Wales's native tongue in schools

Just over a century ago, the only Welsh heard in schools in Wales would have been in the playground, out of teachers' earshot. Speaking Welsh could land you with the infamous Welsh Not, a sign strung around the neck. The child left wearing the Not at the end of the day would be whipped. The only way out would be to find another child speaking Welsh and pass the Not on to them.

The change that has occurred, as this volume records, is incredible. Now all schools teach Welsh as part of the national Welsh curriculum. More than 50 secondary schools teach at least half of their subjects in Welsh. About 550 Welsh primaries, 33 per cent of all schools in Wales, use Welsh as the main teaching medium or teach some of the curriculum in Welsh. There are 700 voluntary Welsh medium nursery groups throughout Wales. Twenty-one per cent of primary school pupils receive education in Welsh.

This volume looks at developments in teaching Welsh and teaching through the medium of Welsh, and at other developments in education in Wales, where it is now meaningful to talk about "Welsh education".

At the start of the 20th century, Wales had an education system based on the English system. That has changed over the past 80 years, and dramatically over the past four, since the advent of the National Assembly for Wales. We have seen the abolition of school league tables and of key stage 1 tests. The assembly government is now looking at the future of key stage 2 and 3 tests. There are exciting proposals for changes to the foundation stage and the 14-to-19 sector.

The authors are to be congratulated for this timely celebration of education in Wales now. It is a broad canvas including chapters from leading academics in education in Wales on subjects as diverse as assessment, management, promoting higher order reading skills at key stage 2 and bilingual pupils.

Addysg Gymraeg, Addysg Gymreig is part of a noble tradition. In the 1960s, Professor Jac L Williams edited a series of collections under the title Ysgrifau ar Addysg (Essays on Education). This volume takes up where he left off. Let us hope it is the first of many.

Karl Davies is director of the National Association of Head Teachers Cymru

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