Message is best of both mediums

20th July 2007 at 01:00
School advertises bilingual status at local estate agents

Parents in a Cardiff suburb have lobbied local estate agents to advertise their children's school as bilingual not purely Welsh medium in a ploy to attract more supporters of English-language teaching to their village.

A growing battle between proponents of English and Welsh-medium education is the latest twist in the capital's controversial. reorganisation plans. Last year Gwaelod Y Garth primary school came close to becoming Welsh medium-only after the English section was earmarked for closure due to falling rolls. The school is not part of the current council's shake-up after the plans went back to the drawing board.

But the threat has left parents feeling so vulnerable about the future of English-language education in the village that both they and the head are reluctant to talk of closure for fear of putting off prospective applicants.

In the past week, campaigning parents say they have distributed more than 3,000 leaflets to households in the Gwaelod Y Garth catchment area. Adele Norval, who has two sons at the school, believes councils should be giving more priority to bilingual schools like Gwaelod Y Garth.

"There is evidence to suggest that many parents still want their children to be educated through English," she said.

"If children have a balanced education they have more opportunities, not only here but in Europe and internationally."

Ian Titherington, Unison branch officer at Cardiff council who writes in TES Cymru this week (page 27), says the demand for Welsh-medium education is also accelerating the question of viability for many English-medium schools.

Anna Brychan, director of the National Association of Head Teachers in Wales, said: "Councils have to be aware of what the government is telling them through its documents, such as Iaith Pawb.

"But they also have to consider the feelings of both the Welsh and English language communities."

Gerwyn Williams, head at Gwaelod Y Garth, said the school had seen a trend of falling rolls in the English-medium side and increased demand for Welsh-medium education, but he says the problem is cyclical.

"We have had a bilingual set-up for 40 years, and we want to market the school as offering this type of education, which according to current standards of achievement obviously works," he said.

At present there are 193 children on roll at Gwaelod Y Garth 146 belong to the Welsh unit.

Adele Norval and other parents feel the problem of falling rolls in the English section is due partly to a lack of awareness that the school offers both languages. "We are hoping to emphasise to all local people that this is a bilingual school, offering parents the choice for their child," she said.

Cardiff council says it is currently dealing only with secondary school reorganisation three of its English-medium secondary schools are earmarked for closure and says the future of any primary schools are not yet "on the table".

The government says availability of Welsh-medium education has increased in recent years and is a trend it "wishes to encourage". But the planning of school places is the responsibility of local authorities, which must assess how far their supply of places meets demand.

Comment, 27, Leader, 26

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