Monoglot blot on Welsh landscape

25th August 2000 at 01:00
I WAS most surprised to see that the letter defending Estyn, the inspection body for education and training in Wales (TES, August 11) had been written by Janis Pickwick, a press officer for the National Assembly for Wales.

The National Union of Teachers Cymru has been critical of the recent restructuring at Estyn which has resulted in it being controlled for the first time by a senior management team of monoglot English speakers.

Janis Pickwick completely misses the point by stating that "Estyn's ability to work in either language does not rest with any single individual, but rests with the organisation as a whole".

When Susan Lewis was appointed as chief inspector of schools in Wales, she agreed to the conditions mentioned in the advertisement on October 10, 1996 which included the following: "Competence in the Welsh language is highly desirable but applications will be considered from candidates with a commitment to learn successfully. The position requires energy and the determination to succeed."

The question is whether Susan Lewis has succeeded in the target to learn Welsh successfully durig the past four years, and, if not, whether she is continuing to attempt to meet that target?

The chief inspector in Wales has set unreasonable targets for schools, such as Penlan school in Swansea and Glan Ely in Cardiff which have been named and shamed as failures as they have not reached national targets. Should not Susan Lewis now be named and shamed as failing to meet her targets?

It is obvious that Estyn used to believe that the Welsh language was essential to the post since the advertisement for it showed clearly that applicants would have to be committed to learning the language.

The chief inspector of schools in Wales cannot avoid her responsibilities for all aspects of the work of Estyn - including its important Welsh language work in a bilingual Wales and a bilingual education system.

I look forward to Susan Lewis attempting to defend publicly her own record rather than hiding behind a press officer from the education department of the National Assembly for Wales.

Gethin Lewis

Wales Secretary

National Union of Teachers Cymru

122 Bute Street


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