Parents 'pushing for Welsh schools'
Assembly government must respond to the demand, says new officer of pressure group
More welsh-medium schools must be opened and more Welsh taught if the Assembly government is serious about creating a truly bilingual Wales.
That is the message from Ceri Owen, the new development officer of RhAG (Parents for Welsh Medium Education).
Miss Owen, 25, says the Assembly government must meet growing demand from parents for Welsh-language education with increased funding.
"New schools take the stress off existing schools, which are being overstretched," she said. "I would argue that the One Wales agreement and the Iaith Pawb policy is the way the Assembly is going. Creating a bilingual Wales is of the utmost importance."
The Assembly government's Iaith Pawb (Everyone's Language) policy aims to boost the number of Welsh speakers from 21 per cent in 2001 to 26 per cent by 2011.
Up to the end of 2007, there were 21 more Welsh-medium primaries and 10 more secondaries than in 1991. Almost 150,000 more pupils are now taught in classes where Welsh is the main medium. But many are said to be crowded, with 30-plus pupils per class.
Growing demand for Welsh-medium education - especially by middle-class parents lured by good academic results - has also led to rows over funding new schools when existing ones are in a poor state of repair.
Swansea council was criticised for spending pound;6 million on a new Welsh- medium primary, Ysgol Gynradd Gymraeg Llwynderw, due to open this September.
A shake-up is under way in Cardiff to deal with falling pupil rolls and an "unprecedented demand" for Welsh-medium education. Cardiff council has agreed plans for two new Welsh-medium primaries this week, with plans for a third and for a new Welsh-medium high school in the autumn.
RhAG is calling for a national strategy on the issue and wants local authorities to measure the demand in their area.
Miss Owen said: "A national strategy is the only way we see that local authorities will prepare properly for the long term.
"Parents are demanding this education for their children. These schools achieve fantastic exam results, but also have good extra-curricular results. One of their great merits is that they enrich a child's education in all aspects."