Welsh identity growing

4th May 2007 at 01:00
New recruits demonstrate shift towards 'Welshness' and bilingualism, says teaching council

MOST NEW teachers regard themselves as Welsh rather than British, new figures reveal.

Almost three-quarters (1,104) who registered for the first time with the General Teaching Council for Wales (GTCW) in 2006-7, described their national identity as "Welsh" on their form.

This compares with just 37 per cent (277) of all teachers. The shift towards "Welshness" is accompanied by a steep rise in the number of heads and teachers able to speak Welsh or who are qualified to teach lessons in the language.

More than half of teachers who said they could speak Welsh were also qualified to teach it as a second language, according to the regulation body's figures for 2007. But the number of Welsh-speaking teachers is still in a minority, with less than a third of new teachers - 501 out of 1,579 - saying they could speak Welsh.

Some unions claimed this week that the figures were evidence that Wales was "no longer exporting its teaching talent". The Welsh Conservatives warned against the nation becoming "fortress Wales".

But they have also been seen as an indication that the widely feared brain-drain of talent to "gimmick-filled posts" in England and to sunnier climes has not come about.

Rhys Williams, communications, campaigns and political officer for the NUT Cymru, said the rise in Welsh identity, and more Welsh-born and trained teachers staying within the borders should not necessarily be seen as a bad thing.

"It means more new teachers are proud to be Welsh and not embarrassed to say so," he said. "This is a positive effect of devolution - some of these new teachers grew up in the era when living in Cymru became cool.

"When I was at school, none of us knew that our teacher could speak Welsh.

There is a difference to be drawn between the ugly face of nationalism and simply being proud of your roots."

The GTCW recorded the number of Welsh speakers on its registers, along with ethnicity, disability, subject taught and qualifications, in its 2007 figures for the first time. The council claims it is the most comprehensive snapshot of the teaching profession in Wales ever compiled.

It reveals 30 per of teachers and 42 per cent of heads are able to speak Welsh. The council compared the new figures with those in the 2001 census, which showed just 21 per cent of the teaching population were Welsh speakers.

Hayden Llewellyn, deputy chief executive of the GTCW, welcomed the "high percentage of Welsh speakers now in the teaching profession".

The figures also show that ethnic-minority pupils in Wales are still grossly under-represented, with 94.8 per cent of new teachers describing their racial group as white British.

Year 10 pupils from Fairfield high school in Peterchurch, Herefordshire, have been weaving en eco-installation out of willow withies to take to the Hay Festival later this month. The trio of spheres represent the fact that three planets are needed for all the resources the world is using. Photograph: Dillon Bryden

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