Welsh results must be seen in context

28th March 1997 at 00:00
Comments about the test scores in Welsh in your report "Welsh test scores vary widely at 11" (TES, February 28) reflect a lack of knowledge of the linguistic demography of Wales and the position of Welsh as a core and foundation subject in the schools of Wales.

Even in the areas stipulated as being those where the language is strongest, there are many areas where most schoolchildren come from non-Welsh-speaking homes. This fact is relevant when the status of Welsh in schools is considered.

Local authorities and schools in Wales have to decide whether Welsh is taught as a second language - in other words, as a foundation subject that is not assessed, or as a core subject where there is assessment at seven and 11.

The percentages in the table of those achieving level 4 and above are percentages of the total taking the assessment, not of the whole school population - a fact that makes his reference to areas such as Pembrokeshire (Little England Beyond Wales, as he so antiquatedly calls it) meaningless, as South Pembrokeshire schools teach Welsh as a second language.

In fact, the figures for areas such as Pembrokeshire (North), the Isle of Anglesey, Conwy, Carmarthenshire and Gwynedd reflect the great efforts being made to ensure that children become fluent speakers and confident users of the language in areas where there has been an influx of non-Welsh-speaking families.

The relatively low percentage of those achieving level 4 and above is a result of the fact that Welsh is given core subject status in very many schools that could, if they chose to, teach Welsh as a foundation subject. That they have not done so is great credit to them and it is hoped that many other schools will follow their example in future.

Paradoxically, therefore, if the percentages of pupils achieving level 4 and above in Welsh drops significantly in some areas next year, it will be a reflection of the greater status being given to Welsh, not a reflection of poor standards. This paradox underlines one of the many shortcomings of the assessment system. The high percentage of those achieving level 3 in Welsh is a better indication of the excellent efforts being made by schools.

ELFYN PRITCHARD Hon President CYGMA (Society for Welsh in Education) Sarnau, Bala, Gwynedd.

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