‘Nurturing Welsh… Onwards to the Million’ – Angharad Morgan
In 2017, upon publishing Cymraeg 2050, the Welsh Government’s Welsh language strategy, the Government set itself a target of increasing the number of Welsh speakers in Wales to one million.
For nearly a decade, Welsh Local Authorities have been expected to plan to increase the availability of Welsh-medium education in their regions. Upon publishing Cymraeg 2050, the Welsh Government clearly noted that immersion in the Welsh language is the most dependable model for supporting children and young people to become confident Welsh speakers in their everyday lives.
During the 2021-2026 planning cycle, the Welsh Government will introduce the Welsh Language Education Bill with the intention of strengthening and increasing the availability of Welsh-medium education throughout Wales. The Bill’s other intention is to ensure that the Welsh in Strategic Education Plans (WESPs) make access to Welsh-medium education fairer and easier to obtain.
We are on the threshold of an important milestone for Welsh education, and also for the Welsh Government’s vision. The 22 Welsh Local Authorities are developing their Welsh in Education Strategic Plans for the 2022-2032 period. The Welsh Government’s aim is that 30% of Welsh school children will receive their education through the medium of Welsh and will be assessed through the medium of Welsh by the end of the planning cycle in 2032. An ambitious target, but one within our reach.
For the first time, Local Authorities will be expected to plan for the strengthening and expansion of their Welsh-medium childcare provision. These plans will be important to the Welsh Government’s five-year strategy for helping people to acquire and learn Welsh from their early years and onwards through their lifetime.
One important aspect of this provision is the Flying Start childcare scheme, and as an organisation we are keen to continue working with Local Authorities to increase the availability of Welsh-medium places within this important scheme.
The publication of the 2021 – 2026 work programme notes a target to increase the percentage of 6 – 7 year old pupils being educated through the medium of Welsh to 1 in every 4 children, and to open 60 new additional Welsh-medium nursery groups over the same period. Obviously, this is important to us here in Mudiad Meithrin. This is also important to families, as for many children Welsh-medium care settings such as Cylchoedd Meithrin are the first step on the seamless route into Welsh-medium education.
A number of other services are offered to parents during their children’s early years. Specifically, Cymraeg for Kids and Clwb Cwtsh aim to raise parents’ confidence to use Welsh with their children, and Cylchoedd Ti a Fi offer parents and children a place to meet and talk in Welsh. These activities support the Welsh Government’s national policy on using and transferring Welsh within families, and supporting families and children to use the Welsh language with a focus on transitioning between care and education, the community, and the family itself.
The role of adults must also be considered in realising our national ambition of increasing the number of Welsh speakers and of rooting Welsh more widely in our communities. In order to increase the number of children who are able to take advantage of Welsh-medium care, we must also invest in and increase the number of qualified early years practitioners who also possess the necessary Welsh language skills.
Schemes such as the National Centre for Learning Welsh’s Camau scheme is vital to the development of a workforce which is confident in using Welsh. But the importance of ensuring that those who wish to begin a career in the field have access to training and opportunities to qualify through the medium of Welsh must also be noted.
The Welsh Government acknowledge this, and they will be expanding the training programme for early years practitioners by increasing the apprenticeship opportunities available and also by expanding the Croesi’r Bont scheme, which immerses new practitioners in the Welsh language.
This year Mudiad Meithrin celebrates its fiftieth birthday. Fifty years of supporting and developing Welsh-medium early years care and education.
We look forward to celebrating eighty years in 2051, knowing that we have contributed to the revival of Welsh within communities throughout Wales… and also to the creation of more than a million Welsh speakers.