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Exclusive poll: 64% oppose compulsory Welsh to age 16

The majority of our pupils learn Welsh as a second language. Photo: ITV News

An exclusive poll for ITV News has found that nearly two-thirds of people oppose the current situation where it is compulsory for schoolchildren to learn Welsh second language up until the age of 16.

Around a third of those who responded to the poll, conducted by YouGov, said it should not be compulsory for pupils in English-medium schools in Wales to learn Welsh at all.

Question: Until when, if at all, do you think it should be compulsory for children in English-speaking schools in Wales to learn Welsh?

  • Not compulsory at all - 33%
  • Until the end of primary school (age 11) - 16%
  • Until the end of Key Stage 3 (age 14) - 15%
  • Until the end of GCSEs (age 16) - 18%
  • Until the end of A-levels (age 18) - 9%
  • Don't know - 9%

Source: YouGov / ITV Wales / Cardiff University | 24-26 June | Sample: 1151

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There has been growing demand for Welsh medium schooling in recent years, in both heartland areas and around cities like Cardiff and Newport.

A majority of pupils in Wales, though, still attend English-medium schools, learning Welsh as a second language.

It has been compulsory to do so up to the end of Key Stage 4 (age 16) since September 1999. Many pupils do take a Welsh second language GCSE at the end of that period, although that is not mandatory.

The Welsh Government and Welsh Language Commissioner have acknowledged poor standards in Welsh second language 'must change.'

A recent review of the curriculum, accepted in full by the Education Minister last week, recommended a major overhaul in many areas, but, with regard to Welsh second language, concluded simply: "This report is not the place to rehearse the cultural arguments for preserving the Welsh language but the Review is happy to accept both the case for, and the national commitment to, that case and to recommend that the Welsh language be retained as a compulsory part of the school curriculum 3–16."

The standards of Welsh second language teaching have been criticised.

In response to our new poll, the Welsh Government said it also believes Welsh second language should remain compulsory to 16, but with more focus on communication skills.

In his recent curriculum review, Professor Donaldson stated that the teaching of Welsh as a second language should remain compulsory until the end of Key Stage 4 (age 16) and the Welsh Government very much shares this view.

However, going forward, there will be renewed focus on communication skills, with more emphasis on learners being able to speak and use the language in social and workplace contexts. We remain committed to seeing the Welsh language thrive in Wales and having an education system that enables all pupils to acquire both languages.

– Welsh Government spokesperson

Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg, the Welsh Language Society, have pointed to a poll conducted last year, which found 56 per cent of people wanted all pupils to leave school, able to communicate effectively in Welsh.

A poll was conducted by YouGov in November last year, which also showed that the majority of people in Wales want their children to leave school fluent in Welsh.

The issue is around the whole idea of second language teaching. It is a process that has failed and no amount of tinkering around the edges is going to fix that.

What we need to start seeing is all schools in Wales providing some amount of subject-specific teaching through the medium of Welsh.

– Jamie Bevan, Chairman of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg