Welsh Language Education: Pupils in Wales to be made 'confident Welsh speakers' under new proposals

The Welsh Government is consulting on proposals that will form the basis of a Welsh Language Education Bill Credit: PA

Pupils in Wales will be made to become "confident Welsh speakers" as part of the Welsh Government's plans to create a million Welsh speakers by 2050.

Plans for a new bill have been published by Labour ministers and Plaid Cymru, which would give legal status to the Welsh Government's target of a million Welsh speakers and enhance Welsh language provision in schools.

Critics of the proposals set out in the Welsh Language Education Bill say they don't go far enough and have urged the Welsh Government to move towards transitioning to Welsh-medium education for all pupils.

The proposals come as the Census 2021 figures showed that there was a decline in the number of Welsh speakers in the past decade.

The White Paper has been drawn up by the Welsh Government with input from Plaid Cymru as part of the Co-Operation agreement.

Other proposals in the Paper include increasing the number of Welsh-medium schools and establishing a system to categorise schools according to language-medium to give a "clear, accurate image of Welsh language provision in all maintained schools in Wales".

The Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles said, "We are committed to a future where everyone has the ability and the opportunity to use Welsh in their everyday lives.

"That’s why we are consulting on proposals to put our aims into law and to improve Welsh language skills in all schools. Cymraeg belongs to us all so it’s important that everyone has their say. Please answer the consultation and make your views heard."

Plaid Cymru Designated Member Cefin Campbell said the proposals take Wales further towards ensuring the education system “delivers Welsh to all pupils in a way that creates confident speakers” and one where Welsh medium provision is “normalised” within schools and communities.

Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson on the Welsh language Heledd Fychan MS also welcomed the proposals, saying the current education system was failing “too many of our young people” who were “deprived” of the chance to learn Welsh, and has criticised current Labour government targets.

Critics of the bill have said "there is a danger that the targets will be too low, the aim too vague, and the actions insufficient" Credit: PA Images

Meanwhile, Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for the Welsh Language, Samuel Kurtz MS, said that "parental choice" should be included in the plans.

“The protection and promotion of the Welsh language is a fundamental belief of mine and the Welsh Conservatives, and we support the ambitious target of a million Welsh speakers by 2050," he said.

“However, after some contradictory data on the number of current Welsh speakers following the most recent census, language policy needs to be substantive rather than tweaking on the periphery."

He added: “It’s important that parental choice is included in the Labour-Plaid Cymru plans and that we have enough teachers able to teach their subjects well through the medium of Welsh.”

Campaign group Cymdeithas yr Iaith said the proposals represent an "important step forward" but say it is a "starting point" Credit: Cymdeithas yr Iaith

Meanwhile, language campaigners have published their alternative proposals for a Welsh Language Education for All Act.

It sets out, among other targets, that all children in Wales would receive a Welsh-medium education by 1 September 2050.

Mabli Siriol Jones, Chair of Cymdeithas yr Iaith’s Education Group, said: "The Government is now saying that all children should leave school speaking Welsh, but if they’re serious about that, the only way to achieve the goal is to move towards Welsh-medium education for all."

Campaigners are calling for all schools in Wales to be Welsh medium by the year 2050. Credit: Y Byd ar Bedwar

According to the latest YouGov/ITV opinion poll, most people would oppose making it compulsory for all schools in Wales to be Welsh-medium.

56% of those who responded said they disagreed with the idea. 

Despite this, 58% of respondents said they were supportive of Wales having more Welsh-medium schools in general.Meanwhile, 30% of the public don’t think the Welsh Government is doing enough to promote the Welsh language, while 20% believe that it is doing too much, the opinion poll also revealed.

The Welsh Government is asking for people's views on the proposals through a consultation, which is open until 16 June 2023.