Children in Wales are making progress in developing their Welsh Language skills

A report out today says that at Foundation stage the children in Wales are acquiring Welsh language skills but the focus now needs to be on improving reading and writing skills.

The report says that

 In the best schools, teachers are highly skilled, passionate and plan fun and stimulating activities that engage and excite the children, but in a minority of schools and settings staff are not devoting enough direct teaching time to developing the Welsh language and there are gaps in practitioners’ knowledge and skills that are inhibiting the children’s learning and development.

This is a difficult one if the teacher’s do not speak Welsh fluently then the school will be unable to move further forward without either employing more natural Welsh speakers or up skilling the teachers level of Welsh knowledge. This leads me to wonder about EAL teaching how often do we as teachers/inspectors/observers assume the support assistant has the skill set but they also need up skilling not only in English but in their home language as well? ….  Just as valid is the next question that follows should we ensure we are up skilling these practitioners to support our children to get the best education?     Just an observation open for your ideas and comments.

For the full report see http://www.estyn.gov.uk/english/news/news/children-in-wales-are-making-progress-in-developing-their-welsh-language-skills-in-the-foundation-phase/ or the whole piece below.

Children in Wales are making progress in acquiring Welsh language skills, but more needs to be done to continue the upward trend in their reading and writing skills, according to Estyn, the education and training inspectorate for Wales.
In a report published today, Welsh Language Development in the Foundation Phase, the inspectorate found that in the majority of English-medium schools most children are making good progress in speaking and listening to Welsh in the Foundation Phase, but their reading and writing skills are less well developed.
Ann Keane, the inspectorate’s Chief Inspector said,

“Welsh Language is one of the seven Areas of Learning in the Foundation Phase Framework for Children’s Learning.
During the last two years, we have seen progress being made in Welsh Language Development in the majority of schools and settings. Children are enjoying learning the language of Wales in innovative and fun ways.
In the best schools, teachers are highly skilled, passionate and plan fun and stimulating activities that engage and excite the children, but in a minority of schools and settings staff are not devoting enough direct teaching time to developing the Welsh language and there are gaps in practitioners’ knowledge and skills that are inhibiting the children’s learning and development.”

The inspectorate also found that children’s progress in Welsh Language Development is a concern in over a third of English-medium non-maintained settings. In these settings, children lack confidence in using Welsh outside short whole-group sessions such as registration periods or singing sessions and they do not use the Welsh language in their play or learning without prompts from adults.
Ann Keane continues,

“Schools and settings need to review, evaluate and plan engaging and effective ways for children to speak, read and write Welsh across all areas of learning.
In the best schools, teachers use real life experiences for children to use their Welsh language skills such as making shopping lists or writing party invitations. In these instances, children are highly engaged and are making good progress in writing Welsh.”

The inspectorate outlines a number of recommendations for schools and settings, local authorities and the Welsh Government, to address the issues highlighted within the report.
For example, schools and settings should evaluate planning to make sure that there are enough opportunities for children to use the Welsh language in other areas of learning and outdoor activities and monitor and evaluate how well children are doing in developing their Welsh language skills. In addition, local authorities need to be providing better access to Welsh Language support and training for practitioners as well as sharing good practice.
Ann Keane concludes,

“Every child in Wales has the right to access the best quality Welsh Language education. This report provides a number of best practice case studies illustrating how schools have successfully developed children’s skills in Welsh. I would encourage all practitioners to read this report and use the case studies to assess their own practice and develop new ways of improving the provision of Welsh Language Development.”

LLantarnam School in Special measures – Why?

I read with interest and dismay about Llantarnam School being in special measures and wonder where did it all go wrong? Surely the educational choices of management over the years have led to this insecurity of both pupils and staff. This did not just happen overnight and those in authority must have been aware of the failings, just looking at recent data should have sent alarm bells ringing.  Where were the Local Authority advisers? Where was the support of the teachers, head and governors in the previous years to stop this slide from happening?

Perhaps I write with rose-coloured glasses but as a product of Llantarnam school and its then wonderful teachers I am disappointed by the educationists within the system as they let this happen. It has always been in the Croesy is a much better school – left over from the old grammar system – battle despite being the first comprehensive. This immediately makes the learners and I suspect teachers feel it they are second best – yet they can shine as I know.

Recently I applied to help and support the Welsh assembly via their system leaders but lost out in the first stages so at that point immediately wondered what they were looking for. I might not be the best candidate but I can offer having being asked twice to help to successfully turn around a school in special measures with not dissimilar problems to Llantarnam.  In the past I helped other school out of difficulties and departments improve practice all successfully and with praise from LA and HMI. Currently I work part-time with my husband and his translation company but have kept helping schools with good practice on my free days as well as directing, organising and developing the Primary Language Awards of which I ensured Welsh was an inclusion and its own category. NB Entries are currently open for schools to enter and each category winner receives £500 of langauge resources. www.languageawards.com

Yet having such experiences meant I didn’t even get an interview, maybe they feel my other work is a conflict of interest but it my mind it clearly isn’t, for me its a daily reminder of the difficulties learners have in school with literacy and my first experiences as a teacher. How many other educationalist have first hand experience of successfully turning around schools and still want to achieve it for others… I suspect not many.  I made the decision years ago not to become a head but preferring instead to offer support to those school labelled as unsatisfactory.  The reason being that either OFSTED or ESTYN quite rightly made their judgements but no one then wanted to help.  LA staff whose job it should have been just pulled away and began pointing the finger whilst school staff and pupils were left demoralised like ‘billy no mates’.

When at Llantarnam I was inspired by my teachers from my form tutor Mr Harrison who also played cricket, and Terry Cobner who played a bit of rugby  through to my history teacher who became a pastoral leader later in her career, geography teacher who later became a head. I was even blessed with one term of Ken Jones teaching me and the class poetry…I dont think many of my class liked poetry but he said he liked my poems and writing so hopefully he will be looking down on thsi and smiling and saying as he did then …if you think it write it… and I remember it fondly. I was the first to get a GOLD Duke of Edinburgh award and although at the time in sixth form not knowing what I wanted to achieve I was allowed to do woodwork and Mr Jarvis my 5th form form tutor tested me on wiring a plug, changing a  washer and similar things.  I was only ever nurtured on the unconventional things I liked like the discus in PE and not liking food technology.

It will be no surprise then that in later life after getting annoyed because the boys wouldn’t let me saw the piece of wood they always wanted to help…love them, my dad always let me use wood but watched like a hawk and if I wanted to use metal not understanding my interest in welding but my grandfather letting me play in the shed I trained to become one of the first design technology teachers wood, metal, plastic, control and textiles. Not an easy feat as even in teacher training at Croesy, Bettws and Llantarnam I kept getting offers to do food technology whilst I was confident to do what felt right education wise, I was never a great speaker and this is still something that everyday I struggle with and didn’t get my NQT job at Llantarnam because I got very tongue-tied.  It takes a while for people to get used to me but through a mix of my mentoring and my willingness and ability to achieve especially where there is a struggle involved and the willingness to show practically what the theory means in the classroom means that over time I have become respected within my field of support.

I wish the new person overseeing it from Croydon well and will read with interest the developments in the next months. I only hope that they do not underestimate the desperation of staff not sure they are doing a good job and the risk of them leaving, parents taking children out to another school leading to a more falling role means that it is a task that will take years rather than months to improve. What it needs is a clear vision, a charged up and interested staff that can get help without feeling they are inadequate and positive experiences by the pupils which will feed interest and success vibes into the parents and community.

And finally to the Welsh Government, Torfaen LA and the schools governors before you start being negative about all the practice remember:

  • there are some really good ones that need pulling through and building on
  • each child every day is their first it cannot be regained further down the line they must get the best education that the teacher can give that day
  •  From a management point of view ‘no one gets up to do a bad job, but circumstances and policies in the day to day running lead to the best not always being achieved’.
  • If you look out to find the worst and always talk about that and not balance it with the successes it will always be a failing school for all within it.

see the full report here http://www.torfaen.gov.uk/en/News/2012/November/21-Council-response-to-Llantarnam-Estyn-inspection.aspx

How does the bilingual brain store and process two languages? Is it the same or different from how it stores and processes one?

What a lovely start to the week a story that takes me back to my roots.  Weekly readers will know that my interest in bilingualism came when I left Wales due to employment and it was strange that everything was only in 1 langauge in England as well as there were no rugby posts in the fields. Added to the fact that my child was treated as monolingual despite coming directly from a Welsh Medium school and received no support yet if children came into her classroom from abroad there was more than ample provision.

So as you can imagine this story really caught my eye and is interesting as it explores bilingualism a little more to help us all understand the process better.

Recent studies conducted both internationally and here in Wales are showing  that having two languages can impact on the child’s language development,  general abilities, and health and wellbeing in ways that are unique to the  bilingual learner.

In terms of language abilities, some of our most recent research is looking  at the effects of language structure on children’s literacy and self-esteem,  with special focus on those who are learning Welsh and English.

Other studies have looked at young German-Welsh bilinguals’ emergent  grammars, looking for examples of German influence in their Welsh, and Welsh  influence in their German.

Mapping Welsh-English bilinguals’ development of vocabulary, reading and  grammar in Welsh and in English has allowed for a better understanding of the  impact of learning a second language on children’s development of their first  language.

Our results show that learning through the medium of Irish or Welsh at school  has no detrimental effects on children’s development of English.

In fact, the act of switching between two languages and of inhibiting the use  of one language whilst using the other provides the bilingual brain with a  certain level of flexibility that the monolingual brain has to work for in other  ways.

This has led bilinguals to demonstrate superior abilities on general  cognitive tasks that require certain types of processing – an advantage that  translates well into the classroom.

Our studies here in Wales are beginning to show some interesting patterns  that contribute to these findings.

Whether this advantage is present across the life-span for all Welsh-English  bilinguals is yet to be discovered, but should it lead to the delayed onset of  dementia, as demonstrated previously for bilinguals in Canada, the  identification of how, when and where this advantage is present is all the more  worthwhile.

Enlli Thomas is a senior lecturer in Bangor University. Her research looks at  language development and bilingualism in school children in Wales. She can be  contacted at enlli.thomas@bangor.ac.uk

Read more: Wales Online http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/health-news/2012/11/26/speaking-up-for-the-many-benefits-of-being-bilingual-91466-32304491/#ixzz2DJupoGQX

Keep up the research Enlli the more we understand the easier it is to help our students fit into this multilingual world.

The ability to speak Welsh is not a burden. On the contrary, it is an expressway to cognitive development.

Recently a local Welsh paper shared  story that suggests Welsh speakers are reducing in Wales, but this local person shares statistics that Welsh-speaking is increasing and

that being bilingual is not a burden…It’s a doorway to a multilingual world where the advantage of early bilingualism can be translated into skills in a multitude of languages, placing the Welsh workforce at a great advantage in comparison to our monoglot friends.

Do you agree?

http://www.thisissouthwales.co.uk/Bilingualism-opens-doors/story-17194411-detail/story.html

Welsh and English become official languages of Assembly as AMs pass historic Bill

Welsh will become officially bilingual with Welsh and English being equal.

Eileen Beasley would have been very pleased I think.

3 October 2012

The National Assembly for Wales has passed the Official Languages (Wales) Bill into law.

In recognising Welsh and English as the official languages once it receives Royal Assent, the Bill will place a statutory duty on the National Assembly for Wales and the Assembly Commission to treat both languages on the basis of equality.

“This is an historic day in the history of devolution and of Wales,” said the Presiding Officer, Rosemary Butler AM.

“Both Welsh and English will now be considered official languages in Assembly proceedings. The Bill places a statutory duty to put them both on an equal footing in the delivery of the services the Commission provides to the Assembly and the public.

“We are committed to delivering exemplar bilingual services. This Bill outlines the principles that will underpin the Commission’s approach to deliver even better bilingual services. Our commitment to the Welsh language can no longer be questioned.

The Commissioner with responsibility for the Welsh Language and the passage of the Bill, Rhodri Glyn Thomas AM said:

“The Bill sets an example for organisations working across Wales within both the public and private sectors about how to approach bilingualism.

“As the Member in charge of the Bill, and on behalf of the Commission, I would like to thank Assembly Members and the public for working together with us on its development. We have listened, and are confident that this legislation makes our responsibilities and our commitment clear for all to see.”

The Bill places a duty on the Assembly Commission to draw up a Welsh Language Scheme to ensure the equal status of both languages.

The scheme:

  1. ·states clearly that Welsh and English are the official languages of the Assembly and should be treated equally;
  2. ·outlines the practical arrangements to enable the Assembly to operate bilingually;
  3. ·guarantees the right of anyone who takes part in Assembly proceedings (witnesses and officials as well as Members) to do so in either of the Assembly’s official languages;
  4. ·outlines how the Assembly will provide bilingual services to the public;
  5. ·outlines how the Assembly’s corporate arrangements enable and support its ambitions to deliver bilingual services; and
  6. ·explains the Assembly’s procedure for dealing with complaints of non-compliance with the scheme, whether made by Members or by the public.

“Our Scheme will demonstrate an innovative and pragmatic approach to the development of bilingual services and build on the high quality exemplar services we currently provide,” Mr Glyn Thomas added.

8 Year campaign led to legal proceedings and bailiffs removal of wedding presents until the council relented.

Sometimes I think it is important to remember what went before.  In Wales bilingualism and letters etc available in both languages in now commonplace but it wasnt that long ago that it wasnt the case as can be seen by this blog.

The blog recounts the steps Eileen Beasley and her husband went to ensure that they received letters in Welsh their first language.

http://www.clickonwales.org/2012/10/the-rosa-parks-of-the-welsh-language-movement/

The Rosa Parks of the Welsh language movement

The Rosa Parks of the language movement in Wales was a polite but steel-willed housewife who, with her husband, refused to pay rates on their house in Llangennech, Carmarthenshire, while Llanelli Rural District Council issued demands in English only.

In this Eileen and Trefor Beasley had, at first, the support of nobody but themselves. They reasoned that as they lived their lives through the Welsh language, and their village was Welsh-speaking, as were the majority of Council members, it was reasonable that they should be able to use the language in their dealings with officialdom.

But the Council, like most others in Wales in the 1950s, had never thought of providing services in Welsh. They flatly refused to comply with the Beasleys’ request, continuing to communicate with them in English only. In this they greatly underestimated the couple’s strong wills.

Bailiffs began calling at their home and removing household goods such as chairs and tables, and then the family’s piano, the carpets, the bookcases and even food from the larder, distraining goods to the value of the rates that remained unpaid.

Having bailiffs in the house was, for the law-abiding Beasleys, a distressing experience, especially as they would arrive without warning and, without consultation, take items of furniture that had been wedding presents.

Legal proceedings for the non-payment of rates were taken against the Beasleys on twelve occasions but still they would not accept demands in English. They could hardly afford to pay the fines, especially as they lived on a coal-miner’s wage and had two small children, and they stoutly refused to do so as a matter of principle.

The campaign that had begun in 1952 came to an end in 1960 when the Council grudgingly issued a Welsh form and the Beasleys promptly paid their rates. In 1958 Eileen was elected as a Plaid Cymru member of the same District Council, where she continued to press for a degree of official status for the language.

In 1962 their determination proved a stimulus to the activities of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (the Welsh Language Society), especially as Saunders Lewis, in his famous radio broadcast of that year, Tynged yr Iaith (The Fate of the Language), singled out the Beasleys for praise and urged supporters to emulate their civil disobedience.

His aim was to persuade Plaid Cymru to adopt ‘direct action’ techniques which would win for Welsh the legal status it had enjoyed before the loss of political independence, a condition he considered essential if the language was to be saved from extinction. But Plaid Cymru felt unable to contemplate unconstitutional methods, preferring to use electoral methods only. Lewis’s other aim was to make the governance of Wales impossible while the authorities, both local and central, refused to employ Welsh for public purposes.

The challenge was taken up instead by the Cymdeithas which, over the last half-century, has played a leading role in the achievement of many important goals in such areas as broadcasting, education, the law, and local government, while Plaid Cymru has been left free to concentrate on its political agenda. Today the language is much more visible and used in an ever-increasing variety of contexts.

The Beasleys’ stand inspired a generation of young Welsh nationalists to challenge the law, for which many were fined and some imprisoned, and they remained heroes of the movement ever after. Trefor spent a week in prison for refusing to acknowledge an English-only fine for the non-payment of road-tax.

Like her husband, who was the very type of a cultured miner, widely read, politically aware and radically inclined, Eileen was highly literate; she published a selection of her short stories as Yr Eithin Pigog (The prickly gorse) in 1997.

At this year’s National Eisteddfod in the Vale of Glamorgan there was an empty stall, representing the Beasleys’ living-room stripped of its furniture, which was meant to be a tribute to the courage and dignity of a couple who were well-liked and generally admired. It was a poignant reminder of what sometimes has to be done to persuade officialdom on a point of principle whenever it is a question of the public use of the Welsh language.

Welsh for beginners – 1

Learning Welsh can be easy and fun so I thought I would have a  go.

There is infact two different dialogues in Wales the North and South have slight variations of similar words.

Lets start with just being able to say Hello.  It may seem simple but there are quite a few different phrases you can use for the same thing.

Helo    –   best used when talking to friends

Bore Da    – to say good morning

prynhawn da   – to say good afternoon

Noswaith dda    – to say good evening

Nos Da    – to say good night

Have a go.

Two colleges in Wales celebrate Bilingualism

Two colleges in Wales celebrate Bilingualism.

http://www.coleg-powys.ac.uk/2012/09/celebrating-bilingualism-in-wales/

Coleg Powys staff and students wore red as part of two special days to celebrate Welsh language and culture.

On Friday 7th September in Brecon and Monday 10th September in Newtown, the College held its Diwrnodau Dathlu Cymru (Celebrating Wales Days) to raise awareness of the opportunities and career benefits of bilingual skills in Wales.

Both college sites were decorated with Welsh flags and bunting and a variety of Welsh music was played in communal areas. The students heard from a number of motivational speakers, who shared their experiences of using Welsh and bilingual skills to further their own careers.

In Brecon the inspirational guest speakers were:

  • Robin Gwyn, the College’s recently appointed Director of Bilingualism.
  • Afryl Davies, joint founder/owner of Cardiff-based communications and media production company, Goriad Cyf. http://www.goriad.com/
  • Sian Roberts, broadcaster, voiceover artist and Welsh food & hospitality consultant. http://coginio.com/
  • Geraint Williams, Managing Director of Llanelli based legal consultancy, Lexium. http://www.lexium.co.uk/

In Newtown the students learned valuable lessons from:

Menter MaldwynColeg Powys would like to thank all the speakers and Menter Maldwyn (http://www.mentermaldwyn.org) for their help in organising the Newtown day.

As well as the celebrations and speakers, students also spent time doing their own research on the Welsh language and culture and undertook some assessments on their own linguistic abilities.

Robin Gwyn, Director of Bilingualism, said:

“Over recent years, Welsh-medium education has increased at all levels across Wales from primary school level upwards. There has, however, been a significant number of Welsh-medium educated young people who choose to stop studying through the medium of Welsh when they reach a new key stage of learning.  One of the stages where this drop off occurs is in the transition from secondary school to further education (FE) college.

“As a result, Coleg Powys is committed to expanding the opportunities available to FE students in mid Wales by helping the Welsh Government provide ‘cradle to grave’ progression in Welsh medium education to increase the supply and demand for bilingual workers and services in the public, private and third sectors.

“It’s an integral part of our overall aim to achieve excellence in all we do in terms of helping young people and lifelong learners in Powys to fulfil their potential through innovative learning.”

New Zealand and Wales share a proud history of indigenous language revival and bilingual education.

 

It will be a wonderful experience for the New Zealand Teachers to come to Wales this autumn and experience the similarities and differences that education offers on both sides of the world.  As I have previously said the world is getting smaller and language is the one thing that allows us to communicate whether with a different accent or by using different words for the same item, maybe the recent TED talk I blogged is a closer reality than we all think!

http://www.voxy.co.nz/national/young-leaders-travel-wales-link-bilingual-teachers/5/133150

New Zealand and Wales both share a proud history of indigenous language revival and bilingual education.

So Wales is the appropriate destination for this year’s recipients of the Linking Minds Scholarship, a prestigious international award for emerging education leaders.

Four of these emerging leaders will travel to Wales for two weeks in the October school break, to link up with teachers and principals in language immersion schools.

“Linking Minds creates great opportunities for our future education leaders to develop their leadership potential and reflect on their teaching practice with their international peers,” said Rebecca Elvy, Group Manager Education Workforce at the Ministry of Education.

“They will have a tremendous opportunity to look at parallels between the New Zealand and Welsh education systems and to learn more about language immersion in Welsh schools,” she said.

British Council Country Director Ingrid Leary added:‘’NZ and Wales share a unique interest in bilingual education and the scholarship provides promising teachers with a special interest in Te Reo to learn from the Welsh experience – and vice versa.’’

Following their time in Wales the Kiwi teachers will be involved in an extensive leadership development programme, including individual and group coaching, mentoring and support, along with webinars and “hot seat” sessions facilitated by specialist educational leaders to build on their international experience.

“We’re very proud of these four young New Zealanders, and congratulate them on winning this prestigious national award. We’re delighted to award these scholarships to teachers with such tremendous potential to help further their development as future leaders,” said Rebecca Elvy.

Studying through the medium of Welsh will mean students will have mastered important transferable skills in both languages which are beneficial in an increasingly competitive employment market.

Businesses are increasingly beginning to see the benefit of bilingual education for their future employers, hence the importance of the ability to study bilingually at the University of Glamorgan.

http://www.caerphillyobserver.co.uk/news/681861/welsh-medium-provision-at-glamorgan-business-school/

Business students at the University of Glamorgan’s Business School will able to study bilingually for the first time this year.

From September, students will have the opportunity to study some modules through the medium of Welsh.

Glamorgan Business School has a dedicated Welsh-medium lecturer who is tasked with developing this provision in South East Wales.

The post, held by Heledd Bebb, is one of the first lecturing posts funded by the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol to raise demand and develop Welsh medium provision.

Further Welsh medium provision will be developed at Glamorgan over the next few years and by 2014, a third of the business course each year will be available through the medium of Welsh.

Students studying two modules a year in business through the medium of Welsh are eligible for the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol’s incentive scholarships – worth £1,500 over three years.

Ms Bebb said: “Studying business through the medium of Welsh brings a whole host of benefits to the student. In both the private and public sector in Wales, demand for Welsh-medium skills in areas such as marketing, human resources and management is increasing.

“The recent Welsh Language Measure, passed in 2012,  by the Welsh Government, will only increase the need for businesses to provide services through the medium of Welsh. Studying part of their course through the medium of Welsh will mean that students will have mastered important transferable skills in both languages which could prove beneficial in an increasingly competitive employment market.”