Huw Lewis, Minister for Education and Skills
The publication of the Welsh-medium Education Strategy in 2010 represented a key milestone in the development of Welsh-medium education, and it was widely welcomed and accepted by key stakeholders. The Strategy outlined the Welsh Government’s intent to take a strategic approach to the planning and development of Welsh-medium education. It also included specific aims to improve the teaching and learning of Welsh second language in English-medium schools.
I am pleased to publish the fifth annual report on the Welsh-medium Education Strategy outlining the progress made during 2014-15, which coincides with the publication of the Annual Report on the Welsh Language Strategy. There is no question that the education system has a vitally important role in securing the future of the language. It is the provision of Welsh-medium education that has generated the greatest gains in the number of young people fluent and confident in their Welsh language skills.
As the implementation period for the Strategy reaches an end, I want to look back over the five year period, focusing on the main steps taken to realise the vision of the Welsh Government. Establishing planning processes across all phases of education and training was an integral part of the Strategy. The main development in this regard was to place Welsh in Education Strategic Plans on a statutory basis.
Local authorities and further education colleges are required to submit post-16 provision plans to the Welsh Government, which indicate what provision will be made available through the medium of Welsh or bilingually. The Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol has gone from strength to strength since its establishment in 2011, and works effectively with the universities to increase Welsh-medium provision in a wide range of subjects.
The challenge now is to ensure that all new planning processes are embedded, implemented and realised. There is a need for local authorities, regional consortia, schools, colleges, universities, work-based learning providers and other partners to play their part.
When the Strategy was published, five outcomes and quantitative targets were set as a means of measuring progress. It is disappointing to note that not all targets have been achieved. However, progress has been made against four of them, and the highest number of seven year old children now received Welsh-medium education.
We have commissioned an evaluation of the Strategy, and we hope to publish the final report, which is the culmination of three years of research, in the autumn. We will then proceed to review the Strategy and targets and set-out the direction for the next phase of operation.
The Welsh Government alone cannot realise our vision to see Welsh-medium education continue to grow and implement the change required to improve standards of Welsh-medium and Welsh language provision. We will require the input and expertise from practitioners and leaders in the sector as we put these plans into action. We will also actively move forward to transform the way in which the Welsh language is taught in English-medium schools in order to provide the best opportunity for all children in Wales to acquire the language. This will contribute to the realisation of our vision in the Welsh Language Strategy, A living language: a language for living to see the Welsh language thrive.
We are embarking on a very exciting time for education in Wales, and the Welsh language is an integral part of the changes to be made to the education system.