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Written Statement - Welsh-medium Education Strategy: Next Steps

Rt Hon Carwyn Jones AM, First Minister of Wales and Huw Lewis AM, Minister for Education and Skills

Today, the final evaluation report of the Welsh-medium Education Strategy is being published. The aim of the evaluation was to measure the effectiveness and influence of the Strategy, and to assess the extent to which it has achieved its expected aims, objectives and outcomes. The report includes 21 recommendations for the Welsh Government and its stakeholders. The Welsh Government welcomes the report and will give full consideration to the recommendations as we continue to develop our policies. The full report can be seen here: http://gov.wales/statistics-and-research/welsh-medium-education-strategy/?lang=en

We are pleased to note that, on the basis of the evidence collected, the report concludes that there is support for the vision and aims of the Strategy amongst stakeholders and practitioners at a national and local level. The report also concludes that the Strategy has led to some positive outcomes and has provided a framework for a more focussed, strategic approach to planning Welsh-medium provision. It has also, through some of the programmes implemented in its name, brought benefits to targeted groups.

However, there are challenges that we need to address. Although steps have been taken to strengthen planning processes, there is a need to ensure that these processes are embedded; there is also a need to improve the way that we plan the workforce to ensure that we have a sufficient number of practitioners with high-level Welsh-language skills; and we need to ensure that our learners recognise that the Welsh language extends beyond the classroom into the community and the workplace and that we support them to use the language in all contexts. We are, therefore, pleased to announce that the Welsh language charter, developed by Gwynedd Council, will be extended to all Welsh-medium primary schools to provide a clear framework to promote and increase the use of Welsh by children and young people in social contexts.

Welsh Government has previously acknowledged that it is disappointing that we have not met all the 2015 targets in the Strategy. It is pleasing to note that progress has been made, and the highest ever number of seven year old children now receive Welsh-medium education. However, it is important to remember that different models of provision exist in Wales, and meeting “national” targets is dependent on performance by local authorities and providers.

It is also important to bear in mind that the Strategy sits alongside the Welsh Government’s Welsh Language Strategy (A living language; a language for living, 2012). There is a clear interdependence between the two as the education and skills sector has an important contribution to make to supporting the wider aim of seeing the Welsh language thrive and increasing Welsh language acquisition and use.

The Welsh Government is fully committed to the continued development of Welsh-medium education. Therefore, to coincide with the publication of the evaluation report, today, we are outlining the priorities for the development of Welsh-medium and Welsh language education for the next 12 months. During this period, the Welsh Government will work with its stakeholders, giving full consideration to the recommendations of the evaluation and other reports, to set out the long-term direction for Welsh-medium and Welsh language education as part of the development of the Welsh language strategy.