Cuts to Welsh language education in the Government’s latest budget

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It was announced on 16 December 2019 that all departments are receiving funding increases, with health spending up 4.8%, councils receiving an average of 4.3% more, and an extra 7% going to education, while spending on the economy and transport receives a massive hike of nearly 15%.

 

However, budgets for expenditure on the Welsh language specifically have dropped by almost £400,000, or 1.6%. This is money that goes to such organisations as the Urdd and the Eisteddfod, who promote and celebrate the language. In addition, Ministers intend to cut the budget for the Welsh language in Education by £1.65 million, or a cut of 15% in real terms in 2020.

 

The Government announced its educational funding priorities in its draft proposal:

 

  • £100m was pledged over the 2016-21 term to improve school standards – this coming financial year will see a further £25.5m in 2020-21
  • the rollout of the new curriculum will lead to investment of another £10m
  • a £24m professional learning package from last year will receive a further £15m this coming year
  • another £11m will go towards making infant class sizes smaller
  • it is adding an additional £8m in 2020-21 to support children and young people with Additional Learning Needs
  • an additional £1.3m will go to support minority ethnic and gypsy, roma and traveller learners
  • an extra £14m to further education colleges

 

 

Although the additional funding above is a good result, the real time reduction in the budget for Welsh language is puzzling to Welsh speakers, especially in light of the Government’s aim to produce a million Welsh speakers by 2050.

 

In response, Tamsin Davies from Gymdeithas yr Iaith, a Welsh language campaign group, said: “It appears that the Welsh language is not a priority for this Government, and that is disappointing (…)”.

In October 2019, it was reported that only 12 Welsh speaking teachers qualified, with the National Education Union warning “significant development” was needed to realise the ambition. Therefore, in order to meet its target, Gymdeithas yr Iaith, urges the Government to:

  • set statutory targets for initial teacher training colleges to increase the percentage of people who will teach through the medium of Welsh
  • introduce an intensive programme of targeted in-work training for schools
  • ensure that every sabbatical course aims to have teachers teaching through the medium of Welsh after the course, with a skills certificate as a guarantor

The Government has announced that intensive Welsh language training for teachers and teaching assistants is now being planned to ensure they can deliver the curriculum changes coming in from 2022. It is unclear though, with the radical overhaul in the curriculum, whether staff will have the capacity to learn a language to a teachable standard.

If the Government wants to reach its 2050 goal and reassure the public on its commitment to its national language, it is clear that ongoing significant funding will be needed in the coming years.