I’ve previously mentioned the “quiet, distinctly Welsh revolution” that’s happening in the Vale of Glamorgan. The Welsh Government’s Welsh Medium Education Strategy Annual Report puts some statistical meat on the rhetorical bones of that post. The proportion of children being educated through the medium of Welsh in the Vale rose from 10.9% in 2001 to 13.7% in 2011. That sounds like progress to me. But how does the Vale compare to other authorities in Wales?
I’ve done a quick and dirty statistical analysis of my own here, using the recent Welsh Language Commissioner’s detailed figures on language competence. I’ll obviously need to update this analysis when the stats on bilingual people come through from the 2011 census.
A few figures stand out immediately. Firstly, only four authorities registered a decrease in the proportion of children being educated through the medium of Welsh over the decade: Anglesey, Flintshire, Ceredigion and Neath Port Talbot make the walk of shame. The Vale of Glamorgan’s figure of an increase in 2.8 percentage points puts us in 12th place in the league table, so just under half way. “Not bad, but could do much better” might be the report card. The Cabinet Member for education should be shooting off to stellar performers Caerphilly and Cardiff to pick their brains. Mind you, Conwy, Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and Denbighshire have all recorded increases of more than 4 percentage points, so the ways to success are clearly an open secret.
But there’s another way of looking at these stats. In order to appreciate how well a local authority is meeting possible demand I’ve done another calculation. Now there are all sorts of caveats with this one. For a start, I’m using 2011 figures for children educated in Welsh and 2001 figures for bilingualism, which is another reason that I’ll need to re-calculate in a few months’ time. I’m also making the unreasonably optimistic assumption that all parents who are bilingual would wish their children to receive the benefit of bilingual education. And I’m assuming that the bilingual proportion among parents is the same as the average in the population as a whole – in some authorities the bilinguals might be overly represented in older age groups. But grandparents along with society at large can have a powerful influence on family values. The upshot is that I’m taking any excess in Welsh language education above the incidence in the public to represent extra demand from non-bilingual parents.
First things first, the Vale of Glamorgan is doing better here than on the proportionate increase in Welsh medium education – with a 2.4 percentage increment over bilinguals, we’re in 9th place. But look at our next door neighbours in Rhondda Cynon Taf – 8.3 percent more pupils receiving Welsh medium education than bilinguals in the population! Councillor Egan might look to invest in a Valleys Senior Railcard. Meanwhile, runts of the litter Flintshire, Newport, Blaenau Gwent and Monmouthshire all provide 5 per cent fewer (or worse) Welsh medium places than bilinguals in the population. Go figure.
Is there a political angle to all this? That’ll need another calculation – but this is where the process falls down. I’ve aggregated the relative placing of the local authorities on the two scores (proportion increase and demand responsiveness), and I was going to examine the political leadership of the authorities from 1994 to 2004 (because the figures for Welsh medium education relate to 7-year olds). But it’s not easy to find the composition of Cabinets in Welsh local authorities pre-Wikipedia. If anyone has a link to the information I’d be very grateful. In the meantime, and just for the record, here’s the relative ranking of performance on my two indicators (the number in brackets is the average ranking on both counts):
- Caerphilly (3)
- Cardiff (4.5)
- Carmarthenshire (6.5)
- Rhondda Cynon Taf/Torfaen (7)
- Gwynedd/Pembrokeshire (8)
- Merthyr Tydfil (8.5)
- Denbighshire (9.5)
- Conwy/Swansea (10)
- Vale of Glamorgan (10.5)
- Anglesey/Ceredigion (12)
- Monmouthshire (15)
- Powys/Bridgend (15.5)
- Wrexham (16)
- Neath Port Talbot/Newport (17.5)
- Blaenau Gwent (19)
- Flintshire (20.5)