Category Archives: Education

The Price of Dependence

We already know the cost of dependence. Or at least, we don’t know the exact cost, but we do know that our dependence on the UK state costs us untold billions.

Every which way, the people of Wales are getting shafted.

But what price do we pay for our dependence?

Something of that nature was revealed by Andy Burnham a few weeks ago:

I conducted the last spending review of the last Labour government and I looked in detail at the Barnett formula, and concluded that it wasn’t fair to Wales and there would need to be changes to it to ensure a much fairer funding settlement… I believe Wales has been short-changed.

As Cai Larsen points out, this means that the Labour Party has known since 2007 that Wales is underfunded. Of course, it’s an open secret that everyone has known for donkeys’ years that Wales has been underfunded. But here’s the first open acknowledgement by a serving Minister, and one in the Treasury at that, that his party has known.

And the Labour Party, during its tenure of the UK Government after 2007, did precisely nothing to secure fair funding for Wales. So that’s at least £300 million per year (some say £540 million) every year since 2007 that the people of Wales have paid the rest of the UK, via the Labour Party, for our pathetic obedience to our Labour masters.

But of course, if Andy Burnham knew about it in 2007, then there’s no way his successors in the Treasury could have been ignorant of our underfunding. So the Lib Dems and Conservatives, from 2010 to 2015, and the Conservatives going solo since May, have been totally complicit in this asset-stripping of Wales.

The price we pay for praying at the altar of unionism is likely to be somewhere in the region of £400 million per year. This is when we start to realise that we’re not just having a fun political kickabout. We’re talking about people’s lives.

£400 million a year goes a very long way. Over the last 8 years, that would have meant a cash injection of £3.2 billion into Welsh public services. So let’s not pull our punches. People have died in Wales because Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem politicians have conspired to funnel money rightfully destined for Wales’ NHS elsewhere. The life chances of our children are directly damaged because our education system is underfunded as a result of Unionist largesse on the establishment. Our arts and cultural services that bring joy and delight to our lives are being pared to the bone because Unionists consider Wales to be a political irrelevance.

So the next time someone like Baroness Jenny Randerson busily tries to convince the people of Wales that we’re doing just fine and dandy, thanks to Barnett, notch it up as another Unionist lie.

And commit to never vote for a Unionist party again.

Gadael sylw

Filed under Conservatives, Democracy, Education, Elections, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, Westminster

Penarth Education Crisis

I don’t use words like ‘crisis’ lightly. Just once before, actually, and that time a direct quote from the Guardian. But thanks to CG for sending me some information from the Vale of Glamorgan education department, I think it’s time to use the word in its full glory.

Because the statistics that have landed on my desk are absolutely shocking.

They reveal the reception class intake for every Welsh medium primary school in the Vale, and the council has a big problem on its hands. As from the start of this school year (September 2013) there is not one spare space in any Welsh language reception class in the Vale with the sole exception of Ysgol Dewi Sant, Llantwit Major (itself a new school opened just three years ago).

What this means for Penarth parents interested in Welsh-medium education for their offspring is a battle for places in Pen-y-Garth. And if you fail to get a place? No problem. The Vale will presumably bus your 4-year-old child off to Llantwit Major and back.

I don’t know many parents who would consider it acceptable to send a very young child on a 1 hour 8 minute round trip to attend school. So what on earth has the Vale council been doing over the last few years to precipitate this disastrous state of affairs?

Ysgol Pen-y-Garth was extended to a 2-form entry in 2011 as a result of a report in 2009 that stated that failing to provide additional capacity:

is not considered an option as there is a continuing increase in parents choosing welsh medium education. From September 2010 the current number of reception class places in Ysgol Pen y Garth is insufficient for the numbers requiring places. The council will therefore be in breach of its obligations under the Schools Standards and Framework Act 1998.

It’s important to note that the 2009 report also stated:

the increase in demand for welsh medium education [in Penarth] is predicted to continue into the long term.

Reception class numbers have surged from 29 in 2006 to 60 in 2013. Given that there were 59 in 2012, presumably the reason numbers haven’t increased beyond 60 is because that’s the school’s maximum capacity. The rate of increase between 2006 and 2012 was 30 new reception class pupils over 6 years, or an increase of 5 per year on average. So it wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume that there are already 4 children in Penarth failing to enjoy the lifelong benefit of bilingual education as a result of the Vale’s failure to plan for long-term Welsh-medium growth. Each further year of delay adds another 5.

Is the council in breach of its obligations under the School Standards and Framework Act 1998? I think so. Section 1 of the legislation imposes a maximum infants class (reception) size of 30 pupils. Section 2 requires every local education authority to:

prepare a statement setting out the arrangements which the authority propose to make for the purpose of securing that any limit imposed under section 1 is complied with in relation to infant classes at schools maintained by the authority.

And what is the Vale doing to rectify the situation? Let’s not forget that in 2009 the council recognised that increased demand for bilingual education would continue “into the long term”. Very late in the day, the education department has decided to undertake a survey of parents with children under 2 years of age to assess demand.

I’d be very surprised if demand wasn’t way above 60 pupils per year. That’s not only because study after study has demonstrated that bilinguals have better educational and social outcomes and therefore improved job prospects (and a 10% salary premium to boot). It’s not just because being bilingual provides extra fortitude against mental deterioration in older age. It’s also because the overwhelming proportion of people in Penarth recognise that only a bilingual education provides our children with a full appreciation of the culture and languages of our wonderful country.

The Vale might try to hide behind the figures on surplus places that show that of the primary sector in Penarth, Ysgol Pen-y-Garth has the highest proportion of surplus places. That would be very disingenuous, given that the school has only just expanded to a 2-form entry. Perhaps more interesting is to tot up the total number of surplus places in the English-medium sector (190) and suggest that an English-medium school should be closed to make way for the latent demand for bilinguals. Just prepare for highly-charged comments from those with an interest in the status quo.

I’m sure Councillor Chris Elmore will not unfairly blame his predecessor Anthony Hampton for taking his eye off the situation in Penarth and allowing things to deteriorate so badly. But now, Chris, it’s time for action. We need a new Welsh-medium primary school in Penarth.

8 o Sylwadau

Filed under Democracy, Education, Labour, Schools

An Anti-Welsh Diatribe

I don’t ordinarily go in for this sort of article. But this story has relevance for two reasons. Firstly, it relates to Natural Resources Wales, which is a topic I’ve covered before. Secondly, there’s a juicy element of hypocrisy, which I like to root out wherever it rears its mendacious snout. It happened across my desk on St. David’s Day, too, and I think that the big man himself would be happy for me to raise this issue. So it’s thanks to GC for alerting me to this story and passing on the details.

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) is currently consulting on a Welsh Language Scheme. And someone I’ll call BL has made a number of assertions in her response to the consultation:

Assertion 1: The proposed Welsh Language Scheme discriminates against the English language.

Firstly, the paper states two guiding principles that I believe are unbalanced:

“• In Wales, the Welsh language should be treated no less favourably than the English language

• Persons in Wales should be able to live their lives through the medium of the Welsh language if they choose to do so”.

While I agree with both of these principles, it is clear that you have omitted the same principles that would balance Welsh with English. Principles such as: ‘In Wales, the English language should be treated no less favourably than the Welsh language’, or ‘Persons in Wales should be able to live their lives through the medium of the English language if they choose to do so’. Alternatively, ‘In Wales, the Welsh and English language should be treated equally’. Even though you are supposed to be treating them equally according to the Welsh Language Act (1993), this oversight clearly fails to establish equality of language, and it is obvious by these two principles that the Welsh language is being favoured and English discriminated against.

The clue’s in the title. This is a Welsh Language SchemeNot an English Language Scheme. In fact, if BL wants to get really excited, she should pick a fight with the Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011. Because that piece of legislation gave Welsh “official status in Wales”. But not English.

Assertion 2: Staff who are not bilingual would be “devalued” and “discriminated against” under the terms of the proposed scheme.

Secondly, your paper states that Welsh will be encouraged even for those not requiring it for their post:

“Where fluency in Welsh is not essential for a particular post, Natural Resources Wales will follow a proactive policy of encouraging staff to learn and use Welsh in order to promote a bilingual ethos throughout the organisation”.

It is clear again, that Welsh is being promoted even for staff that are not required to speak fluent Welsh for their job. While I can understand a bilingual ethos being desirable between post-holders that are required to speak Welsh in their work, staff should not be devalued when they do not require Welsh in their post and choose not to learn Welsh in their spare time. Otherwise, again, being able to live life through the medium of English would be discriminated against.

BL obviously feels that it is not desirable for use of Welsh to be promoted “even for staff that are not required to speak fluent Welsh for their job”. Whatever. But I can’t determine in which way staff would be “devalued” or “discriminated against” for not speaking Welsh. And BL doesn’t provide us with any evidence that that could happen – by design or default – through the proposed scheme.

Assertion 3: The scheme will discriminate against “English speaking Britons”.

Thirdly, the paper states that increasing numbers of Welsh speakers must be employed among senior staff:

“Natural Resources Wales will also seek to ensure an increasing proportion of Welsh speakers among its senior managers and team leaders, with the aim of enabling the public, other organisations and Natural Resources Wales staff to communicate with senior management and team leaders through the medium of Welsh or English according to their choice.”

While it is crucial for Welsh-speaking public and professionals to have the option of communicating in Welsh, with some jobs entailing Welsh fluency as essential criteria, it is not an equal language policy to be prioritizing ‘an increasing proportion’ of Welsh speakers. A more balanced approach would entail staff numbers that reflect the language demographic in Wales, with sufficient staff on hand to speak Welsh, rather than continually and exclusively increasing bilingual staff only. This would significantly reduce the pool of applicants and therefore has the potential to lessen the expertise or ability of the successful applicant to do a scientific / management job well. This approach will clearly discriminate against English speaking Britons, greatly reducing the choice of potential staff for posts at NRW, and make it harder for experts in the field to gain work in Wales.

Firstly I should say that all bilinguals speak English too. As do many people from all over the world who are permitted to work in Wales. But BL’s making a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of communication. Bilinguals are better equipped to work in Wales than monolinguals. Full stop. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons they get an 8-10% premium on their earnings. Because any time the media or some conference or meeting wants a comment they can do it in either language. And any time there’s a discussion to be had with people from any part of Wales whose preferred language is Welsh, the bilingual isn’t busily putting her conversation partner to an inconvenience like the monolingual.

BL thinks it’s ok to palm someone off on the Welsh language audience who isn’t an expert or hasn’t got the experience to discuss a matter (“sufficient staff on hand to speak Welsh”). But that approach  erodes confidence in the ability of an organisation to do a decent job because you end up with non-specialists and media officers communicating with the outside world. Effectively, a second-class service for the bilingual population.

Assertion 4: The scheme discriminates against non-bilingual graduates.

Lastly, the paper states that courses will become available for Welsh-speaking environmental graduates:

“It can be difficult to recruit suitably qualified Welsh speaking staff into some posts, particularly scientific posts. Natural Resources Wales will address this in several proactive ways by:-

• contributing to the AmNawdd scheme for sponsoring Welsh speaking students following environment-related courses in higher education, and providing work placements for the students taking part in the scheme

• playing a lead role in the Welsh Language Environmental Partnership, which draws together representatives from across the environmental, higher education and voluntary sectors

• providing trainee posts for Welsh speaking graduates to increase their opportunity to start a career in the environment.”

This policy would even make it harder for many Welsh graduates, as most Welsh graduates don’t speak Welsh. In order to treat the Welsh and English language equally, courses and trainee posts should be available to both Welsh and English speakers by merit of their career goals and attainments. To prioritise or favour Welsh-speaking graduates over English-speaking by ‘providing trainee posts for Welsh speaking graduates’ is to discriminate and to devalue academic and professional ability, passion and hard work. If work placements are available in the environment sector they should be available to English-speaking students as much as Welsh-speaking students, to avoid discrimination, and to establish language equality.

BL’s already accepted the business case for bilingual jobs: “While it is crucial for Welsh-speaking public and professionals to have the option of communicating in Welsh, with some jobs entailing Welsh fluency as essential criteria…”. And NRW have told us that “It can be difficult to recruit suitably qualified Welsh speaking staff into some posts, particularly scientific posts”. So for some jobs for which bilingualism is essential, recruitment is a problem. That seems to me to be a fair basis for providing a leg up to bilingual graduates. Say an organisation had a problem attracting staff with certain in-demand skills. It might provide a “market factor” pay bonus. I have it on reliable information that the Environment Agency does just this for certain jobs that it finds difficulty competing with the private sector for, like lawyers and accountants. It’s a similar situation with a different metric. If it’s difficult to recruit someone with essential skills, then an organisation needs to find a way to improve its chances of getting those skills. That’s what NRW appears to desire through this scheme. 

BL finishes off by requesting to remain anonymous in the consultation process. Whooah! Did I just say anonymous? So how on earth did I get hold of BL’s submission?

It turns out that BL sent her submission round the houses, initially to 29 of her contacts, with the following message:

If you are interested in voicing your opinion on this I have pasted my email to them below so that you can get a quick idea of the some of the problems I can see with the policy. If you agree with my points, perhaps you would like to email a brief statement summarising, or your own interpretation. Even a short statement would be worthwhile… all you need to do is email to the following address… Please forward this to anyone who you think might be interested (BL’s emphasis)

And at least one of those contacts sent it to a distribution list for Marinet – a mailing list with hundreds and hundreds of people on it.

So we end up with a self-publicist chastising NRW for their Welsh language policy, while trying to hide behind the cloak of anonymity. BL, here’s a tip for you. If you want to remain anonymous, try keeping things to yourself.

So who is BL? And could it be that BL’s tried to get jobs in the environment sector and failed? Could it be that she’s been passed over for promotion because of a lack of skills?

And could it be that one of the skills she could acquire that might enhance her prospects of employment in Wales would be Welsh language competence?

Gadael sylw

Filed under Education, Welsh Government

Torfaen Syndrome

I mentioned in my last post that people in the Vale had been suffering from Torfaen Syndrome. I think it’s worth exploring this issue in a little more depth.

My definition of Torfaen Syndrome is the propensity for parents of children attending non-Welsh medium schools to assume that because their children are attending schools in Wales they are necessarily going to be bilingual. This manifested itself particularly during the 2001 census (41.5% of children aged 3-15 in Torfaen were recorded as having some level of Welsh language competence (page 64 of this report)), and part of the reason for the apparent decline in bilingualism in Wales in the intervening decade is the recognition that a non-Welsh language education does not produce bilingual citizens. Even in Torfaen. Not that this characteristic is confined to Torfaen alone – Blaenau Gwent’s equivalent figures in 2001 were 34.9%, Newport reported 36.4% and Monmouthshire rated 36.0%. The Vale of Glamorgan was positively restrained in 2001, stating that just 29.4% of children were bilingual.

So what happened in 2011?

Unfortunately I need to use a slightly different set of figures in order to make an exact comparison. Blame the statistics people, not me. But here are the results for local authorities in south east Wales – in each case, the percentage of children aged 5-15 speaking Welsh in 2001 is listed first, then 2011:

  • Bridgend:                              27.6%,  27.1%
  • Vale of Glamorgan: 32.5%, 32.0%
  • Cardiff:                                  27.9%,  29.2%
  • Rhondda Cynon Taf:       31.5%,  32.7%
  • Merthyr Tudful:                26.6%,  24.5%
  • Caerphilly:                           36.4%,  36.3%
  • Blaenau Gwent:                  38.8%,  34.0%
  • Torfaen:                                46.6%, 40.3%
  • Monmouthshire:               40.6%, 42.0%
  • Newport:                              41.3%,  38.6%

Now you know why it’s called Torfaen Syndrome!

I referred in my last post to the proportion of children receiving Welsh language education in the Vale. At primary level it’s 13% and at secondary level 9% (the difference is largely a result of increased capacity at primary level feeding through into a growing secondary school).

I’ll accept that perhaps 1% of children attending English-medium education will end up bilingual. Perhaps I’m being a little generous, but some of my acquaintances are bilingual having received education through English in Wales. But we’re still left with the chasm of reporting between a maximum 15% of children realistically being bilingual and the reported level (by parents) of 32%.

What impact does this have on the Vale statistics? Well, the total number of children in the age category 5-15 was 16,499 at the census date. So we need to subtract 17%  (32%-15%) of this total (2,805) from the Vale’s population of bilinguals (13,189). Which leaves 10,384, or 8.5% of the 122,018 population. That’s a significant drop. Am I worried about the accuracy of the census? A little, but then what holds for the Vale presumably holds for all authorities in the grip of Torfaen Syndrome, so the relative place of the Vale (16th in Wales) is probably reasonably sound.

Perhaps one thing revealed by the census is  the desire among parents in Wales for their children to speak Welsh. Little do they recognise that that desire will  only become realised if they send their children to Welsh medium schools.

On this, I’m more than a little surprised by the 2009 Estyn report for Ysgol Pen-y-Garth, which suggests that:

About 29% of the pupils come from homes where Welsh is the main language

Given that Welsh speaking skills are at their highest in Stanwell ward of Penarth, with 11.8% (less if we accept the existence of Torfaen Syndrome), unless bilinguals are reproducing at more than double the rate of monolinguals, something is amiss. But as to the Welsh medium system’s ability to churn out bilinguals, as the latest (2009) Estyn report for Ysgol Bro Morgannwg points out:

All pupils speak Welsh as a first language or to an equivalent standard within the school.

Despite the fact that just 9% of pupils come from Welsh-speaking homes.

So here’s a message for parents, and future parents, who could be seized by Torfaen Syndrome. You can hope that the English-medium education system will work miracles. Your chances of one of your children ending up bilingual are substantially less than your chances of having 6 children all of the same gender.

The only way to guarantee bilingual children is for them to receive Welsh language education.

4 o Sylwadau

Filed under Education, Vale of Glamorgan Council, Welsh Government

Where Can I Find Bilinguals?

There’s been a fair amount in the news recently about the number of communities in Wales where the proportion of bilinguals is >70%, >50% and so on. But I’ve been thinking about these figures. Why are 70% and 50% such important figures?

Then it struck me.

If you assume that conversations between individuals take place at random, then 70% takes on tremendous significance. Because it’s the level of community language competence at which you’d expect the number of Welsh-language conversations in the street to dip below half. How can that be?, I hear you ask.

So 70% of the population is bilingual, and 30% is monoglot English speakers. The proportion of conversations in this hypothetical community is as follows:

  • 0.7 x 0.7 = 0.49 (49%) between two bilinguals – which for the most part means they will speak Welsh to one another.
  • 0.7 x 0.3 = 0.21 (21%) between a bilingual and a monoglot (conversation in English)
  • 0.3 x 0.7 = 0.21 (21%) between a monoglot and a bilingual (conversation in English)
  • 0.3 x 0.3 = 0.09 (9%) between two monoglots – conversation in English

This shows the power of deferring to English as the common language. People have commented for donkeys’ years that the willingness of bilinguals to defer to English has been (at least partly) responsible for in-migrants not bothering to learn Welsh. Perhaps here’s a statistical demonstration of why that might be detrimental to bilingualism in a community – because all of a sudden more than half the conversations in an overwhelmingly bilingual community are in English.

As it happens, conversations don’t just happen at random. According to bilingual friends of mine, it’s common for bilinguals to tend to preferentially socialise with other bilinguals – and to do so through the medium of Welsh. The scale of that preference varies according to the level of bilingualism in a community, so I’m told. But I can’t help thinking there’s something in this simple statistical model that should ring warning bells in communities in the west and north.

And the significance of 50%? Well, this is a bit easier. Clearly if you’re one of the 50% who is bilingual then where you live in a community of majority bilinguals it makes sense for you to start conversations with unfamiliar people in Welsh. As soon as it dips below 50% then the hassle of more often than not being told that the recipient doesn’t speak Welsh means that you’re unlikely to bother starting conversations in Welsh. Which leads to Welsh not being heard on the streets and an increase in the perception that it’s not a community language. Perhaps this is one of the reasons for the apparent failure of the (former) Welsh Language Board’s “Start all conversations in Welsh” campaign.

But back to the Vale. Ward-level results have been published for Welsh language competence. So let’s delve into the data…

  • Llandow/Ewenni – skills 23.6% – speak 14.8%
  • Baruc – skills in Welsh 19.8% – can speak Welsh 13.4%
  • Wenvoe – skills 18.6% – speak 13.3%
  • Peterston-super-Ely – skills 18.8% – speak 12.6%
  • Cowbridge – skills 19.1% – speak 11.9%
  • Stanwell – skills 17.4% – speak 11.8%
  • Buttrills – skills 17.0% – speak 11.8%
  • Plymouth – skills 16.6% – speak 11.4%
  • Illtyd – skills 16.4% – speak 11.1%
  • Cornerswell – skills 17.0% – speak 11.0%
  • Dyfan – skills 16.2% – speak 10.9%
  • Cadog – skills 15.1% – speak 10.9%
  • St. Augustine’s – skills 16.8% – speak 10.8%
  • Court – skills 15.3% – speak 10.7%
  • Rhoose – skills 15.8% – speak 10.5%
  • St. Bride’s Major – skills 18.0% – speak 10.4%
  • Dinas Powys – skills 15.2% – speak 10.0%
  • Gibbonsdown – skills 14.2% – speak 9.7%
  • Llantwit Major – skills 15.2% – speak 9.6%
  • Castleland – skills 14.0% – speak 9.4%
  • Sully – skills 13.6% – speak 8.7%
  • Llandochau* – skills 14.1% – speak 8.4%
  • St. Athan – skills 12.8% – speak 8.0%

*I will call Llandochau by its proper name henceforth (reasoning by Dic Mortimer)

So for the many people who are thinking of moving to the Vale (4,400 annually) but who want to live in as Welsh-language a community as possible, the answer appears clear. In Llandow/Ewenni ward in rural western Vale a shade under one in four people has Welsh-language skills, and more than one in seven people speaks Welsh. The chance of a random conversation in the street being bilingual? Slightly greater than 2% in Llandow/Ewenni – although of course for people who are bilingual it’ll be 14.8%.

But if someone is dead set on Penarth and wants to find fellow bilinguals, their preference should be Stanwell where 11.8% of people are bilingual. Throughout Penarth town the proportion of bilinguals is greater than 10%, although it’s disappointing to see Sully and Llandochau in single figures, scrabbling around for last place with St. Athan.

Given that the average proportion of bilinguals in the Vale is 10.8%, it’s nice to see that Penarth town is either at or above that figure. Why do I consider that a good thing? Because even if the chance of random conversations in the street being in Welsh is little above 1%, it adds to the recognition that we live in a country blessed with two languages.

Finally, it’s worth the recap that far and away the highest proportion of bilinguals is in our young people. So while just 4.2% of people aged 75-79 in the Vale are bilingual, that figure is more than eight times higher among the 10-14 cohort (35%). This figure is surprisingly high given that 13% of Vale children are in Welsh medium primary schools, and 9% in Ysgol Bro Morgannwg. It seems likely that parents in the Vale are suffering from Torfaen syndrome.

And a final note of disappointment that the Welsh Government has decided to pull all funding from Menter y Fro today.

This post has been modified to rectify my error that indicated Baruc to have the highest proportion of bilinguals. My thanks to IJ for pointing out this error.

10 o Sylwadau

Filed under Education, Schools, Vale of Glamorgan Council

A Mishmash of Confusing Information

Well, I’m as surprised as the next person that the schools banding exercise has come about again. I’d been under the impression that it would be done every four years or so, but I suppose the data come out every year so there’s no reason for sticking with old data.

And Ysgol Bro Morgannwg will be thanking their lucky stars, because if last year’s generosity was anything to go by, their rapid slide down the rankings is compensated by a whopping £10,000. Because they’ve shot from hero to zero in 11 short months, from the Vale’s only Band 1 school to one of the Vale’s only Band 4 schools! What precipitated this fall from grace?

Dipping deep into the stats we see that although the school’s performance received the top rating, their rating against the proportion of pupils in receipt of free school meals was poor. Put simply, because relatively few pupils (6.8%) come from poor families, Ysgol Bro Morgannwg should do better in Welsh/English and Maths.

How did the other Schools for Penarth fare?

St. Cyres remained in Band 3, with ‘good progress’ in performance between 2010 and 2012.

St. Richard Gwyn Catholic High School got an almost clean sweep of ‘top quarter’ results in its scintillating promotion to Band 1 status. In fact, it came joint second of all the schools in Wales, which must have the staff and pupils feeling pretty chuffed.

Joining St. Richard Gwyn in Band 1 was Stanwell School.

In other Vale news:

  • Llantwit Major Comp remains in Band 4
  • Barry Comp rises to Band 3, joining Bryn Hafren (relegated from Band 2)
  • Cowbridge Comp stays in Band 2

I’ll repeat something I said back here in relation to the banding exercise:

the process is evidently imperfect, and the Welsh Government has conceded that most of the flaws raised by MC are valid. We live in an imperfect world, so my advice to the teaching profession is to continue doing what you’ve always done – teach to the best of your ability. Every child counts…. So for the time being I’ll go along with the Welsh Government’s approach to avoid league tables but stick with some element of comparison through school banding.

But I confess to feeling less generous about the banding approach now than I was earlier in the year. That’s partly because of the conversation I had with the Welsh Government and MC. It’s also partly because the response of teaching unions has been almost universal opprobrium.

But it’s also because of another factor that popped into my head. Even if all schools improve, there will still be schools in Band 5 because the bandings are made on a comparative basis: schools are compared against each other, rather than against desirable standards. To put it another way, if every child in every school in Wales got a clean sweep of A* results at GCSE year after year after year, you’d still get a bunch of schools in Band 5.

If improvement of educational standards is about anything, it’s about absolute improvement, not relative improvement. So while I have no problem with the metrics the Welsh Governments uses, I no longer support the process of placing schools in bands based on relative performance. If banding is used, it should be used to denote measures of absolute performance. That way, as time goes by, the Welsh public will get a genuine measure of whether or not educational standards are improving.

As it stands, all we’re getting is a mishmash of confusing information.

As a final note, to tie today’s discussion in to this recent one, the latest Estyn report (2009) for Ysgol Bro Morgannwg notes that:

All pupils speak Welsh as a first language or to an equivalent standard within the school.

That doesn’t exactly tally with the statistical conclusion I came to that 76% of pupils end up classifying themselves as bilingual in the census.

Gadael sylw

Filed under Education, Schools, Vale of Glamorgan Council, Welsh Government

In-migration to the Vale

I’d been planning on posting something about migration to and from the Vale since June, after I found this site. But the timing on this is particularly relevant – and for bloggers interested in areas that have suffered decreases in bilinguals, it would be worth doing a much more detailed analysis than the  treatment I’m going to give, which extrapolates from only one year’s data.

For the year ending June 2011, a total of 4,400 people  from elsewhere in Wales or from England moved into the Vale of Glamorgan (balanced by 4,400 emigrants). Given that the population on census night (27 March 2011) was 126,300, the in-migrants represent 3.5% of the population. Or to put it another way, we’ll all be replaced by in-migrants in 28.7 years’ time. Terrifying!

But from whence came these intruders?! The answers are revealed here  (places in England are emboldened in the lists for ease of reference):

  • Cardiff – 36.0%
  • Rhondda Cynon Taf – 6.6%
  • Bridgend – 6.4%
  • Swansea – 4.1%
  • Caerphilly – 2.0%
  • Newport – 1.6%
  • Carmarthenshire – 1.4%
  • Neath Port Talbot – 1.4%
  • Pembrokeshire – 1.1%
  • Birmingham – 1.1%
  • Bristol – 1.1%

And fewer than 50 migrants (less than 1% each) came from:

  • Plymouth 
  • Monmouthshire
  • Ceredigion
  • Torfaen
  • Wiltshire
  • Oxford
  • Cornwall
  • Herefordshire
  • Bath and North East Somerset
  • Manchester
  • South Gloucestershire
  • Liverpool
  • Powys
  • Merthyr Tudful
  • Torbay
  • Blaenau Gwent
  • Leeds
  • Southampton
  • Haringey
  • Cheshire West and Chester
  • Exeter

10 migrants each came from a whole bunch of other places.

If we add up the proportion of in-migrants coming from elsewhere within Wales, we find that 64.4% of in-migrants come from Wales, with more than half of those being our friends in Cardiff. Welcome all!

There’s a point here about these statistics. They tell us very little about nationality and bilingualism in and of themselves because they focus on domicile. So it could be the case that each of the 4,400 moving to the Vale is bilingual and all of them Welsh. But that’s a statistical improbability.

Statistics aren’t gathered on Welsh language ability the other side of the border, so we have no way of knowing the proportion of people living in Birmingham who are Welsh speaking. But on the basis of probability, it’s likely that the vast proportion of them are not (bilingual students returning to Wales notwithstanding). So we can assume that most of the 1,566 people moving to the Vale from across the border do not speak Welsh. I’m going to say that just 1% of them do – so that’s 16 per year.

I’ve done some calculations on the likely proportion of those moving to the Vale from elsewhere in Wales who are bilingual. Of the 2,820 of these people, 349 of them are likely to be bilingual (number from each local authority multiplied by the proportion in that authority who are bilingual). Doing the same for the 4,400 people leaving the Vale in the same year gives 475 bilinguals leaving, for a net loss of 90 (including the 16 bilinguals coming from England).

If we assume that the year ending in June 2011 was unexceptional, and that patterns were relatively similar for the previous 9 years, then we can see that the Vale has actually generated a net total of 20 plus 90 bilinguals each year (the actual increase in bilinguals, plus the exported bilinguals minus the imported bilinguals), for a total of 110 per year. But there’s more.

Some bilinguals will die over the course of the year. Nothing’s easy in this world, and apportioning the mortality rate to the Vale of Glamorgan is no exception because the only statistics available apply to EnglandandWales. So the population of that entity is 56,077,000, the population of the Vale is 126,300, and 493,242 people died in 2010. That leaves a pro rata number of deaths for the Vale of 1,111, of whom 120 would have been bilingual.

That leaves the gross total of new bilinguals to be 230 each year.

I’ve found it difficult to find out how many pupils there are in Ysgol Bro Morgannwg per school year, but with the information that 43% of pupils equals 126, the sum total is 293.

I’m assuming that each year a few adult learners feel confident enough about their improvement in Welsh to classify them as able to speak the language. That leaves about 70 or so pupils going through Welsh medium education who fail to reach the level of fluency necessary to consider themselves as bilingual, for an attrition rate of 24%. Put another way, of all the annual increase in new bilinguals in the Vale, Welsh language primaries and Ysgol Bro Morgannwg are responsible for around 223 of 595, or 37%.

Some of these will have come from bilingual/Welsh language households in any case. But that certainly seems to be a substantial contribution to home-grown bilinguals.

I’d be interested to see whether or not Ysgol Bro Morgannwg would agree with this analysis.

2 o Sylwadau

Filed under Education, Vale of Glamorgan Council

Welsh in the Vale

It’s common knowledge by now that the Vale of Glamorgan is one of only four local authorities in Wales to register an increase in numbers of those speaking Welsh between 2001 and 2011 (you can grab hold of tonnes of data from this site, although if you want a relatively handy series of maps and graphs you might like to try the Welsh Government’s statistics publication). Over the ten year period, the numbers increased from 12,994 to 13,189, a total of 195. However, as a result of an increase in population in the Vale, the overall percentage of bilinguals has decreased – from 11.3% to 10.8%.

We can be thankful that the number of bilinguals in the Vale is increasing, although at less than 20 per year it’s hardly stellar progress. But it would seem unavoidable that as time goes by that number will increase by a greater amount. And here’s the evidence, in the form of the proportion of each age group speaking Welsh:

  • 3-4      – 16.7%
  • 5-9      – 28.5%
  • 10-14 – 35.0%
  • 15-19 – 23.3%
  • 20-24 – 10.6%
  • 25-29 –   8.7%
  • 30-34 –   8.5%
  • 35-39 –    7.8%
  • 40-44 –  6.5%
  • 45-49 –  6.0%
  • 50-54 –  5.0%
  • 55-59 –  4.8%
  • 60-64 – 4.4%
  • 65-69 –  5.2%
  • 70-74 –  5.0%
  • 75-79 –  4.2%
  • 80-84 – 4.4%
  • 85+     –  5.6%
  • Total – 10.8%

Now, we’d expect some attrition of bilinguals in their young twenties for a period of time, not least because bilingual education in the Vale is a strong indicator of educational attainment, so these bright young things will move away from the Vale to find their fame and fortune in the bright lights of Cardiff, Llanelli and who knows, even beyond!

But some of the pupils in receipt of bilingual education will find that living in the Vale suits them just fine and will remain, slowly bolstering the proportion of bilinguals in successive years. And that’s exactly the pattern we see in these statistics, because the proportion of those who speak Welsh of ages 25-39 is some way above those in the older categories, when Welsh medium education was either non-existent, or was only available by virtue of a commute to Glantaf.

The proof of the pudding? Have a look at the stats in 2022 and make comments on this post! The only caveat is in relation to the increase in population. Large new housing developments will lead to in-migration of people who will almost exclusively not be Welsh-speaking. An additional 45,400 dwellings in Cardiff is hardly likely to strengthen the performance of that county’s Welsh language stats.

But where does the Vale sit in the Welsh scheme of things?

It might be difficult to believe, but that small increase in total bilinguals has enabled the Vale to leapfrog both Bridgend and Newport, leaving the Vale in 16th place for total numbers of people able to speak Welsh. And it just so happens that we’re in 16th place in the league table for proportion of people speaking Welsh.

I’ll leave the discussion as to the wider impacts of the Wales-wide decrease in bilingualism to the specialists. But it’s good to see that here in the Vale we’ve bucked the trend. By 19.5 people per year.

3 o Sylwadau

Filed under Education, Vale of Glamorgan Council, Welsh Government

Exam Results 2012

These are the results for the various Schools for Penarth

Stanwell School

A level – C grade or above 90%; A or A* 37%

GCSE – C grade or above 75%

St. Cyres School

A level – only results for the year 2011 are up on the school website. No comparative measure provided in the school’s report to the Penarth Times.

GCSE – C grade or above 67% – but no date given so this could be for 2011

St. Richard Gwyn Catholic High School

GCSE – results for 2012 not up on school website, but reported to be 62% receiving 5 grades C or above

Westbourne School

A level – no information on school website

GCSE – No meaningful information on school website and no comparative measure provided in the school’s report to the Penarth Times

Ysgol Gyfun Bro Morgannwg

A level – C grade or above 83%; A or A* 46%

GCSE – 5 grades C or above 87%

The most fascinating aspect of what I’ve managed to glean – or not – about these schools isn’t the results themselves (I’ll come to those in a minute). It’s the fact that most of them have no meaningful information on their websites a full 6 days after GCSE results were published and 13 days following the A level results. Let’s not forget that schools know the results of pupils as a whole a day or two before the rest of us. Now I know that school education is about a whole lot more than just academic results, but you’d have thought that someone in the schools’ administration would have thought it prudent to spend a few hours creating a new webpage to show the world how well they’ve done.

So it’s hats off to Stanwell School and Ysgol Gyfun Bro Morgannwg for keeping us all apprised of your results. I would find the lack of interest in publishing results for the other schools a bit concerning if I were a potential pupil.

Some schools have chosen to focus on individual students in their press reports. Any school, including the worst in Wales, can have exceptional students. The bigger picture is how the school has done in aggregate in encouraging good performance from pupils as a whole. So St. Cyres and Westbourne, you tell us nothing other than perhaps you have something to hide. Although actually Westbourne’s press report tells us something about the school’s view of the world. According to Ken Underhill, Head of School, Westbourne is a “non-selective school”. Try telling that to anyone who can’t afford the £10,000 per year fees.

Of the schools we can meaningfully compare, we have St. Richard Gwyn bringing up the rear at GCSE (62%), then Stanwell (75%) and Bro Morgannwg (87%). And for A level, Stanwell and Bro Morgannwg just about share the honours, with a higher proportion of top grades at Bro Morgannwg but a shade more D and E grades.

Of course the primary distinction is that pupils at Bro Morgannwg come out bilingual as well has having a very high standard of education. And in a job market like today’s, that extra life skill might be just what it takes to get the first crucial placement. 

3 o Sylwadau

Filed under Education, Schools

A Decade On

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)

Gadael sylw

Filed under Education, Equality, Vale of Glamorgan Council, Welsh Government