Category Archives: Schools

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.

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8 Sylw

Filed under Democracy, Education, Labour, Schools

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 Sylw

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.

Rhowch sylw

Filed under Education, Schools, 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 Sylw

Filed under Education, Schools

School Banding

I hadn’t intended to return to the issue of Schools for Penarth for a while, but I received a comment from someone senior in education in the Vale questioning my understanding of the issues. I’ll hold up my hands and confess I’m no expert on school banding. But I thought I’d find out a bit more from someone who is. Step forward GD from the Welsh Government.

Most of the rest of this blog will be in the form of quotes from our critical friend in the Vale (let’s call her/him MC) and GD. But don’t let that make you think it won’t be interesting.

_____________________________________________

MC: “You obviously do not understand the banding system and the way it is calculated. It will be very difficult for any English medium school in the Vale to reach band 1 due to the way performance is measured. Welsh medium schools have an advantage over their English counterparts when it comes to recording the number of pupils who achieve a C+ grade in language. It can be either first language Welsh or in English. English medium schools teach Welsh as a 2nd language which doesn’t count. As all Welsh medium schools enter students for both subjects they have two bites of the cherry to achieve this performance indicator. Four of the 12 measures of banding performance include this one indicator”.

GD: “It is true that Welsh Medium schools have more bites of the cherry in terms of being able to count the highest qualification out of English or Welsh. This may give a small number of schools an advantage on one or two measures. However this has to be offset by the fact that Welsh Medium schools will need to cover 4 subjects in terms of English and Welsh language and literature which is a greater stretch on their resources than covering 3 subjects as is the case in English Medium schools where Welsh literature is generally not covered. Additionally, many English Medium schools, whilst being required to teach Welsh as a second language, do not enter many pupils for the exam, this has amounted to up an annual total of up to around 10,000 pupils across Wales in recent years. This frees up time for English Medium schools to focus on other subjects which contribute to the threshold and capped point scores indicators.

In terms of your specific question, for 2011, 157 pupils (0.9%) who gained the L2 threshold did so solely through achieving A* to C in Welsh, 17.7% (3,068)through solely achieving English and 81.4% (14,126)got both. A very small proportion of pupils overall therefore were counted in the level 2 threshold measure solely because of Welsh, however we recognise that Welsh language is very focused in a small number of schools and a very small number might have benefitted for this particular measure. However, we also are very aware that this is an excuse being made by many English medium schools whose performance is so low that it could not be possibly explained by this factor”.

MC: “There are many other flaws in the banding process: There is a heavy reliance on deprivation, disadvantage and free school meals – the Vale scores low on these indicators when compared to other areas of Wales. The over reliance on Free School Meals as an indicator of social disadvantage. Many parents who would be eligible do not apply for FSM as other benefits, such as family tax credits are cut, so that [they] are worse off”.

GD: “It is true that there is a heavy dependence on FSM data in the banding calculation, but that’s because the correlation between levels of FSM and performance is very strong. Suggestions are put forward on a regular basis for other measurements of deprivation to be used in the banding, but none come anywhere near to showing the same strength of link to the performance data as FSM.

The accuracy of FSM data is a constant source of discussion and it is true that it is difficult for schools to ascertain whether they are recording all their pupils who are entitled to FSM as opposed to those who are applying for it, the latter being the only thing which they can measure in reality. However, this is the same difficulty for all schools and we have no evidence to suggest that any one area or type of school is being disadvantaged more than any other. In fact the strong relation between performance and the FSM indicator suggests that this is not the case”.

MC: “If you look more closely most Band 1 schools are either welsh medium or in socially deprived areas. Having said that Bro Morgannwg is an excellent school and would score highly in any company”.

GD: “The statement that ‘If you look more closely most Band 1 schools are either welsh medium or in socially deprived areas’ is certainly very wide of the mark. Firstly, whilst it is a major achievement to be assessed as being in Band 1 I would not agree with the statement that it is extremely difficult for an English medium as opposed to a Welsh medium school to be in Band 1, as a high proportion of Band 1 schools are English medium.

It is certainly not the case that schools in the most deprived areas benefit from the banding calculation – in fact we get many more queries suggesting the opposite. The majority of the calculations are set against deprivation measures, so it is a case of how well schools are doing against what is predicted for them based on the poverty levels of their pupils rather than a school benefitting or not from being in a disadvantaged area. Band 1 contains schools from across the spectrum of disadvantage”.

MC: “There is no recognition of those schools who take a significant amount of pupils who do not speak English as a first language. Some schools take many students from families who have moved from Eastern Europe. Some also have a significant intake from families from SE Asia who have found employment at hospitals etc. They may be bright students but they cannot access the curriculum due to poor language acquisition skills”.

GD: “It is also true that there is no recognition of those schools who take a significant amount of pupils who do not speak English as a first language. That said, even if we were able to do so reliably, which is not possible given the sporadic nature of where these pupils are located, there is an argument that we shouldn’t be doing so as this would be against the ethos of operating an inclusive education approach. However, those arguments aside, if you look at the bands of schools with the highest level of pupils with English as an Additional Language they are doing significantly better than all schools in general”.

MC: “It is a fact that, on average, 15 year old boys notoriously do worse than girls. No account is taken of gender imbalances. So schools with a high proportion of boys also have an in built disadvantage”.

GD: “It is also true that boys do generally worse than girls but on the whole the split of boys and girls evens out at close to 50%. If there is a school, other than a single sex school with a significantly different split than this then I would be surprised”.

MC: “The measures are based on rates of progress. If a high performing school has a slight dip in one year they are punished severely. In one case a school was prevented from being in Band 2 due to attendance data. In 2010 this school had an attendance rate of 93.6%, the highest in the county and 3.6% above the expected level. In 2011 it dipped to 92.9%, the second highest in the county, but the school was placed at the bottom of the pile because it hadn’t made progress. It is like Manchester United being relegated from the Premiership if they don’t win the championship every year”.

GD: “Only 3 of the 12 measures used in the calculation of bands look at progress. I do not agree with the statement that a highly performing school is severely punished if it has a slight dip in one year. Most highly performing schools, i.e. Band 1 schools, also do very well on the progress measures. It also needs to be borne in mind that the absence measures are given a weighting of 50% compared to other measures so poor performance on these is less likely to affect a school’s band – although if is near the boundary between bands then this might make the difference.

There isn’t a school in Wales with the absence figures which they reported to you – it is a common problem we face with schools quoting different figures to the official set. The school with the most similar figures is a Welsh Medium school in North Wales, but I assume you are not referring to that one given previous comments.

There also isn’t a school with an attendance rate of 93.6% which is 3.6% above the expected level. I suspect the school is referring to the old Estyn standard of 90% attendance. This is no longer used as it took no account of individual schools’ circumstances and instead the comparison is made between a school’s actual attendance level and what is predicted based on their FSM level”.

______________________________________________

This process has been a bit of a revelation for me. On one hand, I’m sure that the Welsh Government is doing its best to improve performance in all schools across Wales. If it were trying to do anything else that would be a most mysterious way of operating. At the same time, 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.

One note – I find that I can’t agree with one of the points. I don’t disagree with the assertion (true also internationally) that “boys do generally worse than girls”, but it’s the inevitability of this by people in the education sector that is somewhat diconcerting. If a Y chromosome doesn’t somehow affect brain development then there must be social and environmental causes for this particular statistic, and schools and educational professionals are rather well placed to be countering these factors. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation sheds some light on why boys’ performance is worse than that of girls.

Incidentally, I’ve also seen elsewhere people point to this piece of research as evidence that abolishing school league tables “markedly reduced school effectiveness in Wales”, and that league tables should therefore be reintroduced in Wales. However there’s a crucial aspect to this research that most people don’t pick up. At the top of page 13 we see the method for approximating English schools with Welsh schools. It’s based on the characteristics listed on page 30. But what the authors haven’t taken into account – presumably because it’s near enough impossible to do – is both the ability and willingness of Welsh parents to access alternative secondary schools. In many settlements right across Wales there is no practicable choice to the school their child attends. This might be because of the child’s friends attending a particular school, because the school is a religious (Catholic) or Welsh (or English) medium comprehensive, or because travel costs would make an alternative financially unviable for the family. Some of these factors will be common to schools in England too, but the financial aspect is particularly acute in Wales, and the bilingual element has no comparator across the border. And let’s face it, if ‘poster girl‘ of the education world Finland doesn’t use league tables, it can hardly be a critical success factor.

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.

1 Sylw

Filed under Schools, Vale of Glamorgan Council

Schools for Penarth

I was delighted to read the results of the recent banding exercise for secondary schools in Wales, not least because Penarth’s two comprehensives come out pretty well. Stanwell School came ranked in Band 2, and St. Cyres School is placed in Band 3. I’m not sure what the banding actually means – the Welsh Government’s guide for parents and carers explains it with about as much clarity as Lord Goldsmith justified the war in Iraq. But it seems pretty obvious even to me that schools in Bands 2 and 3 are likely to be better places for education than Band 5.

But this post is ‘schools for Penarth’, not ‘Penarth schools’, so let’s not forget the other options for secondary education in Penarth.

Families with loads of money can avail themselves of all that Westbourne School has to offer – or indeed any of the other private schools in south Wales and beyond. I’m sure these schools do a fine job of educating our youngsters, but at around £10,000 per year it doesn’t come cheap. I wonder how many of Westbourne’s pupils are in receipt of free school meals? Sadly, we’re unlikely to find out, because private schools don’t participate in the banding exercise like the commoners.

Those of us with an ecclesiastical bent can take advantage of the spiritual learning offered by St Richard Gwyn Catholic High School. This school is, like St. Cyres, in Band 3. It turns out that God – or at least her nominated educators in Barry – exiles you to Cardiff at age 16 if your mind is on academia (although free bus transport is available). Not that that has any effect on numbers of pupils; indeed “the number of applications received is far greater than the number of places available”. Let’s just hope the entry test doesn’t involve saying the Welsh version of the school name out aloud.

And talking of Welsh, Ysgol Gyfun Bro Morgannwg is the final option for parents in Penarth. This school was ranked in Band 1. Now, I can’t be alone in having seen houses in certain parts of Penarth advertised as being in the catchment for Stanwell School. If you want a Band 2 school for your offspring, that’s fine. But the catchment area for the one and only Band 1 school in the entire Vale of Glamorgan IS the entire Vale of Glamorgan. Funnily enough, I don’t see that mentioned in adverts for houses in the Stanwell catchment, or, for that matter, anywhere else in the Vale.

One of the significant differences between Welsh medium education and non-Welsh medium education is that pupils can transfer out of Welsh medium education at any time and for any reason. The reverse is only true to a limited extent. The fact that this ‘leakage’ doesn’t really happen in the case of YG Bro Morgannwg (see page 11 of this report) seems to indicate a tremendously strong desire among pupils to stay there. To my mind, that’s at least as good a bellwether as a school being in Band 1.

In fact, such is the success of Welsh medium education in the Vale that despite the creation of a fourth Welsh language primary in Barry in September 2011, “further [Welsh language] reception places will be needed for September 2012 in the Barry area” (page 4 of the same report). Education chiefs appear to be scrambling to keep up with demand. The Council is reviewing future demand to assess whether this is a “one off situation”. And back in Penarth, Ysgol Pen-y-Garth has been expanded to increase capacity from 350 to 420 pupils.

I have no idea whether parents and pupils are attracted by the cultural benefits that come from knowing both languages that Wales is blessed with, by the increasing number of jobs for which proficiency in Welsh is essential/highly desirable, or the 10% salary premium that bilingual workers attract. But as from 8 December 2011, we can add ‘the highest standard of schooling’ to that list. I’m no psychologist, but I’d venture a shilling or two that a fair few parents in the Vale will have taken notice of this banding exercise. And if Cllr Anthony Hampton is worth his salt, he’ll have been scurrying for his slide rule in an attempt to determine how likely we are to see many more “one off situations” right throughout the Vale.

The simple truth is that despite the apparent ignorance of estate agents in Penarth, Barry and for all I know the big City, a quiet, and distinctly Welsh, revolution is happening in the Vale of Glamorgan.

This post has been modified to make clear that God does not abandon students of St Richard Gwyn Catholic High School at the age of 16. My thanks to MC for highlighting this error.

7 Sylw

Filed under Schools, Vale of Glamorgan Council