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Compulsory Welsh at school has failed; COMMENT & DEBATE.

SIR - Your article "AMs seek to make Welsh a core GCSE subject" (Sept 30) reveals some confusion, apparently on the part of the Assembly Enterprise & Learning Committee, about the current place of Welsh as a subject in the school curriculum.

Welsh already is a compulsory core subject for all pupils during compulsory schooling and has been for 20 years. It is taught to every child from age five in primary phase and is compulsory in secondary phase up to statutory school leaving age. At age 16, pupils are entered for either Welsh first or second language GCSEs, depending on their linguistic background and ability in the language.

The sad fact is that, for many young people, all of this teaching fails to give them the ability to speak and write in Welsh at a reasonable level by age 16.

It is certainly true then that the current policy is not likely to produce a bilingual Wales. Why? Well, there is the old saying - "You can take a horse to water but you can't make it drink". Making the subject compulsory has not been popular in many parts of Wales where the majority live in English-speaking homes. Pupils, and their parents, then see compulsory Welsh as irrelevant to their needs and taking time from other subjects.

Schools are then faced with implementing a policy which does not have the support and encouragement of parents - and also of some Welsh language teachers.

The position is not helped by insufficient supply of Welsh language teachers able to teach the language successfully to such pupils and thus to motivate them. The poor outcomes at age 16 then call into question the whole policy.

Solutions will not be as simple as the Assembly Committee implies. You don't create the enthusiasm and support needed simply by creating new qualifications in Welsh and forcing young people to take them.

The compulsion has failed, and, in addition, Welsh already has more qualifications available than almost any other subject on the school curriculum - including vocational ones.

For the sake of our young people, there is a message in the Estyn reports that the Assembly Government needs to grasp and to propose radical solutions but the Enterprise & Learning Committee report does not appear close to doing so. D WILLIAMS Carmarthen
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Oct 6, 2010
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