The small village of Llangennech in South West Wales has recently attracted a huge Welsh ‘media’ attention through an unusual set of events that has created perhaps the beginning of a ‘conversation’ that Wales has never had and on a topic, that is generally discouraged and often censored.
No Brownie points for guessing the forbidden topic. Yes, it’s the Welsh language and its corrosive and damaging impact, especially on children from English-speaking homes when submersed into Welsh Medium Education.
The Welsh language prioritisation and imposition is the principal reason behind the unprecedented decline and unravelling of Welsh education standards from the point the Welsh Labour Government chose to put the Welsh language ideology before the good of the nation.
So, what has happened to get the Welsh media into a frenzy and hyperactivity to discredit and demean a group of parents through selective, deliberate, and often defamatory headlines that distorted the truth beyond anything that could be defined as objective, rational, or reasonable? This:
Then this (BBC Wales):
The answer is simple enough. Several brave and dedicated parents got organised and said NO to Plaid Cymru-controlled Carmarthenshire Council’s decision to ‘create more Welsh speakers’ by imposing the Welsh Medium Education for primary school children in the village of Llangennech.
At this point, it should be noted that the battle of wills (Parents v Council) was an ongoing situation for more than a year and the process culminated only a few weeks ago with the Council’s decision/ruling that from September 1st Llangennech children will be taught solely in Welsh. The Welsh-medium school will become the Llangennech Community Primary School disregarding 757 objections from the village in the process.
Most of the village parents are highly focused on the wellbeing of their children and at no stage, they were even remotely ‘anti-Welsh’ under the Welsh nationalist definitions.
Their principle objective always was and still is, to protect and retain the current dual-stream teaching format which for years has operated upon parental choices and preferences for either Welsh Medium or English medium education.
Llangennech parents represent the normal folk you’ll find in any community, most of whom come from the traditional Labour grassroots, and it was no surprise that they opted to seek help from their political representatives, Lee Waters their AM and Nia Griffiths the local MP, both belonging to the Labour Party.
Through my contact with Lee Waters and from what I learned by reading various statements he made on his blog and in the social media Lee and Nia chose to use a low-key approach working behind the scenes but generally supportive of the parents’ stance which unfortunately got them nowhere – The Council wasn’t going to budge no matter what!
Frustrated and perhaps angry at the lack of political voice in the public domain the parents reached the fateful decision a couple of weeks ago to seek help from UKIP and invited Neil Hamilton who is their Regional AM to talk to them and seek a way forward.
To his credit, Neil came prepared and raised the Education Act 1996 which states the following but quickly ignored by the media:
9 Pupils to be educated in accordance with parents’ wishes.
In exercising or performing all their respective powers and duties under the Education Acts, the Secretary of [F1State and local education authorities] shall have regard to the general principle that pupils are to be educated in accordance with the wishes of their parents, so far as that is compatible with the provision of efficient instruction and training and the avoidance of unreasonable public expenditure.
During his visit to Llangennech Neil Hamilton met a few of the lead parents including Mrs Beddows who was considering standing for the Community Council in May’s elections under the Labour flag (Community Councillors only have a limited role and principally deal with mundane matters centred around well-being of their local community and derive no pay for their efforts).
The other prominent parent opposed to the Council’s onslaught to remove the English Medium education is Jacqueline Seward who is standing as a Labour candidate for the County Council seat in her ward. She played no part in the meeting with Neil Hamilton and chose to stay away upon the advice she got from Lee Waters and Nia Griffiths.
As Mrs Beddows was perceived as ‘Toxic’ through her opposition to the imposed Welsh Medium Education (WME) that she often articulated in a measured way principally as a mother who experienced the huge distress and unhappiness of her child who initially started schooling in a Welsh Medium class.
Mrs Beddows, felt she had no option but to change education format for her child to the English Medium that transformed overnight an unhappy little person to one that enjoyed being in school (A situation that I also experienced as a parent and many other parents too but kept out of the public domain by the Welsh media).
The prominence that the parents got via the local press, TV and radio interviews drew support from all over Wales and this negative publicity against a Plaid and Llafur flagship policy clearly had to be ended.
Michaela Beddows together with Jacqueline Seward were singled out by Leanne Wood, the leader of Plaid Cymru, who together with Jonathan Edwards, Plaid Cymru MP for Carmarthen East, started a truly nasty campaign aimed at the parents under the guise that Plaid Cymru represents the fundamental issues such as human rights, protection of minorities, religious and cultural diversity and so on but is it true?
Answers to this question including the shameless role of Welsh media [Western Mail (Wales on Line); BBC Cymru Wales; Radio Wales and including the most recent intervention by BBC’s Huw Edwards] in degrading and vilifying of Llangennech parents opposed to the Welsh language compulsion, will be expanded upon in part II over the next few days.
Also, the response to Llangennech situation by the Welsh ‘Labour’ Party will be also looked at in the next article.
Jacques Protic 21.02.2017