Open letter to the Minister for Welsh Education

18.10.2019 – (Welsh Gov. Reference: TO/KW/07373/19)

Dear Mrs Williams,

Welsh Medium Education (WME)

For some years now, I’ve become a vociferous opponent of the ever-increasing drive on the part of the Welsh Government to Socially Engineer Wales into a Welsh-speaking nation and where the compulsion is the modus operandi.

My motives were never driven by the ‘hatred of Welsh or the Welsh language’ as the nationalists would like to label me as, but as a parent, living in the Y Fro Gymraeg world (Anglesey) I have direct experience that the compulsory WME is doing untold damage to our youngsters, especially those with no Welsh at home and more than evident in the KS2 stats obtained under the Freedom of Information provisions from your Government:

The ATISN KS2 data is only using the Level 5+ children in eFSM bands to eliminate as far as possible the SES effects at the end of KS2 in the three core subjects that matter – English, Maths, and Science.

We know the biggest single influence on outcomes is the SES of the children’s parents. This, shows pretty clearly that English Medium (EM) schools out-perform WM schools in nearly all eFSM bands in all three important core subjects. In other words, children with no Welsh at home in WME are ending up illiterate and innumerate in two languages!

The data also shows that if ambitious L1 English parents are sending their children to WM schools, then they would probably do a lot better in an EM school environment. The truth is, so would many of the L1 Welsh pupils just as so many EAL kids do in EM schools in England. EM immersion is nearly always better than WM submersion of L1 English kids (Submersion is UNICEF terminology for children forced to learn through a language not spoken at home).

Before I deal with the GCSE outcomes, I strongly recommend that you carefully consider the implications of teaching children through a language not spoken at home as articulated by Save the Children Foundation, UNICEF and many other learning experts and academics are unanimous in agreeing that children need the first 12 years of their life to become proficient in their home language:

“Many children around the world go to school to find their teachers speaking to them in a language they don’t understand. Or they are expected to read and write in a language that has no meaning for them. It’s a key reason why so many of them fail to perform at school.”

In Wales, the so-called ‘bilingual advantage’ is peddled with no conscience or any regard to the harm inflicted on children who only have one chance of getting a good education. Your ‘linguistic’ policies are denying that chance to our children, and your bilingual narrative is simply a myth that can never be achieved in the Welsh language context.

Your whole philosophy on creating 1 Million Welsh speakers relies on a fallacy that the English L1 pupils in WM schools will embrace the language and use it happily ever after, but a recent (2016) Bangor University study observed the opposite:

“The key findings indicate that top-down formal domain transmission has amplified the view of Welsh as a language limited to formal, ‘high’ domains, thus inhibiting language application among male adolescents. The inherent association of Welsh with formality as well as tradition and patriotism has led to cultural disengagement among the target group.”

Back to the GCSE data and again from your FOI disclosure log ATISN 12826:

Notes
(a) Includes all mainstream secondary and middle schools in Wales.
(b) The percentage of pupils eligible for Free School Meals (FSM) is a 3-year average.
(c) The highest percentage of eFSM pupils at a Welsh-medium school is 19.252%.
(d) Pupils in year 11 on 31 August at the start of the academic year.
(e) The percentage of year 11 pupils achieving level 2 in any core Maths qualification (the equivalent of an A*-C pass at GCSE). The best of category counts pupils who got an A*-C in one or both of Mathematics and Mathematics – Numeracy.
(f) The percentage of year 11 pupils achieving level 2 in any core science qualification (the equivalent of an A*-C pass at GCSE). Vocational science qualifications are not counted as core qualifications from 2017/18.
(g) The percentage of year 11 pupils achieving level 2 in any core Welsh first language qualification (the equivalent of an A*-C pass at GCSE). This is the percentage of all pupils entering Welsh, rather than the percentage of all year 11 pupils.
(h) The percentage of year 11 pupils achieving the level 2 inclusive threshold – a volume equivalent to 5 A*-C passes at GCSE, including A*-C in Maths and either English or Welsh first language.
(i) The number of year 11 pupils achieving a volume equivalent to 5 A*-C passes at GCSE, including A*-C in Maths and English language.

“.” refers to a data item that is not applicable.

The ATISN data shows EM schools out-perform WM schools in almost every relevant measure apart from L1 Welsh within each eFSMs band except the 3rd band where some performance is similar.  This, confirms that WM education tends to disadvantage the high achievers more than the average to low achievers (therefore people with bright children should arguably avoid WM schools), but the average is a pretty low bar in Wales as PISA shows. 

Furthermore, it shows there is less deprivation generally in WM schools as most of us know; therefore, the outcomes SHOULD be consistently better, but they’re not – they’re mostly worse. 

The myth of WM superiority has always been because the WM schools have lower deprivation levels and this is why they initially appeared to be ‘better’ than EM schools with much higher deprivation levels, worse pupil/teacher ratios, and more ‘problem’ pupils like EAL etc.

In this context they were comparing oranges with bananas – it was not a like-for-like comparison, and the myth of WM superiority soon took hold buoyed by endless propaganda about bilingual advantage which recent research shows does not exist. 

Given their lower deprivation levels, WM schools under-perform EM by some margin.  This is what Professor Stephen Gorard found back in 1998, when he wrote ’Schooled to fail’? Revisiting the Welsh school‐effect, but he was ignored and vilified.

Once the SES/deprivation playing field is levelled by comparing like with like, as far as possible by using eFSMs grouping, then we start comparing oranges with oranges again, and the WM oranges start looking more like lemons! 

As time goes on, unless this madness stops and stops now the WM education becomes more mainstream, and less of an elite education pastime with some WM schools having low deprivation levels some private schools would kill for, then the relative under-performance of WM relative to EM will grow and grow.  Either that or, just as likely, you (W. Gov) will level everybody down AGAIN to obfuscate the failure of your flagship policy?

The 15 – 19.252 band contains only 766 WM pupils so it’s reasonable to expect that teachers had more opportunity to do remedial work with those pupils – which may explain why they appear to have done relatively well.

Columns K & L show the difference between Level 2 inclusive (which includes Welsh and English) and Level 2 inclusive without Welsh language.  If you compare WM and EM on this basis – what might be called the sensible basis for life in the rest of the UK which requires only English language skills – then WM under-performs again. 

WM school results are propped up by the ease with which L1 Welsh kids can pass GCSEs in Welsh language and Welsh literature.  So this is another notional advantage they have over EM schools in addition to their lower levels of deprivation.  This is nothing to do with pedagogy or education – it is about gaming the system to favour WM schools by giving WM ysgols more bites at the cherry (This advantage has been partly removed this year, and that’s one reason why 2019 looks even worse than 2018)! – The data, as presented, is based on traffic lights notation.  Green is better, Yellow is about the same, and Red is worse.

Moving away from the statistics, I would like to think that you, your colleagues and hopefully Mark Drakeford would seriously consider what the data says and start afresh, with a new education policy that can bring back the standards and excellence in Welsh education that evaporated 20 years ago.

It is not a coincidence that Welsh education stagnated with the onset of the devolution as making our children more Welsh became a priority for the Welsh Labour Government and substantial teaching time has been lost on the language teaching.  Any education expert worth his soul will tell you that the teaching time is finite, and the available time must be used wisely and effectively.

Your Government has been disingenuous by changing curriculum and exam standards to avoid direct comparison with the other UK’s home nations, but you could not escape or fudge the PISA results, which class Wales at the very bottom of all home nations.

Don’t want to overwhelm you with data and stats but worth noting that Professor Jon Jerrim (UCL) has observed that Welsh pupils who did PISA exams through Welsh, were about a year behind those pupils who used English in the same exams!  

You are fortunate that you have Welsh ‘media’ effectively in your pockets which is complicit in ensuring nothing bad is ever said about the Social Experiment that is relentless, ongoing and the sole reason for failing standards not only in the education but across the public services where Welsh language skill is valued more than the competence.

What you are creating is a utopian society and is not working, the Social Media is braking the censorship, and the Welsh public will find out the truth, what then? Interment or Concentration camps for the non-believers?

No nation other than Israel has ever managed to resurrect an indigenous language. Irish have tried hard, spent Billions of Euros annually and got nowhere and then they stopped – A must watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mrg_xuJZsDQ

Your expenditure on the Welsh language is not far from what Irish were spending at the height of their lunacy, and by throwing money effectively down the drain you are depriving many and far more worthy causes of adequate funding – Justifiable?

Assuming you read all of the above, I’ll not trouble you much further but must take an issue on the numbers of the actual Welsh speakers in Wales.

Most of the documents released by your department and Eluned Morgan, Minister for the Welsh language use wild and unfounded statements as to the demand/popularity of the Welsh language that are not based in fact but derived from phoney surveys originating from your own Government (Statistical services in the Welsh Government that ‘provide independent official statistics’) contradiction of terms, in other words, Ministry of Truth to fit with the Governments narrative.

Take a close look at this graph:

Annual Survey of some 11K participants ‘randomly chosen’ by Welsh Gov’s Ministry of Truth tell us that in 2001 Wales had 834K Welsh speakers but the Census in the same year recorded 582K of those who could speak Welsh or have some Welsh. Then moving along the graph we come to 2011, here again, the Annual Survey shows 790K Welsh speakers but the Census records 562K Welsh speakers. Now to the current year (2019) and by magic Wales has 891,000 Welsh speakers!

We all know that the Census data is a Gold Standard and with reliable information, so there is no way that any survey that comes above Census numbers can be real or valid; hence my definition of FRAUD, please explain what’s the purpose of the Annual stats that are widely out, year on year is?

Now on a well-kept secret, the ONS (Office of National Statistics) responsible for conducting the Census had to face an onslaught of some 20+ Welsh language pressure groups to ensure that Census planned for 2021 does not ask searching questions to identify a precise number of Welsh speakers.

Most people educated in Wales will have some Welsh but can’t be classed as Welsh speakers and most reliable estimates coming from sources outside of the Welsh Government that at best we have circa 100K Welsh speakers that can speak and read the language – Inconvenient truth for the Ministry of Truth?

Finally, I do hope that the Welsh Government and those responsible for the language and education policies will stop deceiving the Welsh public and finally admit that Welsh can never be anything else but a cultural language of a minority. Ignore all this at your peril as you’ll have on your conscience failure of thousands of our children whom you’ll deprive of education that they need and deserve to have.

Yours sincerely,

Jacques Protic

References:

Contact: school.stats@wales.gsi.gov.uk
Date: 13-Sep-2016
Source: Welsh National Test Data

All content is available under the Open Government Licence v3.0, except where otherwise stated.

http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/open-government-licence/version/3C

Achievement of year 11 pupils at all mainstream schools by the broad medium of delivery and FSM eligibility, 2017/18

CHANGES TO THE PRODUCTION OF THESE STATISTICS

These are the changes introduced in 2017/18:
1) Vocational science qualifications are no longer included in the A*-C
science measure or the subject-specific
Several key changes have been implemented to the KS4 performance measures data in this 2016/17 academic year:
1) Introduction of the Capped 9 Score
The Capped 9 measure focuses on Year 11 pupils’ results from nine of the qualifications available in Wales, including subject-specific requirements.
The main changes compared to the previous capped points score are:
An increase from eight to nine GCSEs or an equivalent volume of
qualifications
The introduction of subject-specific attainment requirements in English, Welsh, Mathematics – Numeracy, Mathematics and Science.
More information can be found in the Notes section:  

2) Cap on non-GCSEs to threshold measures. From 2017, a maximum of two vocational (non-GCSE) qualifications will count towards all threshold measures, depending on the size of the qualification (ie no more than 40% of the threshold).

3) Literature in threshold measures
Literature qualifications no longer count towards the literacy elements in the Level 2 inclusive or Capped 9 score from 2017 onwards, but can
still count in the non-subject specific elements.

4) New Mathematics GCSEs This is the first summer that pupils are expected to sit two GCSEs in Mathematics – GCSE Mathematics and GCSE Mathematics Numeracy.
These are the changes introduced in 2015/16:

1) Reporting school performance for 2015/16 is now based on a Year 11
cohort basis rather than for pupils aged 15 at the start of the year.
The Year 11 cohort is based on the number of pupils who were registered as being on roll in Year 11 in the school on 12 January 2016, the day of
the school census. This is a recommended change arising from the
Review of Qualifications for 14-19-year-olds in Wales. Data for 2013/14
and 2014/15 is still based on pupils aged 15.  

2) In previous years, LA figures were based on mainstream schools,
special schools, independent schools and PRU’s (Pupil Referral Units)
and did not include those pupils who were educated other than at school (EOTAS) who did not attend a PRU. This year, this additional EOTAS data
is included in the data and so will affect the LA figures. This additional
data will also be included in the Wales figures.

3) KS4 performance measures for Wales previously covered all maintained and independent schools in Wales. Beginning this academic year,
results for independent schools are not included in the Wales figures. Contact: school.stats@wales.gsi.gov.uk Date: 08/01/2018 Source: Welsh Examinations Database

All content is available under the Open Government Licence v2.0,
except where otherwise stated. http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/open-government-licence/version/2/


Minority language abandonment in Welsh-medium educated L2 male
adolescents: classroom, not chatroom by Abigail Ruth Price and Marco
Tamburelli – School of Linguistics and English Language, Bangor
University, Bangor, Gwynedd, UK          

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