A teachers perspective and a harrowing indictment of Welsh Labour’s Education Policy.
About ten years ago, I was seconded from my inner-city multi-ethnic secondary school in Cardiff to its four feeder primary schools with a similar mix of pupils. I was to be responsible for transition, working with Year 6 pupils. I had identified schools such as Cardiff High, and Radyr, as top division secondary schools and school like Willows High, and Eastern High as second division schools.
It’s a well-known fact that parents throughout Wales and the whole of the UK avoid certain schools. It’s not because of the majority of the pupils who attend or the teaching staff.
It’s because schools from the most impoverished areas have to contend with increasing social deprivation and have become the dumping ground for modern social ills that have emanated from the ever-expanding underclass.
It’s all about geography, and it’s more divisive and unfair than the old eleven plus. Welsh Labour’s fanfare of Education, Education, Education should be changed to Location, Location, Location.
In each of the four primaries, I was asked to work with those pupils who struggled academically, usually because English was their second or third language. I worked with small groups while the class teacher concentrated on the more gifted and average pupils.
The first thing I noticed was the class answering the register in Welsh. In fact, there was quite a bit of Welsh around the classrooms. The teachers would occasionally give instructions in Welsh to often-bemused pupils.
This did not happen in my secondary school. Welsh was only used in Welsh lessons. In one of my primaries, there was an Estyn visit, not an inspection, two individuals where there for less than a day.
The year six teacher said rather nervously that her maths and Welsh lesson was to be observed. One of the Estyn visitors entered the classroom to choose pupils to test their Welsh.
Each time she pointed at a terrified ten-year-old, the teacher interjected explaining that each one chosen was unsuitable because they had only recently arrived from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan etc.
This carried on until a pupil born and bred in Cardiff slowly paced towards the beckoning finger and through the door. That school had a 75% turnover which means that only 25% of the pupils remain at the school from Year 1 to Year 6.
There was a lot of mumbling and disquiet in these primary schools and much open hostility to this ever-increasing imposition of Welsh and its adverse effect on pupils’ wellbeing, development and happiness.
The class teachers openly resented being removed from their pupils for up to a month a year to attend Welsh courses against their wills. Supply teachers had to take their places and who, in my experience, were not suitable substitutes for class teachers, interrupted continuity and were often incompetent. There was also the expense to the school.
I diplomatically broached the subject with a headteacher who responded by angrily railing against the increasing Welsh language provisions which were adversely affecting pupils’ education and teachers’ morale.
She added “Do you know Dennis that during inspection Estyn would wander around in the playground during lunchtime with their clipboards listening to conversations of children and marking the school in the amount social Welsh spoken by these kids from Libya, Iraq, Pakistan, Splott, Czech Republic etc… It was like Orwell’s thought police or a surreal Kafkaesque tale.
I had assumed at the time this situation was as a result of Plaid Cymru’s influence and the outcome of political deals with the Labour Party as they shared power for a while. I began writing to the local press and was regularly publically expressing my disgust in their letters’ pages, hoping to expose these developments that were damaging our pupils’ education.
Many of the staff in the primary school who had read them congratulated me and thanked me for expressing these views. However, they were loathed to draw attention to themselves.
Another Head pulled me to one side and said, “Loved your letter in the Echo last night, it certainly needed saying” – Then as part of her next Assembly she handed awards to the pupils and teachers who had been nominated for speaking the most Welsh that week!
Senior school leaders are terrified of Estyn. The responses to the letters from the zealots were a toned-down version of their tweets and uncensored outpourings on other platforms.
When I was walking down the corridor during my weekly visit to my secondary school a long-serving male teacher, very committed but an old sweat with a cynical streak, on passing said with a smirk, Bora Da, Dennis.
Further along, another teacher did the same thing. This ugly contagion had spread to the secondary schools. Several times I passed the Head, not a man to cross without repercussions, who offered a Bora Da and each time I politely wished him a gracious good morning.
Having worked in the private industry most of my life, I was regularly astounded that mature, educated teachers accepted often misjudged and misguided directives from on high, unquestioningly.
Many of our secondary teachers had been at the school for decades. Some weren’t even Welsh, then overnight they start speaking in, for them, an alien language because the Head says that, after all these years, they must. In any other occupation, there would be almost total non-compliance.
Because of my experience in schools, the Welsh language imposition being one of many issues that concerned me, I got more involved with local politics to discover the level of infiltration of Welsh speakers that dominate the Labour Party leadership and Cabinet.
I now discovered the party of which I had been a member for forty years had been hijacked and was now a nationalist party. My intentional efforts, to improve the educational standards for most unfortunate in society via socialism, was dead in the water.
The so-called Welsh Labour party was boasting of the great demand for Welsh Medium schools, while conveniently ignoring the reality.
This demand had arisen because parents were seeking alternatives to their local “rough school” and were enrolling in faith schools and Welsh language schools with low “free school meal” uptake along with like-minded aspirational parents who want to avoid the riff-raff. You can also access free transport to Faith and Welsh Medium Schools.
Improving the down at heel schools with the lowest exams grades would be counter-productive for the current Welsh Labour Party as it would lower demand for Welsh-medium schools.
We can only hope that some members and activists can be convinced to reverse this trend and support the most vulnerable to create a fairer society which is the reason for the existence of the Labour Party.
Dennis Coughlin – 16.05.2020
Over the years, I have experienced some horrendous abuse, intimidation, threats including hate mail from the Welsh-speaking nationalists, apparently intending to get me silenced.
My ‘crime’ speaking out on the considerable injustice in our society where under the devolved governance, a minority is singled out for the privilege and entitlement and where the vast majority has effectively become irrelevant and confined to the second class citizenship.
I genuinely admire Mr Coughlin’s intervention and do hope other teachers, parents, and perhaps politicians will realise that the current Welsh language policies are unsustainable, damaging and destructive – the silent majority must speak out before more damage is done to Wales, especially to the most vulnerable – Children in Poverty:
Do these children need the Welsh Medium Education or for that matter, any other child who does not have Welsh as a home language?
In my opinion, no and I was astounded to learn that the Welsh Government has spent £24,358,000 on promoting the Welsh language in 2019/20 Financial Year alone (Source: Welsh Gov – FOI Disclosure/Ref: ATISN 13604)
If anyone thinks that this kind of expenditure on promoting a ‘compulsory subject’ is right and acceptable, while 1,000’s of children live in poverty, please let me know – YOUR TURN TO SPEAK OUT!
Jacques Protic 17.04.2020