Expendable children – Welsh Education

Comments: 26

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

Editor’s note:

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

Further Reading:


27 thoughts on “Expendable children – Welsh Education

  1. Published Mr Coughlin’s article on @GlasnostUK Facebook page and within minutes got the following response from a Meg Elis:

    She called the essay RACIST and has reported me (Not sure to whom and on what grounds as she has now blocked me)!

    I seem to have a knack of upsetting a specific section of the Welsh community by suggesting on the Social Media that Wales has two pandemics, one China created and the second Welsh Government made.

    The Welsh Government’s ‘pandemic’ is officially known as the Cymraeg 2050 Policy and will cost Wales dearly in years to come.

    No nation, can survive by making most children innumerate and illiterate in two languages, or I got it wrong?

  2. Following on from Mr Coughlin’s comments on the number of A level Welsh students:-
    If anyone is interested enough they can visit STATSWALES to find out the first degree qualification of Initial Teacher Training entrants in Wales.
    This prompts me to ask what kind of Wales we want in the future. As Jacques has frequently pointed out the drive to change the nature of Wales to a completely Welsh speaking nation is spearheaded by a drive for more Welsh medium schooling.
    There is an unintended consequence however in the short term and the long term. In the short term we can see from statsWales that the most popular first degree for secondary school ITT entrants on Welsh medium teaching courses is…WELSH. 29.6% of all ITT entrants for WM secondary courses have a degree in Welsh.
    Now consider the poor English language results in WM secondary schools and you see the reason; only 5% of WM, ITT entrants have a degree in English as opposed to 14.7% of ITT entrants with a degree in English who are going to teach through the medium of English.
    English is of course a compulsory subject in WM schools but the qualification to become a teacher, which used to include a minimum grade “B” in English at GCSE, has been amended to either English OR Welsh at grade B. WM teachers don’t have to have an English level2 GCSE!
    The most serious statistic of all relates to the economic health of Wales. The private sector “wealth creators” for Wales will be those excelling in STEM subjects. Amongst WM ITT entrants 31% have a STEM degree against 41% amongst English Medium ITT entrants.
    All data is an aggregate of the last 4 years but what is clear is that there is a trend in WM schooling towards Welsh language, arts and humanities and even in EM schools the overcrowded curriculum is killing off the vital time required for STEM subject teaching and teaching any meaningful second language.

    • A valuable contribution, Mr Jones and the issues you have raised need to be articulated far and wide.

      Welsh children deserve a future and a good education via the language they speak at home.

      Welsh Government’s Cymraeg 2050 policy is a disaster in the making and unless it’s abolished it will plague Wales for years to come.

  3. No-one has mentioned the depressing effect that learning in a Welsh Medium school has on pupils who move on at 18 to an English-only-university. In many subjects, they discover that they cannot understand the technical words used in their speciality.

    In most universities in the world, English technical words are used because that eases cross-cultural understanding and co-operation. But in pig-headed Welsh education, they use terms understood only by 0.00012 of the world population – That is a heinous failure of duty to their pupils.

    Another issue is that where there is genuine parental pressure for WM schools it is from parents who themselves work in Welsh governmental jobs and expect their offspring to do the same.

    Yet another issue is that pupils in English Medium schools who are forced to learn one of the most difficult languages in the world from an early age have no appetite to learn another language at school, so they are denied many good jobs.

    Employers in Wales who need sales and marketing people with language skills have to look outside the Principality.

      • As they say ‘bully for you’, Anon and perhaps you can enlighten us which subject you studied. Also, no mention of any English Medium Education that many Crachach families adore (Their siblings come with the Welsh-speaking Pedigree) and many are sent to the top English Medium private schools. Usually followed by a degree from an English university and a job for life in the Welsh Public Sector, that is dominated by the ‘more equal’ Welsh speakers. In real life, most Welsh L1 kids who have been ‘educated’ via WME are struggling in English Universities as Mr Smith observed.

        • Does ‘bully for you’ mean Anon’s experience somehow doesn’t matter because it doesn’t fit conveniently with the tenor of this thread? Surely it is good to listen to different people’s experiences?

          • Absolutely not, but a viewpoint based on hearsay with nothing tangible to back it up, is just a worthless soundbite IMO.

    • In Wales, rationale and reasoning have been stifled by the endless lies on the benefits of learning Welsh.

      These lies are repeated so often by the Welsh political establishment, Welsh ‘media’ and the so-called Welsh-speaking ‘educators’ that we are now faced with a typical situation where often repeated lies provide the illusion of truth.

      Rolling back decades of deceit is not easy, but for the sake of our children and their future, we must take on the Welsh language Taliban head-on.

      We will not get any support from the media in Wales, and blogs like Glasnost UK should be supported by contributing your thoughts, sharing experience and involving other people to join in; eventually, we will be heard.

  4. Anyone who is interested should always read the statistics; this is a recent release from the National Survey:-
     43% of Welsh speakers had learnt to speak Welsh at
    home as a young child.
     75% of those who learnt to speak Welsh at home described themselves as fluent, compared with 6% who learnt Welsh at secondary school.
    So of the 57% who learned Welsh at school as opposed to through their family, just 6% described themselves as fluent.

    All of the population who have been schooled in Wales since 1999 have had a school lifetime of compulsory Welsh and in the region of 18%-22% have been through Welsh-medium schools.

    As we all know, that 75% of pupils who have become fluent in Welsh thanks to having Welsh-speaking parents are now teachers, media figures and an influential and dominant part of the Welsh Government both nationally and a LA level.

    We in Wales have allowed a hereditary system to be instated through the back door. Never believe that the Welsh language is not a potent political weapon and a way of disadvantaging the non-Welsh speaking population.
    Parents who really believe that their child benefits from Welsh language teaching in school are beyond naive.

    • Hard facts and evidence are what they fear that’s why they respond with abuse as they have nothing else to offer. The reason they have a shortage of Welsh teachers is that school Welsh language “A” level entries have fallen from 489 in 2008/9 to 216 in 2017/18. Given a choice the youth of Wales are increasingly rejecting the Welsh language. However freedom of choice is being increasingly removed in our so called Welsh democracy by this cancerous dark age secret society.

      • There was an interesting series of FOI requests made by myself and a friend. My friend asked for a number of comparisons at GCSE level, 2019, KS4, in Gwynedd schools.

        He carefully asked that the schools should be grouped according to Eligibility for Free School Meals percentage, which is a major recognised “challenge factor” for all schools.

        The comparison was between Welsh Medium schools and the single English medium school in Gwynedd, Ysgol Friars.

        Broadly speaking; a group of schools whose average EFSM is less than 10% will outperform a group of schools whose average EFSM is between 10%and 15%. This is on average since individual schools, LEAs or year groups can over or underperform.

        The result is here:-

        There are several important things to notice:-
        All Welsh-medium schools in Gwynedd are relatively low EFSM.
        All the Welsh-medium schools have truly appalling English language results for schools with low EFSM.
        One measure, “level2 inclusive” heavily favours Welsh-medium schools.

        To explain how Welsh-medium schools are “made to look good” by the WG look at columns “N” and “O”.
        In an English medium school, the level2 inclusive (or CSI at Primary) cannot be higher than any single constituent part but can be lower.

        So, in Friars, 63% of pupils have attained 5 GCSEs at A*-C including any Maths and English language.

        Now look at the WM school groups; the 5%-10% EFSM group would be limited to a level2 inclusive of no higher than its very poor English result but they get a second bite at the cherry because any pupil failing English Level2 but passing Welsh level2 can be included.

        So column “N” gives the result that those schools are judged on; 61%. But the “Apples to Apples” comparison is the column “O” 55%…a truly poor result for a group of schools where fewer than 10% of pupils are EFSM.

        This is the hidden con trick that has been perpetrated on the schools of Wales for decades; English medium schools have always “punched above their weight” despite multiple challenges but when they are compared with WM schools by the WG, ESTYN and, sadly, ignorant parents WM schools appear to do better than they truly perform.

        Is Gwynedd an outlier and Friars exceptional? Not at all; Friars’ results aren’t great in 2019 but if you look at all Wales you see the same pattern; WM English results poor in comparison to EM schools and Level2 inclusive unfairly calculated to make WM look good.

    • Brilliant contribution Mr Jones and for any doubters, the prime example of Welsh-Speaker’s Hereditary Entitlement to public jobs for life is the Talfan-Davies family dynasty that is and has been controlling BBC CYMRU wales, for generations!

  5. Many supply teachers would resent your comment that they are generally incompetent. Most supply teachers are extremely knowledgeable about their subject and where it is not their subject they endeavour to improve their knowledge.

    They undertake CPD to ensure that they provide an outstanding service. The difficulties for supply teachers often lie with the schools themselves because some schools treat supply teachers like a necessary yet unfortunate commodity and with little to no respect and frequently the way they are treated has an impact on their wellbeing.

    If the discipline policy is poor or not really adhered too then how can the supply teacher be expected to somehow manage discipline perfectly? If the work left is of poor quality or standard, if the supply teacher isn’t given access SEN information or previous learning, if the learners have already done the work left, if there is not enough of it, if the technology is unavailable how can the supply teacher provide an excellent service?

    If learners have many supply teachers over a week, if their teacher for a particular subject is always off the supply teacher is at a disadvantage. In all of these cases, how can supply teachers give their very best? Supply Teacher bashing is unfair and needs to stop.

    • Dear Claire,

      Reading your comment again you are obviously a secondary school supply teacher where I was commenting on my experience in primary schools. You are quite right in laying the blame at the door of school discipline. Like many secondary schools, mine has adopted the Restorative Approach to impress Estyn. It is based on the premise that “pupils must be respected regardless of their behaviour” and is propagated by a company called Pivotal which is making millions dismantling school discipline. Our school’s discipline has plummeted in recent years with the ultimate sanction of exclusion being removed except maybe for murder or treason. Experienced class teachers have lost control over a large minority of pupils, so often supply teachers are like lambs to the slaughter to them. The term used by such pupils is to terrorise.

      However the good news is that the new head of OFSTED Amanda Speilman is in the process of reversing this trend in England so hopefully it will cross Offer’s Dyke.



    • Dear Claire,
      I’ve had a lot of experience sharing classrooms with supply teachers. It’s the most difficult of jobs, especially in those secondary schools where the most challenging pupils are placed. It’s made worse when they are not provided with a lesson plan and instructions. There are many who have very high standards which they maintain despite the disruptive pupils.

      You more than anyone must know that classes’, especially its liveliest members, attitude and demeanour change when they realise their lesson is to be taught by a supply teacher. Classroom call outs for bad behaviour rises when there is an increase in the number of supply teachers in my secondary school. It’s an objective fact. This is often no fault of the supply teacher.

      My experience in primary schools is more alarming. Whereas in secondary schools a science lesson is covered by a science-based supply teacher, in primaries you have to be multi-skilled and be able to cover several subjects. The class teacher has a unique relationship with his/her class, being their sole tutor for a year.

      In one Year 6 class a supply teacher, who was more comfortable teaching Years 1 and 2, had no idea how to teach percentages, so I took over the teaching role for several lessons during her week with us. Another supply teacher in a different primary school when asked by a pupil if “seemed” was a verb, she replied emphatically that it wasn’t because verbs are doing words, like kick, jump, swim etc…

      I’m sorry if I have offended you, but I stand by my comment that from what I had witnessed, “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”. This was with particular regard to primary schools. It is generally accepted that supply teachers are a short term fix, and the best of them can reduce the negative effect this has on pupils’ learning experience to a minimum.

      Concentrating on the main theme of my article I would like to know, if you are a non-Welsh speaker, how would you react to being forced to attend an intensive Welsh language course to give you the skills to teach your subject bi-lingually?

      Best regards


  6. Christina,

    I am not showing the courage and conviction to which you refer. I’m beyond retirement age and work a three day week.

    I’m well aware of the dangers of the many who work in the public sector in Wales in revealing their true feelings and disgust in what they are witnessing. They have families to support and mortgages to pay.

    The sinister tentacles of the “crachach” have infected its insidious malevolent influence and control on education, media, quangos and the arts. All those public institutions who do not have to turn a profit but are funded by money generated through the English language

  7. So many now have “drunk the Koolade” in Wales and are either evangelical Welsh in education supporters or too afraid of social pressure to raise their voices.

    With no voice from government or any political party, parents are grossly misled about the effects of WM schooling and creeping, insidious Welsh language infiltration into schools.

    Welsh-medium schooling is not the real world as Mr Coughlin well knows; in every school, on every day there are pupils who have needs and teachers who face challenges that are massively more important than the Welsh language.

    I have sat through Governing body meetings where the local authority and community members have monopolised hours trying to move the school ethos over to more Welsh with everything.
    We had a brilliant ethnically diverse pupil population, Arab, Chinese, Somali, Indian and Pakistani as well as a scattering of French and German and Spanish. The schoolyard was a joy and what have we to discuss and push according to the Local Education Authority? A reward system for speaking Welsh in the playground and corridors of the school.

    The pupils themselves helped each other through their common language; newly arrived Chinese kids sit with established Chinese kids and learn at an astonishing rate. What is the school beaten up about? Not enough Welsh heard in the schoolyard!

    • J. Jones,
      I have served on two governing bodies, my secondary school and one of its feeder primary schools. I gave my unstinting support to the primary head and her chair of governors.

      However, I came to realise the political content (large P and small p) of my secondary school’s governing board. The Chair was an LEA governor and an ambitious Labour councillor. There were other LEA governors, including a Labour councillor and a Labour activist plus a Lib Dem councillor.

      None had any connection or affinity with the school. I felt the Labour Party content created a sinister big brother influence like members of the state politburo, with its links to the feared Estyn, and the educational hierarchy which had undue influence on proceedings.

      They seemed to be there to ensure government policy and diktats were unswervingly obeyed. I’m a member of the Labour Party.

  8. I totally agree that the Welsh education system promotes the interests of only a small minority of the population – Welsh-speaking families and their children. In turn, often without merit because the genuine competition is excluded. These individuals secure the majority of desirable, well paid public positions in this desperately unequal country.

    WELSH (taxpayer)

    • Susie,

      It only exists because the silent majority remains silent; although most are unaware of the level malevolent influence they have. We must find ways to enlighten them.

      • Maybe the silent majority remain so because they don’t agree with you? After all, you’re supporting Protic the proto-fascist here!

        A lot of statistics are presented here, but precious little interpretation of what they actually mean. As the common saying goes, ‘There are Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics’. Which I think very apt for this blog.

        Most commenting here are just contributing to a bubble full of bigots who are trying, but failing in any real measure, to foment and direct hatred towards Welsh speakers and those who campaign for Welsh medium education, or at the very least, to ensure that the language is taught in all Wales’ schools.

        Would Cardiff’s Welsh medium schools be as full as they are were there not huge demand from ordinary working class Cardiff born and bred parents? Despite the now outdated notion, that WM education is only demanded by the Welsh speaking middle-classes, the truth in Cardiff and in many other areas of South East Wales that it is ordinary working class parents who are campaigning for Welsh medium education in the areas in which they live. Most parents in Cardiff would send their children to Welsh medium schools if they could. And I know about Splott, and also about the campaign by local (English speaking in the main) parents for a Welsh medium school in Splott.

        Using schools with with a multi-ethnic roll and claiming, because they are newly arrived and therefore disadvantaged by Welsh is not only disingenuous but also racist – those children would be equally disadvantaged by English. In the schools you mention, poverty is the real issue, not the Welsh language, which, as a matter of fact, is often willingly embraced by newly arrived people once they realise that Wales has its own distinct language. Many of them will already speak several languages , or at the very least, will be aware they exist, so another language will be taken in their stride.

        Upon starting school at five years old I was placed in a class where only one other child shared a common language with me. I was bilingual, able to speak both English, (which was my home language) and French, which was the language spoken in the wider community where I had been living prior to the family’s return to Wales. The language spoken by the majority of the children in that class was Welsh, their only language. I soon adapted, as children do.

        If you really want to do something positive for these kids, then it might be an idea to campaign against the poverty they endure, caused by the past ten years of ideological austerity on top of the past 40 years of neo-liberal economic thinking rather than going off the deep end, but no, you’d rather try and big up you bogus ‘internationalist’ socialist image, but duh, to be internationalist you also need to have an awareness of the nation, otherwise that internationalism is just empty posturing, but it does serve in some circles as a justification for some of the nastiest forms of bigotry. Fair enough disadvantaged kids have a need for much better resourced schools, so campaign for that, not against the Welsh language – that just makes you a bigot, no matter how you try and frame it

        • Thank you for your thoughts, David, and I get a distinct impression that you didn’t like what you’ve read. There is nothing wrong with the stats, and anyone with a basic level of comprehension will have no problem in understanding the explanatory text.

        • David your post sparked some recognition from my experience as a primary teacher – it is very often the Polish/ Romanian/Chinese pupils who excel at Welsh because it levels the playing field with English speakers. However other teachers describe a different experience, which should be taken in good faith. Perhaps it all depends how Welsh is handled – I’m not great at it but it makes more sense to me asking Welsh children in Wales to speak a bit of Welsh than say a bit of French which we did when I was at school.

          • Asking kids to learn a bit of Welsh is fine but forcing kids with no Welsh at home to learn through Welsh is a CRIME, IMO

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