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Welsh Assembly Announces Primary Schools to Teach Foreign Languages

The Welsh Assembly have announced today that pupils will start learning different languages in primary school as part of Wales’ new curriculum

The Welsh Education Minster, Kirsty Williams has announced that it’s the Welsh Assembly’s wishes that learners experience new languages at an earlier age and there would be clear expectations for their progress while at primary school.

In the new curriculum, Modern Foreign Languages would be included within International Languages. This would also include community languages, classical languages and British Sign Language (BSL).  It is going to be up to the schools and local authorities to which language(s) they would like their learners to experience in addition to Welsh and English.

Additional Changes to How Welsh is Taught

There are also proposed plans to change the way that Welsh language is taught. Currently it is compulsory for all children from 3 to 16-year olds to learn Welsh alongside English. This will continue to be the case, however Welsh will no longer to be separated into first and second language Programmes of Study, which means it will no longer be classed as a second language in English-medium schools in Wales.

Under the new proposals, all learners will simply follow the same curriculum and there would be more of an emphasis on improving learners’ skills and use of the language. Again, it’s going to be up to the schools and local authority to decide how they individually approach it, but they would expected to give opportunities for learners to listen, read, speak and write in Welsh.

The Welsh Education Minister Views

Announcing the changes today (18th January 2018), the Education Minister said: “This marks the most dramatic shift in the way languages are taught in Welsh schools since the introduction of the National Curriculum in 1988.”

“We want all our learners to be citizens of both Wales and the world and that means ensuring that all young people from all backgrounds have an opportunity to develop their language skills – whether that’s in Welsh, English or international languages.”

“We know these changes will take time and that’s why we won’t be taking a big bang approach. We’re committed to giving schools the time and resources they need to adjust. That’s why I recently announced £24 million over and above what already goes into curriculum support.”


Professor Sioned Davies Views

Professor Sioned Davies, is the author of a Welsh Government commissioned report into Welsh in the curriculum, and she has said: “I am very pleased that the Welsh Government is fulfilling the recommendations of my report. Ensuring that the Welsh language is a statutory subject for everyone and removing the term ‘Welsh second language’ is vital if we are to achieve the goal of a million Welsh speakers.”

“The new curriculum, which will bring language learning together into one Area of Learning and Experience, will provide an exciting opportunity for teachers in Wales to develop and share expertise in language learning to give our children and young people the best opportunity to develop communication skills in Welsh and English, and in international languages.”

“These are exciting and challenging times. There is a need to ensure time and support for the whole system to develop in order to create the best conditions for the new curriculum to flourish.”

Support for Teachers

A Curriculum and Assessment White Paper is going be published for consultation shortly, which will set out potential changes that will be needed to support the introduction of the new Curriculum in 2022, however already underway is support for teachers which is including intensive Welsh language training for teachers and teaching assistants.

Shortage of Teachers able to Teach these Subjects

The Welsh Government has on numerous occasions discussed how there is a shortage of teachers in Wales and specifically in Language subjects. During an Assembly meeting on 24th October 2017 whilst talking about the subject of Teacher Recruitment, Kirsty Williams The Welsh Education Minister said “I nonetheless fully accept that we do, however, experience challenges in recruiting to certain subjects and in certain geographical locations. This is a challenge we must, and will, rise to.”

“Therefore, I have decided to announce our incentives for the academic year 2018-19 early. We are providing clarity and assurance in our commitment to our newest teachers. These incentives support key national priorities, including physics, chemistry, mathematics, Welsh and modern foreign languages. We are also now including computer science as a priority subject eligible for the highest level of incentive. If, as a Government, we’re to achieve our ambitions in ‘Cymraeg 2050’, then we need to increase the number of teachers who can teach bilingually, through the medium of Welsh and teach Welsh as a subject.”

This week the government have announced that they have extended these financial incentives for teacher training to be extended into the academic year 2019-20. The incentives, of up to £20,000 per student, aim to attract the best graduates into teaching priority subjects such as mathematics, physics, chemistry, Welsh or computer sciences and up to £15,000 for modern foreign languages.

It has also confirmed that the additional incentive scheme of up to £5,000 to train to teach secondary education in Welsh, will also continue in 2019-20.

Kirsty Williams said: “Giving school pupils the best possible education means attracting the best teachers into the profession, especially in priority subjects where the demand for new teachers is highest. We are also extending the Iaith Athrawon Yfory incentives to help increase the numbers teaching Welsh and through the medium of Welsh, to help us achieve our aims in Cymraeg 2050.”

“These incentives of up to £20,000, with an additional £5,000 available for Welsh-medium teachers, will help recruit the best teachers we can and support them on their career pathway. Maintaining a strong and skilled teaching workforce is essential to achieving our ambitions in our National Mission for Education in Wales.”


Changes to Welsh Qualifications

Obviously with all these changes it goes without saying that in the longer-term, qualifications for Welsh, English and International Languages would also change and currently Qualifications Wales are considering how qualifications should change in line with the new curriculum.

When is this Going to Happen?

The plans are that the New Curriculum will be introduced to pupils in 2022 and the rollout will be complete when today’s six- and seven-year olds reach the end of their final GCSE year in the summer 2027.





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