Welsh speakers target at risk due to lack of teachers, committee warns

The Welsh Government will not hit its target of one million Welsh speakers by 2050 without a substantial increase in teachers, according to a report.

The Senedd’s Communication, Culture, Welsh Language, Sport, and International Relations Committee found shortcomings in how local authorities are planning and expanding Welsh language education across the country.

The report highlighted not only a lack of staff to support the necessary growth in Welsh-medium schools, but also a lack of Welsh-medium teaching in English-medium education.

According to the Office for National Statistics, there has been a decrease in children and young people being able to speak Welsh over the last 10 years – particularly between the ages of three and 15.

One of the ways the Welsh Government is attempting to improve this is by increasing the numbers of Welsh speaking teachers by providing free lessons to those wishing to develop their language skills.

A key focus of the committee’s inquiry was the effectiveness of these training programmes.

Dyfodol I’r Iaith, which campaigns to increase the numbers of Welsh speakers, estimates the need for 17,000 teachers to be enrolled on training programmes if the Welsh Government is to hit the one million Welsh speakers target by 2050.

The committee recommends the Welsh Government invests substantially to make sure more teachers, teaching assistants and lecturers are enrolled on programmes to improve their Welsh proficiency.

Committee chair Delyth Jewell MS said: “Welsh is a language that belongs to all of us in Wales and it should concern us deeply that the number of speakers isn’t increasing.

“This committee is supportive of the target of one million Welsh speakers by 2050, but that ambition is in serious jeopardy if things continue as they are.

“It’s clear that having enough teachers who can speak Welsh is crucial to addressing this issue, and we need the Welsh Government to show real ambition over the next few years.

“More teachers should be encouraged to learn Welsh and those working in early years education should also be able to access the same opportunities.

“We should also recognise that the linguistic map of Wales is quite varied and that a one-size-fits-all approach might not always work.

“We would like the Welsh Government to explore a training and accreditation system for Welsh-medium teachers so that each child has the best opportunity to learn our language.

“Wales has reached a crucial moment and now is the time to introduce change. We urge the Welsh Government to accept and implement our recommendations before it’s too late.”

A Welsh Government spokeswoman said: “We recognise the challenge of increasing the number of Welsh-medium teachers.

“We have published the Welsh in Education Workforce Plan which sets out a number of ambitious steps we will take with our partners to develop the workforce over the next 10 years.

“We will respond to the committee’s report in due course.”