A steady year-on-year decline in newly qualified Welsh-medium teachers lead the Welsh Language Commissioner to call for ‘significant intervention’ to radically increase the number of teachers who can teach through the medium of Welsh.
Carys Bowen, 21, from Pontypridd, graduated last summer from University of South Wales (USW), as a qualified Welsh-medium teacher, and has recently started teaching full-time.
From a fluent Welsh-speaking family, Carys attended both Welsh-medium primary and secondary schools. However, she felt hesitant about continuing her education in Welsh. She said:
“I was planning to do the teaching degree in English, because I felt more confident writing essays in English. However, I went for my interview at USW and they went through the linguistic support that I would have available to me, which gave me the push I needed.
We had lectures on how to improve our academic Welsh. Even as a fluent speaker, I still found these immensely useful. We all did. During my second year, a lecturer commented on the difference in my language skills and how I had grown in confidence.”
Carys has always enjoyed working with children. In comprehensive school, she helped to run drama and reading clubs for children in the years below her:
“It was this that made me appreciate the impact you can have, in such a short time. I wanted to carry that on in my career.
During the degree, we had work placements in schools, which helped my confidence year on year. Also, studying at USW’s Newport campus, we had access to the latest technology and resources, and our workshops were set up like classrooms. This was so important, not only to develop our teaching skills, but also to learn from the child’s perspective.
Now teaching Year 5 children at Ysgol Gymraeg Casnewydd, Carys understands the challenges facing Welsh-medium education post-lockdown:
“Only 2% of pupils come from homes where any Welsh is spoken so we are encouraging the children to, once again, speak, read, and write Welsh, and regain their confidence.
There are varying levels of ability within each classroom. However, it is our job to support every child regardless of their ability, so they can all thrive together.
Welsh is important to me because I am from a family of Welsh speakers. Mam spoke English and Welsh to me when I was growing up. My extended family are from West Wales where Welsh is spoken more widely. I would love to see more people in South Wales using the language, out and about, celebrating our language and how amazing it is. I hope to inspire the next generation of Welsh speakers.
There is demand for more Welsh-medium teachers. The Welsh language is flourishing in South East Wales and the benefit of supporting children to learn is a privilege. I can’t imagine not teaching in a Welsh-medium school now.”
Jamie James, Head of USW’s School of Education, Early Years and Social Work, said: "USW has a long history of supporting students to make a real difference in their communities. We are so proud of what Carys and USW alumni like her are achieving for the benefit of learners in Wales and beyond.
In partnership with our student teachers, alumni and school partners, we are focused on ensuring that education in Wales continues to benefit from access to excellent teachers, and we are particularly determined to ensure that Welsh-medium education can thrive. Hence, it is so important that we all continue to work together to realise the vision set out by the Welsh Government for education reform and for the future of the Welsh language."