I’ve noticed (or rather those clever bots at Google Analytics have noticed) that the most popular posts on the blog at the moment are the ones about our experiences of Welsh Medium Education. I guess the folk stumbling upon my witterings are probably researching the choices for their own children, so I thought I’d do a quick summary of the advice I’d give to English speaking families considering Welsh Medium Education.
- If you think you might choose Welsh Medium Education, then start learning Welsh yourself, now. You will need to understand and be able to read/pronounce at least basic Welsh to be able to support your child in learning to read, and beyond the early days, the more comfortable you are in Welsh, the more help you can be.
- If both parents can learn, even better. If one never gets round to it, the reading/homework burden will always fall on one person. Just saying!
- I’m sure you’d never dream of sticking your pre-schooler in front of the telly, but you know, in case an emergency arises and you’re all out of organic baking ingredients or non-toxic finger paints then stick’em in front of Cyw rather than Beebies. And watch with them – it’s amazing how much you will pick up.
- Same advice for the iPad – there are lots of Welsh language activities on Cyw that you can do together.
- Choose Welsh medium childcare – or a bilingual setting at the very least. The more Welsh your son or daughter knows when they start school, the more comfortable they’ll be in an all-Welsh environment.
- Even if you are not at all sure that Welsh Medium Education will be the route you choose, I’d seriously consider doing all the above in any case. That way you’re keeping your options open for as long as possible, and it’ll be a good grounding for your child since they’ll learn Welsh from day one in an English medium school in any case.
- It’s very easy to find out about the benefits of bilingual education – and quite hard to find out about possible disadvantages. If I was making the choice again, I’d actively seek out parents who feel that their children have not benefited from being educated in Welsh, to find out what issues they faced and what they did about it. It may or may not have changed my decision, but I’d have felt better prepared for the situation we find ourselves in now with our eldest child.
- You might well be told, as I was, that children not managing in Welsh and therefore switching to an English school, ‘just does not happen’. Well, it does happen to some children, so you may want to think through the implications of changing school at a later date. Particularly if you have a large family. I’d probably switch my eldest to English school right now if he was an only child, but what would going to a different school to his siblings mean to him?
- When you’re looking at schools, make sure to ask about what additional language support is available to children whose first language is not Welsh. Also, ask where the trigger point is for accessing this support, and, importantly if there is flexibility in this. If your child doesn’t take to Welsh like a duck to water, you need to know that you’ll be able to identify and act on this as early as possible, and with the support of your chosen school.
So, just some things to think about if Welsh is not your family language, but you are considering Welsh Medium Education for your children. It’s not meant to be a comprehensive guide, just a reflection of the advice I’d give now I’m four years into the journey. There may be more to add as time goes by!
As always, your comments/thoughts/suggestions are more than welcome, here or via @learnermother - thank you/diolch!