In an event at the Urdd Eisteddfod today (1 June) the Welsh Language Commissioner and the Children's Commissioner will come together to call for improved provision for Additional Learning Needs services through the Welsh language.
In a policy paper published on the subject, they will ask the Welsh Government to prioritise the work of setting up a national review of the field and the provision that is currently offered through the Welsh language.
According to Efa Gruffudd Jones, Welsh Language Commissioner, the situation will not change overnight but the work needs to start now,
"Currently around 20% of pupils in Wales have additional learning needs, which is a significant percentage and we need to ensure that the requirements of those pupils who receive their education through Welsh are fully considered. At present the system that exists in Wales does not reflect the fact that we are a bilingual country and that needs to be addressed.
"While our recommendations in the paper are challenging, especially in terms of the workforce, they need to be considered soon, especially bearing in mind the proposed Education Bill which is currently being consulted on, and I look forward to having further discussions to ensure the best services for our children and young people."
Children’s Commissioner for Wales, Rocio Cifuentes, added,
"Every child in Wales has the right to an education and as we are a bilingual country, they have the right to receive that education in the language of their choice. I am very concerned that there are children with additional learning needs who do not have access to Welsh medium education or do not receive the appropriate support, and this is why I was keen to work with the Welsh Language Commissioner to highlight the truth about the situation.
"As we note in our paper there are examples of good practice to be seen from local authorities working together to offer a good standard of service but that is not consistent across Wales. It is therefore necessary to act in order to ensure that our children and young people are not deprived of their basic rights."
Local authorities have been required to create strategic plans for the Welsh language in education. Many of those include examples of good practice in dealing with additional learning needs, but they often happen in isolation and there is no process to share good practice more widely.
One example of the good practice being delivered can be seen at Canolfan yr Eithin, a specialist centre in Carmarthenshire which provides support for pupils with additional learning needs as explained by the head Llinos Watkins,
"Canolfan yr Eithin was established by the Carmarthenshire Inclusion Department on the site of Maes y Gwendraeth school with the aim of offering a supportive and inclusive resource and to do so naturally through the Welsh language. It is an extremely valuable resource in this area but it is important to emphasise that it is necessary to consider the need in each individual area and respond to the demand suitably and appropriately. "The majority of our pupils live their lives naturally through the Welsh language and it is therefore crucial to ensure that the provision for them is offered through their mother tongue."
The Commissioners are calling on:
- Local authorities to review their provision of Additional Learning Needs (ALN) through the medium of Welsh and use that information to update their ALN strategic plans;
- The Welsh Government to publish the timetable for its five year review on ALN provision through the medium of Welsh;
- The development of proposals for collaboration arrangements between local authorities.
You can read the full paper here.