Following a number of cases recently concerning the challenges for post 16 learners accessing free transport for Welsh language education provision, the Deputy Welsh Language Commissioner, Gwenith Price, outlines her response here,
"At the heart of this issue regarding accessing Transport for Welsh-medium education in particular is that there are fewer Welsh-medium schools and educational institutions compared to English-medium schools and institutions. On average therefore, access to Welsh-medium education is more difficult and more costly as pupils are likely to live further away from these schools or institutions.
"The Learner Travel (Wales) Measure 2008 makes up for this unequal situation to a certain extent but the various cases that reach us highlight weaknesses in the measure and show that transport arrangements can have a significant impact on learners who wish to study through the medium of Welsh.
"These weaknesses are becoming increasingly more significant in the current context of the cost of living crisis, and I am concerned that it could mean that some families decide not to choose Welsh-medium education for their children because of the additional cost.
"Following the Learner Travel Review, the Welsh Government published its conclusions and recommendations of the review in March of this year and we were glad of the opportunity to contribute to that review. The main conclusion was that there are a number of weaknesses in the Measure, and that there is a need to develop a wider programme of work which includes a complete reform of the Measure, including a more detailed look at transport provision for Welsh-medium education, and post-16 provision generally.
"While we accept and support the need to develop a wider programme of work, that will naturally take some time to implement, and in our contribution we suggested that some changes can be introduced at once in order to be able to realise the Government's vision of facilitating access to Welsh-medium education.
"I am therefore asking the Welsh Government to propose a definitive timetable for the work of amending the Measure, but in the meantime, for them to also consider committing to the provision of free transport to Welsh-medium post-16 education and to do this as part of a wider commitment to provide free transport to post-16 education in general.”
"Implementing such changes would facilitate access to Welsh-medium and bilingual education, and provide crucial support for families during this challenging period."