TWO new language learning centres have been developed in Carmarthenshire to provide additional support to children to become bilingual.
The language centres – one for primary age pupils and the other for pupils in secondary schools – have been built on the site of Ysgol Maes Y Gwendraeth.
They will provide immersion education – where the medium of teaching and learning is delivered wholly or predominantly through the medium of Welsh – for learners across the county, particularly those who are new to Carmarthenshire and Welsh medium education.
The centres will offer language refreshers to improve Welsh language at essential transition points such as the end of the foundation phase, and deliver catch-up programmes for pupils in years 6/7 where language skills need to be improved to ensure a smooth transition into Welsh medium secondary education.
They will also ensure positive experiences of language learning for parents/guardians to enable them to help their children in learning Welsh at school and at home.
And the centres will be used to improve the skills of teachers and support staff to enable them to teach bilingually in and outside the classroom, and to improve the Welsh language skills of staff on the language continuum journey. This will build upon an innovative pilot project in the Llanelli area providing Welsh language support to staff from primary and secondary English-medium schools.
The council received a Welsh Medium Education Capital Grant of £985,248 from Welsh Government to establish the two language centres.
It is committed to creating a bilingual and multilingual Carmarthenshire and these centres are part of a much bigger plan.
The Welsh in Education Strategic Plan (WESP) has been approved by the council’s Cabinet (January 31) following an extensive eight-week public consultation and sets out the council’s vision for bilingual education for the next 10 years.
The plan reflects the languages area of learning in the New Curriculum for Wales and supports Welsh Government’s target of one million speakers by 2050.
It demonstrates how the council will develop Welsh language provision in schools based on the outcomes and targets set by Welsh Government.
The aim is for every child in Carmarthenshire to be to be fluent in Welsh and English when they leave school. This will be achieved by:
More nursery children (aged 3) following their teaching of Welsh-medium education
More reception children (aged 5) following their teaching through the medium of Welsh
More children improving language skills when transferring from one stage of their statutory education to another
More learners to study for qualifications in Welsh as a subject and subjects through the medium of Welsh
More opportunities for leaners to use Welsh in different contexts in schools
Increase provision for learners with ALN, in line with the new ALN Act
Increase the number of teachers able to teach Welsh and through the medium of Welsh
Cabinet Member for Education and Children’s Services Cllr Glynog Davies said: “I am absolutely delighted that we have opened these two language centres to support both our primary school and secondary school learners on their bilingual journey, and our school staff to improve their Welsh language skills for both inside and outside the classroom.
“This purpose-built accommodation, located at Ysgol Maes Y Gwendraeth, is where pupils of all ages can learn Welsh in a modern high-tech innovative environment.
“We have just submitted our Welsh in Education Strategic Plan to Welsh Government, and these new centres supports our aim to have all children confidently bilingual by the age of seven, or certainly by the age 11, through the use of immersion education techniques in the early years.
“We want our children to be able to benefit from the many advantages to being bilingual – from educational attainment to employability and health.
“Not only is there is evidence of better results, but bilingual people tend to be more creative and flexible, they find it easier to focus on a variety of tasks and to learn additional languages.
“Bilingual people also earn an average of 11% more, and research shows that being bilingual can also delay the onset of dementia and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s. And being able to speak Welsh gives you access to many aspects of Welsh culture, history and identity.”
The new standalone building includes three new classrooms on the first floor for use by the school to help with additional Welsh medium capacity due to increased demand. The two language centres are located on the ground floor of the building, which was built by local contractor Jones Brothers Ltd.
Council Leader Cllr Emlyn Dole said: “Our priority is to give our children the very best education in order to give them the very best start in life. This includes modern, state-of-the-art accommodation and facilities and increasing the opportunities for all our young people to communicate bilingually, or even multilingually, and all the benefits that brings with it.
“The world we are living in is changing rapidly, and it is important that we are able to prepare our young people to thrive in whatever path they choose in the future by providing them with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed.”