Posted: Fri 1st Mar 2024

Plan to Boost Welsh Speakers in Torfaen Borough by Over 50% in Five Years Agreed

news.wales / newyddion.cymru

A PLAN to boost the percentage of Welsh speakers in a Gwent borough by more than half in five years has been agreed. 
Councillors have been told part of the efforts to raise the number of Welsh speakers in Torfaen to 17 per cent by 2029 will include stressing to school pupils the Welsh language is a skill which can help them gain public sector jobs. 
Despite Torfaen being home to Welsh medium secondary, Ysgol Gwynllyw in Pontypool –which has also served pupils from Monmouthshire, Newport and Blaenau Gwent and has been converted to a 3-19 school with the borough’s fourth Welsh medium primary having opened at the school – the number of Welsh speakers has dipped. 
The 2021 Census showed there are 7,366 speakers in Torfaen which is 8.24 per cent of the population down on the 8,641, or 9.84 per cent, who said they could speak Welsh in the 2011 Census. 
Torfaen Borough Council’s five year Welsh Language Strategy, which it is required to produce by the Welsh Government and to help reach the national target of one million Welsh speakers by 2050, notes the biggest drop has been in the numbers of Welsh speakers aged three to 16. 
Alan Vernon-Jones, the council’s Welsh language officer, told the full council: “That is a significant drop despite our promotion of Welsh medium education and increasing numbers of that. It’s not just Torfaen, across Wales only two authorities have increased the number of Welsh speakers in the last 10 years, based on the 2021 Census.” 
The strategy notes the fall may be because the Census doesn’t ask for levels of competence and “some assume that the Pandemic affected the results”. 
Council leader Anthony Hunt said the expansion of Ysgol Gwynllyw to a three to 19 school was building more links with the community including the provision of Meithrin nursery but wanted to know how Welsh speakers were supported to use the language after education. 
The Labour councillor said: “When children leave Welsh medium education and go back to families where there necessarily aren’t great Welsh skills in the household how do we give them the opportunity to use Welsh in their lives?” 
Mr Veron-Jones said: “We have to embed in them their Welsh language skill is a skill. It is a ticket, if you like, to better themselves and have more opportunities within the public sector.” 
He also said the council works with Menter Iaith, the Welsh language promotion agency, to support English speaking parents putting their children through Welsh medium schools and also on community events so the council’s staff can practice their Welsh on a “casual basis”. 
Cllr Hunt noted the percentage of council staff who can speak Welsh had risen from just 0.51 per cent – which was only 15 individuals – in 2017 to 14 per cent, or 251 people, in 2021. 
Cllr Rose Seabourne welcomed that council job application forms no longer ask “do you speak Welsh” with applicants able to state their ability on a ranking scale instead. 
The Labour member said: “Lots of people don’t want to say they speak Welsh if they’re not fluent, but what level you are at is a good question on our application forms.” 
The strategy has been drawn up in consultation with Welsh language groups and aims to ensure the council’s policies support the use of Welsh, that it focuses on education to boost the number of speakers and there are opportunities for community use and the council has a workforce that can provide services in the language. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​



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