Back to school

Image copyright Huw Edwards

[This article is written in Welsh and English - scroll down for English]

Mae cynlluniau Cyngor Sir Caerfyrddin i newid statws iaith Ysgol Llangennech wedi esgor ar ffrae chwerw yn y pentref.

Ers i aelodau'r awdurdod lleol bleidleisio ym mis Ionawr i ollwng y ffrwd Saesneg yn Ysgol Llangennech ger Llanelli, mae rhai rhieni wedi bod yn protestio yn erbyn y cynlluniau i'w gwneud yn ysgol cyfrwng Cymraeg.

Un o gyn-ddisgyblion amlycaf yr ysgol yw'r darlledwr Huw Edwards. Mae'n rhannu ei deimladau ynglŷn â'r dadlau sydd yn bygwth creu rhwygiadau dwfn ym mro ei febyd:


Triw a ffyddlon

Rhoes Ysgol Llangennech - ac addysg cyfrwng Cymraeg - ddechrau arbennig i mi ar daith bywyd ac fe fyddaf yn dragwyddol ddiolchgar amdanynt.

Deuthum i fyw i Langennech o Benybont-ar-Ogwr yn fachgen pedair oed, a bu'r profiad o dreulio plentyndod mewn pentref Cymraeg ei iaith yn fantais ac yn fendith.

Bu newid mawr ers y cyfnod hwnnw - mae Cyfrifiad 2011 yn adrodd ei stori ei hun - ond mae Llangennech yn dal i fod yn bentref sydd yn cynnal y diwylliant Cymraeg yn driw a ffyddlon.

Byddaf yn ymweld yn gyson er mwyn cefnogi'r ymdrechion. Asgwrn cefn y traddodiad hwnnw yw'r ysgol leol y mae i'w phrifathro a'i staff a'i disgyblion enw ardderchog ar draws y sir.

Prif nodweddion bywyd Llangennech yn ystod fy llencyndod i oedd diwydrwydd - roedd 'na waith i gannoedd yn stordai'r Llynges, yr 'RN' hollbresennol - a chytgord cymdeithasol.

Disgwylid i ni'r 'bobl ddŵad' barchu cymeriad a naws y pentref ac fe'n derbyniwyd ni â breichiau agored. Dyna'r fargen. A bargen deg iawn oedd honno, yn fy marn bach i. Mae'n bosib bod realiti newydd ar waith erbyn hyn.

geni Image copyright Huw Edwards
Image caption Dyddiau hapusach yn Ysgol Llangennech. Drama'r Geni yn 1967. Huw Edwards yw'r ail fugail o'r chwith yn y rhes gefn

'Gwreiddiau yn bwysig'

Bu 1970 yn flwyddyn o gyffro ac o bryder yn ein teulu ni. Pentref Llafur oedd Llangennech bryd hynny - roedd y cynghorydd Mel Thomas yn un o hoelion wyth y blaid yn Sir Gaerfyrddin - ac fe benderfynodd fy nhad, y diweddar Athro Hywel Teifi Edwards, bod angen herio grym Llafur yn y pentref.

Credai erbyn hynny ei fod wedi hen ennill ei le fel 'un o fois y pentref', a pha ryfedd gan mai yng nghlwb rygbi Llangennech y treuliai oriau maith yng nghwmni'r criw bywiog yno?

Ond fe deimlai ambell un, heb os, fod Dad wedi cymryd cam yn rhy gynnar: buasai'n drigolyn ers pum mlynedd yn unig.

Fe gollodd ef a Phlaid Cymru yr etholiad hwnnw yn erbyn Llafur a'u hymgeisydd gweithgar, Gordon Lewis, 'un o fois y pentref' go iawn. Anghofiwyd y cyfan yn fuan wedyn gan fod Dad wedi dechrau triniaeth am ganser (cael a chael oedd hi iddo ddod drwyddi) ond fe ddysgwyd gwers ddefnyddiol ganddo yn wleidyddol. Mae gwreiddiau yn bwysig iawn, iawn mewn cymuned fel Llangennech.

ysgol ll Image copyright Huw Edwards
Image caption Dosbarth 3 Ysgol Llangennech yn 1971. Huw Edwards yw'r trydydd o'r dde yn y rhes gefn

'Dwyn anfri'

Erbyn Mai 1977 roedd Dad wedi llwyr wella - ac wedi ymgynefino yn ddigamsyniol - ac fe gipiodd y sedd yn yr ail gyfres o etholiadau i Gyngor Sir Dyfed. A dyna ddechrau ar gyfnod o brysurdeb dihafal iddo ym myd llywodraeth leol, yn enwedig o safbwynt addysg yn y sir.

Yn ystod y cyfnod hwn yr agorwyd Ysgol Gyfun y Strade, gan gynnig addysg uwchradd trwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg i filoedd o blant ardal Llanelli. Y tristwch mwyaf i Dad oedd bod y datblygiad yn rhy hwyr i mi ac i'm chwaer: bu'n rhaid i ni'n dau fynd i hen ysgolion gramadeg y dref.

Yn rhinwedd cyfraniad fy nhad i gyfundrefn addysg y sir, gofynnwyd i mi yn ddiweddar beth fyddai ei agwedd ef at y ffrwgwd cyhoeddus iawn yn Llangennech ynghylch y polisi iaith ym myd addysg.

Wedi'r cyfan, bu yntau yn ei ddydd yn gadeirydd llywodraethwyr yr ysgol. Does dim angen celu na gwamalu: byddai'r twrw wedi ei ddigio yn arw - yn bennaf oherwydd bod y ffrae wedi dwyn anfri ar enw da Llangennech.

Byddai hefyd wedi tynnu sylw yn ei ffordd ddeifiol ei hun at eironi'r sefyllfa, sef bod mwyafrif o gynghorwyr Llafur y sir wedi gwrthod cefnogi polisi eu prif weinidog, Carwyn Jones, a'u llywodraeth Lafur eu hunain yng Nghaerdydd.

Ac fe fyddai wedi herio a phrocio a phlagio byddin o bobl - gan gynnwys gwleidyddion etholedig yr ardal - i fynegi eu barn yn glir ac yn groyw ar y mater. Byddai'n sicr wedi croesawu'r cyfle i ddelio â sylwadau'r Dr John Plessis, sef y ficer a soniodd am 'the seeds of sectarianism in the community'.

Hywel Teifi Image copyright Huw Edwards
Image caption Huw Edwards with his late father, Professor Hywel Teifi Edwards, a tireless campaigner for Welsh-medium education in Carmarthenshire

Miliwn o siaradwyr Cymraeg

Sut ar y ddaear y codwyd helynt fel hyn ym mhentref Llangennech? Mae'r esboniad yn syml ar un lefel. Mae Llywodraeth Cymru, dan reolaeth Llafur Cymru, wedi gosod targed o filiwn o siaradwyr Cymraeg erbyn 2050.

Mae'r polisi o newid statws ieithyddol Ysgol Llangennech yn rhan o'r strategaeth honno. Ac felly dyma Gyngor Sir Gaerfyrddin, awdurdod lleol dan reolaeth Plaid Cymru, yn ufuddhau i bolisi Llafur Cymru. Dyna yw'r ffeithiau moel.

Mae Carwyn Jones yn sicr yn ddiffuant ei gefnogaeth i'r polisi, ac mae'r gweinidog Alun Davies yn gadarn ei ymrwymiad. Y broblem, yn ôl ffynonellau Llafur, yw bod rhai o ffigurau amlycaf y blaid yn y sir yn llugoer iawn eu hagwedd, a'u bod yn ofni herio'r sawl sy'n bendant yn erbyn.

Mae elfen arall y carwn ei thrafod yma, a'i thrafod yn ofalus yn rhinwedd canllawiau cyflogaeth y BBC. Peth anhepgorol bwysig mewn democratiaeth iach yw cynnal safon trafodaeth gyhoeddus, parchu ymdrechion i ganfod y gwir, ac ymwrthod yn gadarn â phob ymgais i gamarwain.

Mae cyfryngau cymdeithasol yn rhoi'r cyfle i bawb i fynegi barn yn gyhoeddus. Dylai'r sawl sy'n manteisio ar y cyfle - gan gynnwys newyddiadurwyr - wneud hynny mewn ffordd gyfrifol, yn enwedig ar fater mor sensitif â pholisi iaith yng Nghymru.

Mewn democratiaeth iach, mae gan newyddiadurwyr yr hawl i ofyn cwestiynau. Nid dangos 'rhagfarn' yw herio neu gynnwys ffeithiau sy'n 'anghyfleus'. Ond peth maleisus, yn sicr, yw cyhuddo newyddiadurwr o 'ragfarn' am wneud ei waith yn gydwybodol.

Gwelir tuedd beryglus - ymhlith rhai Cymry Cymraeg, hefyd - i gwyno am 'ragfarn' pan ddarlledir adroddiad sy'n cynnwys ffeithiau nad oes croeso iddynt. Yn yr un modd, ceisiodd ambell un o'r protestwyr yn Llangennech fy 'mherswadio' i beidio â dangos diddordeb yn yr helynt, trwy ddanfon cwyn at y BBC - a chrybwyll lliw gwleidyddol fy nhad fel 'tystiolaeth'.

Barnwch drosoch eich hunain.

Y gobaith mwyaf yn awr - mewn oes o wadu gwirionedd a gwyrdroi ffeithiau - yw bod pobl ar y ddwy ochr yn dysgu gwersi pwysig er mwyn codi safonau ymgyrchoedd y dyfodol.


Carmarthenshire County Council's plans to change the language status of Ysgol Llangennech near Llanelli has caused a bitter row in the village.

In January local authority members voted to drop the English stream at the school. Following the decision, some parents have been protesting against plans to make it a Welsh-medium school.

One of Ysgol Llangennech's most well-known former pupils is BBC News at Ten and The Wales Report presenter Huw Edwards.

He shares his feelings with BBC Cymru Fyw about the dispute that's threatening to cause deep chasms in the village:


Image copyright Huw Edwards

After 30 years in journalism - at a local, national and international level - I am still learning lessons. It is always dangerous to take knowledge for granted, and it is always wise to tread carefully on your home patch.

I was asked a few months ago - after a fractious edition of BBC Question Time from Neath - what my late father, Professor Hywel Teifi Edwards, would have made of the deeply divisive row about Welsh-medium schooling in Llangennech. After all, he served the village in many capacities for over half a century including periods as chair of the school governors.

There is no guesswork needed on my part: he would have felt saddened and aggrieved by the substance and tone of the debate. Above all, he would have been distressed by any perceived damage done to the good name of Llangennech.

Now that Carmarthenshire Council has taken the decision to implement the policy of Carwyn Jones's Welsh Labour Government - despite the opposition of a majority of Labour councillors - it is a little easier for me to offer some thoughts on what has happened.

'A blessed start'

Let me say clearly and proudly that I will always be grateful to Llangennech School - and the Welsh-medium education I enjoyed there - for giving me a blessed start on life's journey. I was four years old in 1965 when our family moved from Bridgend to Llangennech.

Being raised in an overwhelmingly Welsh-speaking village was a privilege that I've come to value more and more as the years have passed. Much has changed since my childhood - just take a look at the 2011 Census - but Llangennech is still a community which supports cherished traditions of Welsh culture.

Image copyright Huw Edwards
Image caption Ysgol Llangennech in happier times. Huw Edwards is the second shepherd from the left in the back row in the 1967 Nativity play

I visit frequently to see my mother and to support public events. The bedrock of that local culture is the village school, Ysgol Llangennech, whose staff and pupils enjoy a very impressive reputation in this part of Wales.

The Llangennech of my youth was characterised by bustling activity - the Royal Naval Stores Depot (the 'RN') employed hundreds of people - and by social harmony. Those who came to live there fitted in with village life and they were welcomed with open arms.

That was the unspoken deal, as it is in millions of local communities in Britain and around the world. Moving to a big, diverse city is not the same moving to a village with its own way of life. These are hardly controversial assertions.

'Valued roots'

By 1970 my father clearly thought he'd done more than enough to earn his place as a trusted local, and put his name forward to stand as a Plaid Cymru candidate in the county council elections of that year. By his own account, it was probably a mistake. He did well, but not well enough.

The victor was Gordon Lewis, the hard-working Labour candidate and, crucially, a son of the village. Llangennech at that time was a rock-solid Labour community. The election was soon forgotten as my father was treated for cancer (he only just survived) but he had learned a useful political lesson: Llangennech was a place which valued roots.

Image copyright Huw Edwards
Image caption Year 3 at Ysgol Llangennech, 1971. Huw Edwards is third from the right in the back row

By May 1977 my father had fully recovered and - maybe because he'd made the village rugby club his second home - his status in the village had been transformed. This time he won the county council seat for Plaid Cymru, and embarked on a long period of service in local government.

His sharpest focus, not surprisingly, was on the county's education provision. It was during this time that Ysgol Gyfun y Strade opened, providing Welsh-medium education to thousands of pupils in the Llanelli area. Sadly, it was too late for me and my sister. We were among the last pupils to go through the old grammar system.

A million Welsh speakers

So how on earth did Llangennech find itself in this position? Here's a quick summary: the Welsh Labour Government wants to increase Welsh-medium primary education - as part of its target of having a million Welsh speakers by 2050 - and the Llangennech proposal was part of Carmarthenshire County Council's response. So we had a Plaid Cymru-led local authority obeying Welsh Labour government policy.

The antipathy, venom and skulduggery of recent months have taken even an old hack like me by surprise. It makes the recent Trump-Clinton election look genteel in comparison. I am struck by two things, based on direct conversations with local people.

The first is that attitudes to the Welsh language - even in the heart of Welsh-speaking Wales - can sometimes be difficult to predict. The language, I have to say, was seen at best as an eccentric add-on in Llanelli Boys' Grammar School, where virtually everything took place in English, despite the efforts of teachers such as Donald Hughes and Garry Nicholas.

Most of the staff were Welsh speakers, by the way. It was a very odd world. I went to Cardiff University in 1979 and it is fair to say that speaking Welsh was regarded as a hostile act in parts of our capital city. This has changed, and I say it here loudly and clearly so that people - including people on both sides in Llangennech - can realise how much has been won in the past 30 years. There is a dangerous tendency to take it all for granted.

Image copyright Huw Edwards
Image caption Huw Edwards with his late father, Professor Hywel Teifi Edwards, a tireless campaigner for Welsh-medium education in Carmarthenshire

Public debate

The second thing is safeguarding the quality of public debate. Social media brings great benefits (sharing information, increasing awareness) but it also presents real dangers. Too often, people are intolerant of other points of view and they hurl abuse or seek to make trouble for those who dare to challenge or ask questions. Journalists who report 'other' views are routinely accused of 'bias'. It is a dangerous, unhealthy trend.

In any healthy democracy, journalists must surely have the right to ask questions and they must resist all attempts to restrict valid inquiry. One of those supporting the Llangennech protest tried to 'encourage' me to drop my interest in the story by sending a complaint to the BBC, citing my later father's political colour as 'evidence'. They were given my email address in case they wanted to discuss the matter but I heard nothing. You may draw your own conclusions.

In the meantime, let us hope that important lessons will be learned - by campaigners and journalists - about their use of language and tactics in such a sensitive area.