North West Wales

Challenge for Welsh outside classroom, says report

School children (generic)
Image caption School children from 16 schools took part in the research

More can be done to get children to speak Welsh socially outside the classroom, according to research into how pupils in Gwynedd use the language.

The work, by Bangor University, studied the attitudes and behaviour of children at 16 schools across the county, which has a majority of Welsh speakers.

As well as painting a picture of current usage, the research highlights ways to change the situation .

Gwynedd councillors will discuss the report on Tuesday.

The 65-pupil Ysgol Cwm y Glo near Caernarfon - where half the children are from non-Welsh speaking families - was one of the schools to take part.

Head teacher Garem Jackson said the school used a reward system to encourage the use of the Welsh language.

He added the school also worked hard to put the language into context, so pupils could see the point of using it.

Gwynedd council's head of education, Dewi Jones, said the research was commissioned because of the need to see what was happening in the wider community.

"There is a difference between what happens within the walls of a classroom and what happens practically in everyday life," he said.

"We need to better understand what influences children."

'Television, e-chatting and socialising'

The research was commissioned after earlier findings that children made good use of the Welsh language in the classroom, but less so in more "informal" situations.

It found "significant statistical differences" among pupils' responses to questions regarding the use of Welsh, with a mixed use of Welsh and English in different settings.

Researchers also looked at possible opportunities to use Welsh in the wider community - such while shopping or playing sport.

It was noted that during the last years of primary and first year of secondary school Welsh is increasingly associated with "learning, routine and compulsion", while English is associated with "television, e-chatting and socialising".

"There is no one simple solution to encourage primary school pupils to use Welsh socially in the school and beyond," the report concluded.

"If so, it would have been adopted and implemented effectively years ago..."

Instead, it said, a number of different approaches could be used.

The report added that further research was also required into pupils' attitudes to the language, and into the way boys used English more than girls.

Recommendations to change the situation were included in a separate 27-page report.

These include a "robust" recruitment policy that all staff appointed to work in Gwynedd's primary schools are able to "communicate through the medium of Welsh or commit to learning the language".

A leaflet could also be produced explaining the aim and objectives of Gwynedd council's Welsh language education scheme, and the "advantages of bilingualism".

For the children there could be a regular programme of Welsh guest speakers visiting primary schools.

These could be poets, actors, artists, comedians, TV presenters and sports people.

More after-school activities could also be set up where the use of the Welsh language was a natural part of proceedings.

Councillors will be urged to accept the report recommendations and to set up a working group to look into them further.

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