Cardiff's Tafwyl festival marks 70 years of Welsh-medium schools

Glantaf school
Image caption Children arrive for their first day at Ysgol Glantaf - Cardiff's first Welsh-medium secondary school that opened in 1978

In September 1949, 19 pupils began their first day in a single classroom at Ninian Park Boys' School.

While the rest of the building was used for English-language lessons, this was Cardiff's first Welsh-medium school.

Seventy years later, the city has 17 primary schools teaching in the language and three secondary schools, with plans for a fourth.

A parade on Saturday marked the anniversary as part of the annual Tafwyl festival.

Image caption School children perform in front of hundreds of people in Cardiff city centre on Saturday

"The aim is to celebrate the incredible growth there has been in Cardiff's Welsh-medium schools since we both were among a handful of the earliest pupils," said Iolo Walters, who helped plan the event with Alwyn Evans.

"By now, our grandchildren are the third generation to attend these Welsh-medium schools."

Image copyright Tafwyl
Image caption Tafwyl is an annual festival in Cardiff which has at its heart two days of music at Cardiff Castle

They have produced many notable personalities - including actors Matthew Rhys and Ioan Gruffydd and rugby stars Jamie Roberts and Rhys Patchell.

When the first school was opened, only pupils from Welsh-speaking homes were accepted.

One of the original 19 children, John Ellerman, was transferred to Kitchener Road School because his parents did not speak Welsh.

However, more than 70% of those taught in the language in the city now come from homes where Welsh is not spoken.

"Parents are realising it's a win-win situation," said Ceri McEvoy of RhAG, a group that campaigns for Welsh-medium education.

"Their child is not just benefitting from the language but also the culture and history.

"More and more are waking up to this."

Image caption Ten years after Ysgol Glantaf opened, Ysgol Plasmawr in Fairwater became the city's second Welsh-medium comprehensive

Things have changed since the city's first Welsh-medium secondary school, Ysgol Glantaf, opened in 1978.

Pupils described arriving to protests and banners carrying messages such as "No Welsh here" and "Go back to where you came from".

There were concerns about the effect the language would have on the community.

But now, Ms McEvoy said demand is rising and the city needs its fourth secondary school by 2022.

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Media captionActor Matthew Rhys opened Tafwyl in 2013 and talks about the importance of it with then education minister Leighton Andrews

The Welsh Government wants to have one million speakers by 2050 and she called for more focus in areas where fewer than half of schools teach in Welsh.

"In the south-east and north-east, more needs to be done," she said.

"Cardiff, as the capital, needs to take a lead and you have to applaud moves such as Ysgol Hamadryad (in Butetown).

"It's a multi-cultural area where people in the past wouldn't have thought Welsh was for them.

"We need to show it is for everyone."

City parade

The first Welsh school moved from the Ninian Park site in 1952 to Llandaff, where it was re-named Ysgol Bryntaf.

By 1980, it had become the largest primary school in Europe with more than 600 pupils, and Whitchurch's Ysgol Melin Gruffydd was opened to relieve pressure.

The city's first secondary school, Ysgol Glantaf, opened in 1978, with Ysgol Plasmawr 20 years later.

Pupils from these and the other Welsh-medium schools took part in the parade through the city on Saturday.

It started from City Hall at 10:00 BST and ended at Cardiff Castle ahead of Tafwyl starting.

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