Parents speak same language on schools
PERHAPS once regarded as a "pointless language", the trend of learning Welsh is growing.
In the past six years alone, Swansea Council has seen a consistent increase in demand for places at Welsh- medium schools.
As of January 2010 there were 1,988 full-time pupils in Welsh-medium primary provision, compared with 1,659 in January 2004, and the demand is projected to continue to increase to 2,719 by September 2016.
David Williams, of Cockett, decided to send his 3-year-old daughter to a Welsh-medium school, despite living closer to a number of English- speaking schools. So what made him chose Llwynderw in West Cross?
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"I wanted her to learn a language," he said. "That would be the same in Wales as if we lived abroad, say Spain. Also, learning a language at a young age opens up that side of your brain.
"Research has shown that can create a greater aptitude for other languages later in life.
"I suppose there is a tradition of parents thinking their children will get a better education because there will be smaller classes in Welsh schools, prompting parents to chose those over English-medium schools.
"However, I've heard there maybe around 40 children in my daughter's class next year. That news doesn't affect mine and my partner's decision to send her there. We're really pleased with the education she's receiving."
However, Mr Williams said no decision had been made as to whether to send his daughter to a Welsh- medium secondary school.
"We don't know about that yet," he added. Swansea Council has already created more additional Welsh- medium primary places than the original target approved within the Welsh Education Scheme (an original target of 300 additional places by 2011, which was revised to 500 places in the annual monitoring reports).
Should current proposals be approved, which would see a new Welsh- medium school on the Graig Infant School site and increased admission numbers at YGG Pontybrenin, YGG Tirdeunaw and YGG Gellionnen, the authority will have created more than 700 additional places in the areas identified as facing the greatest need.
As of January 2010 there were 2,400 Welsh-medium primary places available, in comparison with 1,876 in January 2004. If the current statutory proposals to create the additional places in Swansea are approved by the Assembly Minister for Education, Leighton Andrews, the number of places available by September 2011 would be 2,727.
A Swansea Council spokesman said: "Careful consideration has been given to the needs of pupils receiving education through both the medium of English and the medium of Welsh.
"This has included an extensive stakeholder engagement as part of the Authority's Quality in Education (QEd) 2020 programme, and the authority is continuing to deliver the priority options identified through this process, as resources allow."
"Recent surveys of parental preferences further support the pressure for Welsh-medium primary places in the broader Morriston area and to the east of the city."
Neath Port Talbot has also commissioned a survey to find out the preferred choice for parents.
The authority is sending out letters to parents of children up to 3-and- a-half years of age, asking them what their preferred language for learning is when their child starts school.
Mum of two Melissa Griffith has one child already at a Welsh-medium primary school and is keen for her second child to follow in their footsteps. She is urging other parents to fill out the questionnaire.
However, not everybody believes Welsh education is the best route.
Another mum, Gemma Jones, said: "I'm proud to be Welsh and I think there's an increasing benefit to learning Welsh if you want to work in the Welsh public sector, but I'd fear it would put my children at a disadvantage later in their education.
"Would, for example, their written English be up to scratch when they needed it at university?"
Parents, at closure-threatened Graig Infant School in Morriston in particular, said they feared Welsh-medium education was taking precedence over English-medium education.
Parent governor Adrian Smith said: "I have nothing against Welsh-medium education, but under the new plans to turn an empty Graig school into a Welsh school, there will be 15 pupils to a class, but 30-plus in Pentrepoeth."