Friday, 6 November 2009

Flawed consultation exercise

The exercise undertaken by Carmarthenshire County Council to assess parental preference for the language of education in the Gwendraeth and Dinefwr parts of the county was seriously flawed according to the Plaid group on the council. According to a report on the outcome of the survey which was sent to all councillors, less than half of all parents responded to the questionnaire. Plaid’s group leader, Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths, said that this was a wholly inadequate basis on which to make any assessment of parental demand in the area.

Plaid had previously criticised the questionnaire for being badly explained and rushed, and said that the county did not even follow their own policy in the way that the question was presented. They now claim that the views which they expressed at the time have been entirely vindicated, and have called on the council, once again, to undertake a proper and thorough assessment.

Cllr Hughes Griffiths said, “Firstly, the council refused to undertake any survey of parental demand at all, and even passed a resolution in the council rejecting our call for a survey. Then, under pressure form the Assembly Government, they rushed out a flawed questionnaire which did not properly present the options to parents – many parents were completely unclear as to the question being asked. It is no surprise at all to find that only 40% of parents had responded.

“The county council claims that it encourages parents to choose a Welsh-medium education for their children; but the documents sent to parents made no attempt whatsoever to implement that policy. Not only was there no attempt at all to promote the council’s own policy, but the options given to parents were not even fully or properly explained. The result is a meaningless set of figures whose only proper place is the recycling bin.”

Cllr Hughes Griffiths also drew attention to recent Estyn reports in the county, saying, “The council seems determined to push ahead with a discredited model of ‘bilingual’ schools. In one report recently, Estyn drew specific attention to some aspects of the language policy of one of these schools. The simple truth is that the approach to bilingualism adopted by the council in most of its secondary schools is a complete failure, and has been shown to be so time and again. It has been rejected by many other counties across Wales which have recognised that fully Welsh-medium schools is the only effective way forward. The council claims to support the Welsh language in education, but that claim has been shown to be a sham in large areas of the county.”

Plaid have called for a complete rethink of the county’s approach, and have said that they will do everything they can to prevent the council’s damaging proposals from being implemented. Cllr Hughes Griffiths concluded, “We have said from the outset that we need to properly establish the true level of demand for Welsh-medium education in the county. It seems as though every other county in Wales knows that demand exceeds supply and is continuing to grow. Carmarthenshire seem to be trying to hide and suppress the demand by using a fundamentally flawed approach to assessing it. They are not serving the county or the nation of Wales, and we will fight every inch of the way to reverse their proposals.”

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