A number of councils have spent next to no money on a scheme to boost Welsh medium education

A number of councils have spent next to no money on a scheme to boost Welsh medium education

Vast amounts of money earmarked for use within Welsh medium education have not been touched by a number of Welsh councils, it has emerged.

The £1.4bn Welsh Government pot has been largely used on English language schools – raising calls for a review of school funding in Wales.

The money has been allocated to councils under the 21st Century Schools and Education Capital Programme. The programme was launched in 2011 to update and re-build school and post-16 college buildings. But just 30% of the funding pot has been spent on Welsh medium schools.

Among Wales’ 22 local authorities, six have spent little or no money on Welsh medium schools, according to the campaign group RhaG (Parents for Welsh Medium Education).

Blaenau Gwent and Flintshire have spent none and earmarked none, while Rhondda Cynon Taf has earmarked just 0.5% of its £160m allocation from the programme on Welsh language education. Monmouthshire has spent just 1% of its £93m.

In contrast, Anglesey and Gwynedd have earmarked all their allocation under the programme to Welsh medium schools, Carmarthenshire spent 80% and Cardiff and Swansea 22%.

The figures do not show how much of the money allocated to councils under the programme, aimed at updating school and post-16 college facilities, has been spent – only the intention.

RhAG Chairwoman Lynne Davies said: “The government intends to realise its ambitious target of a million speakers by 2050.

“How can this be achieved without allocating the necessary resources?

“Substantial additional funding is required to expand Welsh medium education provision, but thus far, no additional funding has been allocated to support the sector’s growth.

“The programme’s current priorities are not helpful to the specific needs of the Welsh medium sector and this must now be addressed as a matter of urgency.

“A review of the capital funding programme is necessary to ensure its objectives are aligned with the Welsh Government’s policy on Welsh medium education. Only by including a specific criterion to increase Welsh medium education during the next phase of funding can this be secured.”

A Welsh Government spokesman said: “Provision of Welsh medium places to meet demand is already a consideration within the 21st Century Schools and Education Programme, delivered in partnership with local authorities, further education institutions and others.

Pupils in school
Pupils in school

“Schools planning is a matter for those partners who are best placed to prioritise projects to meet the needs of their local learners and community. “Band A of the Programme, which runs from 2014 to 2019, will see investment of over £1.4 billion across Wales.

“Around 30% of this investment is earmarked for investment in Welsh medium education.”

A Welsh Local Government Association spokesman said: “The 21st Century Schools and Education Programme is a unique collaboration between the Welsh Government, local authorities and the WLGA.

“It is a major, long-term and strategic capital investment programme with the aim of creating a generation of 21st century schools in Wales.

“The intention of the programme is to focus resources on the right schools in the right places, for early years through to post-16.

“This includes investment in Welsh medium provision: a responsibility that authorities take very seriously.

“The 21st Century Schools programme is funded on a 50:50 basis with local authorities match funding the Welsh Government’s capital investment.

“Whilst local authorities have experienced challenges due to capacity, resources and wider pressures, all authorities remain committed to the Programme and the principle of improving and developing Welsh medium education across Wales, and to contribute to the aim of creating a million Welsh speakers.”

Blaenau Gwent, Flintshire, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Monmouthshire councils were all asked to comment.

A Rhondda Cynon Taf Council spokesman said that during 2016/17, the council spent an extra £9m on school improvements outside of the 21st Century Schools investment, with both English-medium and Welsh-medium schools benefitting.

He said: “Further capital investment of £7.9M will be delivered during 2017/18, benefitting schools across the county borough.

“In recent years the council has also invested over £3m to develop a new 3-19 Welsh medium school at Llanhari – which is currently the highest achieving school in RCT.”

A spokesperson for Monmouthshire council said: “Through the 21st Century Schools programme, Monmouthshire has provided £1m of direct funding investment into the new Ysgol Gyfun Gwent Is Coed in Newport which is to provide secondary Welsh-medium education to pupils in the south of the county.

“The catchment for pupils north of the county remains as Ysgol Gyfun Gwynllyw in Torfaen. There are signs of growth within the county for Welsh-medium education, especially within the primary sector.

“We will monitor this to ensure that this growth is sustainable and supported appropriately.

“We continue to work with our education colleagues in the South East Wales Consortium to ensure that there is a regional-wide approach to meeting the needs of our Welsh learners.”

[“Source-walesonline”]