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Welsh Language

Volume 181: debated on Friday 23 November 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will announce the results of his consultation about exemptions from Welsh in the national curriculum.

I have carefully considered the views of the Curriculum Council for Wales, local education authorities and others on the issues set out in the consultation document published by my predecessor on 28 February.There was general approval for the proposal to waive the provision that schools not yet teaching Welsh should teach it for a "reasonable time" until the national curriculum requirements come into effect. I laid regulations to implement this on 12 November.There was also widespread though not unanimous approval for the proposal to exempt from the national curriculum requirement for Welsh pupils from outside Wales who enter a school in Wales for the first time in the final year of key stage 3 or during key stage 4. I shall therefore be issuing for consultation draft regulations to implement this exemption for such pupils provided they have not studied Welsh in the school curriculum for at least one academic year in any of the preceding three academic years.The consultation document indicated a preparedness to consider proposals from LEAs for an extension of up to a further two years of the period for phasing in Welsh, where this was necessary and formed part of an LEA plan for the full introduction of Welsh in the national curriculum.

Clwyd, Gwynedd, Mid Glamorgan and West Glamorgan LEAs have not sought any extension and I propose to accept that.

Gwent LEA, which starts from a position of very limited provision in its schools, put forward a detailed plan for implementation which would require some exemptions for up to two years. I welcome the positive approach the authority has taken and I am making proposals in line with its implementation plan.

Powys and South Glamorgan LEAs also put forward implementation plans which I accept and which provide for deferment in some schools for up to two years.

Dyfed LEA has not sought any exemptions in general, but drew attention to the secondary schools of South Pembrokeshire with which it had agreed a proposal to extend the implementation of key stage 3 so that it would be taught to the end of key stage 3 by 1997. I accept this proposal.

I am now proceeding to consultation on proposals to implement the necessary limited period exemptions.

Dyfed LEA also takes the view that it would not be appropriate in the secondary schools in south Pembrokeshire to implement the national curriculum requirement for Welsh in key stage 4 at present. In view of the LEA's policy and of the distinctive historical and linguistic character of the south Pembrokeshire area, I shall be consulting interested bodies on a proposal to exempt the south Pembrokeshire secondary schools from Welsh at key stage 4. However, I do not think it would be right for any pupil in Wales to be deprived of the chance to choose to study Welsh in key stage 4. I would therefore propose that the exempted schools should make arrangements for Welsh to be an option for those pupils who choose it. Subject to that, I would propose to exempt the following schools from Welsh at key stage 4:

  • Greenhill School, Tenby
  • Milford Haven Comprehensive School
  • Pembroke School
  • Sir Thomas Picton School, Haverfordwest
  • Tasker-Millward VC Comprehensive School, Haverfordwest

The consultation exercise addressed the issue of flows of pupils across the border with England. Neither the CCW nor any LEA considered it sensible to make exemption regulations which would single out children who live in England but who are in classes in schools in Wales. I do not propose to do so. Nevertheless there are schools which take in numbers of pupils from England. Some schools with catchment areas or potential catchment areas which cross the English border have expressed concerns about possible losses of pupils if they were required to study Welsh, particularly at key stage 4. I therefore propose to respond to those concerns by consulting on proposals to exempt the following schools from the national curriculum requirements for Welsh at key stage 4. I propose that the exempted schools should make arrangements for Welsh to be available as an option at key stage 4 for those pupils who choose it:

Clwyd

  • Darland High School
  • Hawarden High School
  • The Maelor School, Wrexham
  • St. Richard Gwynn High School, Flint
  • St. David's High School, Saltney
  • St. Joseph's High School, Wrexhyam

Gwent

  • Monmouth Comprehensive School