The research explored the experiences of learners in Welsh-medium education who were from non-Welsh speaking families, and the perceptions of their parents during the public health emergency, particularly in the transition from primary to secondary school.
As part of the study, pupils and their families were interviewed about their experiences of home learning during COVID.
In the report, the research team quote one pupil, whose words they felt described the general experiences of all the families interviewed, and highlighted the lack of opportunity to engage actively and use the Welsh language during lockdown: “In my opinion it (developing Welsh language skills) was a bit on pause... we didn’t really use it that much.”
Professor Enlli Thomas, Pro-Vice-Chancellor/Head of College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences and one of the lead investigators of the study, said, “The transformation from face-to-face to online teaching at short notice was clearly going to adversely affect certain skills. One of those skills was Welsh. Regardless of whether a pupil hailed from a non-Welsh background attended a Welsh medium school, a bilingual school or an English medium school where Welsh is a subject, the usual support structures for language learning, through class peers, educational resources and teachers, had disappeared. This report highlights the voice of the learner who faced the challenge of receiving their education online through the medium of Welsh without the language support structure at home or at school during the transition from primary to secondary school. By examining their experiences of coping with the situation along with insights from their families, this study provides a number of recommendations to support these pupils. These recommendations are intended to ensure that they receive the necessary support to succeed to the best of their ability and to resume their linguistic journey with confidence.”
The research findings identify the value of strengthening the links between primary and secondary settings to ease the transition process. They also underline the importance of assessing pupils’ Welsh language skills between key stages - for example, when transitioning from primary to secondary school – to identify any support required. The study also stresses the importance of ensuring effective communication between home and school, and making use of bilingual communication - for example, providing lists of key terminology that would aid parents in accessing and understanding feedback. The importance of increasing extra-curricular opportunities to use the Welsh language within and outside of school, is also highlighted.
Dr Siân Lloyd Williams, one of the lead investigators from Aberystwyth, said, “Our research findings identify a number of key policy and practice implications relevant to the Welsh Government, Local Education Authorities and to schools, which will help them to identify areas for support in order to ensure all pupils are able to develop their Welsh language skills to the best of their ability.”
The research was supported by the Wales COVID-19 Evidence Centre, which is funded by Health and Care Research Wales on behalf of the Welsh Government.