Marginalised and disrespected: But childcare is essential to hitting 1m Welsh speakers

Picture by: Mudiad Meithrin

Gwenllian Lansdown Davies

“A language is not just words” says Chomsky, before adding that languages represent “a culture, a tradition, a unification of a community, a whole history that creates what a community is”.

This essentially summarises Mudiad Meithrin’s position. A language cannot be understood as simply a means of communication.

So whilst it is true that it is often only the language that differentiates a Cylch Meithrin from any other playgroup, the word “only” here is deceptive.

Cylchoedd Meithrin exist, as does Mudiad Meithrin, in order to promote the easy integration of children (whatever their background) into a Welsh language community of communities.

It does not purport to teach them fluency (after all, they’re only two or three years old!) but it does aim to propel them towards fluency, and to begin by understanding Welsh, via the first recognised steps associated with immersion methodology.

This isn’t easy, for thee reasons:

  • The majority of children who attend Cylchoedd Meithrin do not speak Welsh at home.
  • Cylchoedd Meithrin are independent, managed by voluntary management committees operating at a time of economic uncertainty.
  • The regulatory and legal framework is necessarily onerous given that Cylchoedd are effectively providing childcare and Early Years education, by qualified staff, to very young, “vulnerable” children.
Picture by: Mudiad Meithrin

Disrespected

The stakes are understandably high:

  • Peer-reviewed research points to the importance of high-quality Early Years provision on welfare, happiness and attainment levels (a view shared by charities of global repute such as ‘Save the Children’).
  • The Welsh Government’s new Welsh Language Strategy – #Cymraeg2050 – recognises the importance of the sector in achieving its ambitious goal of one million Welsh language speakers by 2050.

As a sector, we have often felt marginalised, un-heard, disrespected even. There remains an intellectual snobbery around childcare despite the evidence highlighting its importance to child welfare, happiness and achievement in later life.

To be acknowledged in the important task of doing the heavy-lifting by creating new Welsh speakers is overwhelmingly positive.

The key issue then for Mudiad Meithrin as a major stakeholder and agent in the goal of creating new Cylchoedd Meithrin in order to feed more Welsh-medium schools.

But while the elements associated with the Early Years in #Cymraeg2050 are eminently do-able, we need additional investment.

In fact, without it opening 40 Cylchoedd Meithrin (let alone 150) is virtually impossible (or will progress at a snail’s pace).

In our response to the Welsh Government’s new Welsh Language Strategy published here we outline the steps required to ensure that Mudiad Meithrin and the Cylchoedd Meithrin can play their part in hitting the million speakers mark by the time this generation of Cylch Meithrin goers are parents themselves.


Notice: the_widget was called incorrectly. Widgets need to be registered using register_widget(), before they can be displayed. Please see Debugging in WordPress for more information. (This message was added in version 4.9.0.) in /var/www/vhosts/nation.cymru/dev.nation.cymru/wp-includes/functions.php on line 4236

We do not moderate comments before they appear. The views expressed in the comments are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of Nation. Cymru. Please read our community standards and participation guidelines before contributing.

newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Capitalist and Welshnash
Guest
Capitalist and Welshnash

A revolution is the last thing I would like to see. Ireland, France, Russia, America, Mexico, China, these nations prove minority cultures lose when revolutionary change happens. After all, it is Welsh conservatism via William Morgan’s Bible, the gentry and then the common folk which kept Cymraeg alive with no legal acknowledgement. A miracle. However, what Mudiad Meithrin is asking for is revolutionary. 150 meithrinfeydd would be nothing short of revolution. It csn be done, along with the other goals set out in 2050. But we must understand that it will take nothing less than a revolution to achieve such… Read more »

Edeyrn
Guest
Edeyrn

you are confusing revolution from the ground and from communities…..with stodgy effete “revolution” conducted from the top down……….

The only constant in life is CHANGE bachan…..

kim erswell
Guest
kim erswell

Vive la Révolution!

Aaron Clwyd Jones
Guest
Aaron Clwyd Jones

If we need 150 new Cylchoedd Meithrin to achieve the 1,000,000 speakers where do we stand currently across Wales? What s the current situation and what are the challenges to achieving progress with this besides Government being unwilling to fund or assist?

Bendigedig
Guest
Bendigedig

My main worry is the level of Welsh of those working in these nurseries. I’ve heard so many stories of staff in Welsh-medium nurseries who are barely able to say more than the colours and numbers in Welsh.

Edeyrn
Guest
Edeyrn

The deeper reason we will struggle to reach 1 million speakers ………. is a lack of future for most Welsh youth in most Welsh areas. Ive had to work and live in England and Europe for 7 years. I am now 30 and in Eastern England. I desperately long to be able to afford to come home…..Ive even seen neighbours in my English city, sell their house and move to Wales to escape the “rat race”…yet young Welsh speakers like me can’t stay in Wales. Power + Land (+education) = wealth creation – I was told in my Master’s degree…………..yet… Read more »

Edeyrn
Guest
Edeyrn

the people who leave Wales also tend to have higher educational attainment or vocational skills …Caerdydd may sit pretty and see a resurgence in Welsh… but the communities around my parents have been massively changing since 1970s…..which would be fine (change happens, you must ADAPT OR REGULATE) if it wasnt so unsustainable

Tame Frontiersman
Guest
Tame Frontiersman

It continues to worry me that aspirations for the Welsh language are not being turned into action plans. The 80th anniversary of the opening of the first designated Welsh medium school in Wales by Syr Ifan ab Owen Edwards in 1939 in Aberystwyth is fast approaching and Wales is now supposedly a nation of two languages. So why does.it seems somehow acceptable that so many of Wales’ young people are leaving the education system without anything that approaches fluency in the Welsh language? Does it actually matter when a child from a non-Welsh family background starts Welsh language education in… Read more »