Promoting the Welsh language

Print this page
Promoting the Welsh language

Ysgol Gyfun Gwynllyw, Torfaen, strives to create completely bilingual individuals who take pride in their identity as Welsh people. Staff emphasise that speaking Welsh is an integral and natural part of school life and pupils are encouraged to use their Welsh skills both inside and outside of school.

Number of pupils: 985
Age range: 11 - 18 years
Date of Estyn inspection: March 2014

Context and background to sector leading practice

Ysgol Gyfun Gwynllyw is a designated Welsh comprehensive school for boys and girls aged 11-18, and it is maintained by Torfaen local authority. There are currently 989 pupils on roll, including 169 pupils in the sixth form, in comparison with 833 at the time of the last inspection. The school serves a wide catchment area and provides Welsh-medium education for pupils from nearby local authorities.

Fifteen per cent of pupils come from Welshspeaking homes. However, as a result of pupils being educated through the medium of Welsh at primary school, all pupils are fluent in Welsh by the time they reach secondary school. Twelve point five per cent (12.5%) of pupils are entitled to free school meals, which is lower than the average figure for Wales of 17.7%.

There is a warm, welcoming, caring and Welsh ethos in Ysgol Gyfun Gwynllyw, in which the Welsh language is the basis of all the school’s activity and is the main reason for its existence. The strong relationship between learners and staff is based on the principle of the three Cs – Cymreictod (Welshness), Cwrteisi (Courtesy) and Cydweithio (Co-operation).

The school’s vision is to create completely bilingual individuals who take pride in their identity and heritage as Welsh people. This vision is conveyed to the learners and teachers before they even cross the threshold, through the comprehensive transition programme that the school follows.

The school emphasises that speaking Welsh is not a rule, but a privilege and natural part of school life. It is a tradition and it is transferred successfully from cohort to cohort through the sense of family that exists here and the duty that older members of the family have to transfer values from one cohort to the next.

Nature of strategy or activity identified as sector-leading practice

All activity that is aimed at supporting Welsh language and culture is mapped in the school’s annual calendar as a priority.

This begins in the learners’ first week at the school with a visit to Glanllyn where the main focus is on using the Welsh language naturally in activities outside the school’s walls. This continues to be emphasised throughout learners’ period at the school. Often, the first language spoken in a new friendship will continue. As pupils meet with their peers from other schools for the first time in this strong Welsh atmosphere, that is the language on which their relationship is based. As a result, there is a higher chance that this is the language that will be natural for them to use. 

Maintaining this Welsh ethos is the responsibility of every member of staff and Welshness is at the top of all agendas. When appointing new staff, it is ensured that they have a full awareness of the agreed vision of staff and learners and that they are committed to contributing in any possible way to realising, maintaining and reinforcing that vision.

A considerable amount of time is spent planning various activities and experiences for learners that provide opportunities for them to use the language outside the classroom walls in informal situations, and the whole staff’s commitment to this element is tireless.

  • Residential courses for specific groups 
  • Inter-house games and activities 
  • Visits to musical shows, dramas, shopping, skating, ten-pin bowling and so on 
  • Lunchtime social clubs, including the local Urdd group 
  • Informing learners about activities in their local communities and encouraging them to support them

All teachers are completely aware of their role as language models and are aware of methods of correcting sensitively without undermining learners’ confidence when using the Welsh language.

Regular praise is key to gaining learners’ confidence to use the language naturally.

In addition to encouraging the use of the Welsh language, the importance of polished Welsh and a good understanding of a wide vocabulary and syntax is emphasised, as it is a way of succeeding academically, as all examinations are sat through the medium of Welsh. This is conveyed to parents regularly through the medium of parents’ evenings, meetings and reports.

Welsh is heard in the corridors but where that is not the case, it is never ignored.

Gwynllyw is an island of Welshness in an English-speaking area, in which many pupils come from non-Welsh speaking homes. The school is completely aware of this and strives constantly and tirelessly to ensure that the vision of providing the best future for its students, developing them into proud Welsh speakers and ensuring their academic success is realised.

Impact on provision and learners’ standards

The impact of this work is that most pupils make significant progress in their Welsh linguistic skills during their time at the school. Most of them develop a wide vocabulary and express themselves clearly orally. In addition, nearly all pupils are eager to use the language in all aspects of school life.