Are Welsh in Education Strategic Plans working?

Published 13/04/2022   |   Last Updated 13/04/2022   |   Reading Time minutes

The Culture, Communications, Welsh Language, Sport and International Relations Committee and the Children, Young People and Education Committees are carrying out a joint inquiry into Welsh in Education Strategic Plans (WESPs), to see if they are delivering the intended benefits.

The Committee will explore how the statutory framework - established to promote planning and development of Welsh-medium education - is working.

Find out about the inquiry.

The challenge to raise the number of Welsh speakers

The Welsh Government’s Welsh Language Strategy – Cymraeg 2050, sets challenging targets, including:

  • increasing the proportion of each school year group receiving Welsh-medium education from 22 per cent in 2017 to 30 per cent by 2031, and then 40 per cent by 2050, and
  • transforming how Welsh is taught to all learners (including those in English-medium and dual-stream schools), with a target of 70% of learners reporting by 2050 that they can speak Welsh when they leave school.

What is a WESP?

A Welsh in Education Strategic Plan (WESP) is a local authority’s programme to improve planning and development of Welsh-medium education provision in its area. The plan should also set out how it will seek to improve standards in Welsh-medium provision and the teaching of Welsh.

It is a mechanism by which the Welsh Government can ensure local authorities are working towards national objectives and targets. Originally, plans were set for three years, and reviewed annually. However, given the Welsh Government’s objective to reach a million Welsh speakers by 2050, WESPs are now on a ten year cycle.

The targets correspond with those in Cymraeg 2050, and when they were published, the Minister at the time said that she expected to reach the milestone of 30% of learners in Welsh-medium education by 2032.

Previous reviews of WESPs

WESPs were last reviewed in 2017. The report’s key findings found that there was a need to ‘agree on activities and criteria at a local authority level which are then driven and monitored nationally’. A total of 18 recommendations were made, including:

  • Creating a more open and challenging relationship between the Welsh Government and all stakeholders in the development of the WESPs especially in setting targets and agreeing outcomes.
  • Simplify the process of linguistic categorisation for schools.
  • Urgent planning and action to increase the number of teachers trained to teach through the medium of Welsh.

Following the review, a revised regulatory framework was established in 2019. The Welsh Government also published Guidance on Welsh in Education Strategic Plans in 2021.

In 2015, the Children, Young People and Education Committee of the 4th Senedd undertook an inquiry into Welsh in Education Strategic Plans.

The Committee’s report noted that despite initial optimism following the introduction of WESPs in 2012, many stakeholders were left disappointed by the lack of impact they had in practice. There was also growing concern that the WESPs were ‘not fit for purpose’, and that nothing heard as part of the inquiry ‘suggested that the Welsh Government and local authorities [were] working together sufficiently’.

The Committee noted at the time that it was unclear how Welsh Government intended to support the “improved planning action” that was necessary to meet its targets, and warned that were local authorities to fail to meet the duties, ‘intervention by Ministers [would] be necessary’.

The Committee made 17 recommendations for the Welsh Government, including:

  • Review the process for changing a school’s category with the aim of simplifying it;
  • The Minister should use the powers available to him under existing legislation to intervene where local authorities are failing to deliver their WESPs;
  • The Welsh Government should outline the reasons for the deficit between the percentage of Welsh-medium places available under Flying Start and its target for 25 per cent of seven year olds to be taught through the medium of Welsh by 2015 (and 30 per cent by 2020). The Welsh Government should explain how it will address the deficit.

The Welsh Government’s response to the recommendations can be found here.

Most, if not all the recommendations were accepted or acted upon, although some are only now coming into fruition, such as the changes to guidance on school categories according to Welsh-medium provision, announced by the current Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles MS.

Have your say

Do you think WESPs are working? We would like to hear from you about your experiences. Learn more about the inquiry, and find out how you can share your thoughts with the Committee. You have until the 24 June 2022 to have your say.

You can also keep up-to-date with the inquiry by following us on Twitter.

As part of the inquiry, the Committee will also be speaking to representatives from statutory education providers, pre and post statutory education and adult learning providers, teaching unions, academic experts and groups supporting the promotion of the Welsh language.