One thing I’ve always said with absolute certainty, from as soon as I was pregnant, was that SB would be educated through the medium of Welsh.
It seemed like a no-brainer. Daf and I were both educated in Welsh-medium schools, where we spoke and learned in Welsh until the age of seven, and then bilingually after that – but still with the emphasis on Welsh. I support Welsh-medium education. I want SB to be as fluent in Welsh as we are, as I think the benefits of bilingualism are countless. She is Welsh, she has a Welsh name, she has two Welsh-speaking parents, one of whom was born and bred in Wales and the other who was raised here. Welsh-medium education is obviously what we’ll choose, right?
That’s what I thought.
Alongside the big house move we’re currently undertaking, I’ve applied for SB’s nursery and primary school places. Thankfully, the area we’re moving to offers Welsh-medium schools as well as English-medium. I thought it would be an easy choice, until it came to applying.
As much as I love the idea of Welsh-medium education, the Welsh school just doesn’t quite seem right. The impression I got from the website and the prospectus is that it just isn’t the place for SB. We’re unsure whether she’s got ADHD, and there wasn’t much said about their provision for pupils with SEN. Part of my ADHD was that I became disruptive in class if I wasn’t challenged enough. I was quite advanced academically, and my primary school did nothing to challenge me. If I finished my work, I had to sit quietly and wait for everyone else to finish. It’s the worst possible thing you could ask an unmedicated kid with ADHD to do; the outcome was that I was chatty and disruptive, or simply inattentive and daydreaming. We didn’t want that environment for SB if she does turn out to be like me. There was no mention of provision for more able pupils.
The English-medium school in the same town seems perfect. They place a lot of emphasis on the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child, which is something I love. The ethos of the school seems ideal. They celebrate achievements, they have a hugely supportive environment for children with SEN, and their prospectus specifically mentions extra challenges, work and enrichment for more able and talented pupils. It’s the sort of environment I would have thrived in, and I know that DD will find it beneficial if she is the same. It’s a new building, a very good website, and the OFSTED report is “good”, as opposed to “adequate” for the other schools in the area.
The only problem is that it’s English-medium.
Then I read their bilingualism policy. Although the curriculum is English, all of the teachers receive Welsh language training. There is a strong pride in the Welsh culture and language at the school. Children are encouraged to be bilingual. They learn Welsh through play, imagination and conversation, rather than through mathematics and science and history. She will still speak Welsh, but it will be a gentler introduction to the language.
The decision was easier than I expected, in the end. Although I never expected it, if SB gets a place, she’ll be going to an English-medium school, and I’m happy about that. We can teach her Welsh at home. We’ll watch S4C together; we’ll discuss what she’s done during the school day in Welsh. We’ll put in the work on our side to help her become bilingual.
As much as I love and support the notion of Welsh-medium education, I have to put my daughter’s needs first. If that means foregoing Welsh-medium education for the sort of environment that will support her, encourage her and give her the best opportunities, that’s what we’ll do.
Besides, I think the biggest question to come out of all of this, is – how is my baby girl old enough for me to be doing her school application?!