Cllr.P.A.Rees, Cabinet Member for Education, Skills and Culture introduced the report which was commended to Council from Education, Skills and Culture Cabinet Board held on the 19th January 2022.
Members noted that it was the aim of Welsh government to increase the number of Welsh speakers in Wales to one million by 2050. Neath Port Talbot’s draft Welsh in Education Strategic Plan (WESP), detailed the work to support and further develop Welsh language education in schools and in the wider communities. The draft plan had been developed through comprehensive consultation with a wide range of stakeholders which was an essential part of the preparation of the plan. The Cabinet Member for Educations, Skills & Culture thanked the officers and all those who had been involved in developing the WESP.
Members welcomed the report and noted their support for the WESP but concern was raised regarding the recent announcement that a standards enforcement investigation was to be conducted by the Welsh Language Commissioner into the Swansea Valley School reorganisation and whether that section in the WESP should be removed until the results of the investigation are known.
The Director of Education Leisure and Lifelong Learning stated that the WESP had been developed by key strategic partners and the joint ownership of the key strategic plan was very important. The document had been approved by the WESP Forum and the Education, Skills and Culture Cabinet Board following consideration and support by the Scrutiny Committee. It was also explained that if the Plan was submitted as published in the agenda, without any amendments, there would still be an opportunity to be amended, by Neath Port Talbot Council and the Welsh Ministers, following the outcome of the investigation.
Clarification was also received that the standards enforcement investigation into the Swansea Valley School re-organisation was as a result of a complaint received by the Welsh Language Commissioner into the process.
Officers clarified that the queries raised by Members had been discussed at the WESP Forum, and initially the first draft followed general guidelines from Welsh government to include an appendix outlining the considered mitigating factors regarding Swansea Valley. It was then agreed, however, to remove this as its inclusion would take away from the importance and the positivity steps to be taken over the next 10 years by Neath Port Talbot as a county, and would focus on one specific area. Following discussion at the Forum, and its Sub-Forums, it was agreed to amend Appendix A to the report to relate to all areas within the authority, including the addition of targets to protect all areas of linguistic sensitivity, and proposed mitigating factors to be rolled out across the whole authority.
Following on from the discussion an amendment as detailed below was received and put before Council as follows:
“Having given due regard to the responses to the consultation it is recommended that members permit the submission of the draft WESP to Welsh Ministers subject to removal of the section relating to Swansea Valley and Swansea Valley mitigation measures pending the outcome of the Welsh Language Commissioner’s investigation and an updated version provided at that point.”
The above amendment fell, as a result the substantive recommendation contained within the circulated report was considered.
Having given due regard to the responses to the consultation, approval be granted for the draft Welsh in Education Strategic Plan 2022-2032 be submitted to the Welsh Government for approval.