As a Fellow of the RSA, Principal Fellow of The Higher Education Academy, and a native Welsh speaker, the Goal Champions project aligned to the Wellbeing for Future Generations Act offered an opportunity to undertake a small research project focusing specifically on cultural and educational opportunities for Welsh language learners as part of the specific goal of ‘A Wales of vibrant culture and thriving Welsh Language – a society that promotes and protects cutlure, heritage and the Welsh language, and which encourages people to particiapte in the arts, sports and recreation’.
This was an opportunity to engage with some key cultural Welsh Medium organisations working from a Welsh language tradition though a small scoping excercise to gather initial data around specific aspects of their work as it relates to Welsh language learners and the longer term aim for sustainability.
The project focused on a questionnaire which was sent to identified organisations and the Coleg Cenedlaethol Cymraeg in their pan Wales context in the provision of Welsh medium Higher Education. This questionaire focused on their approaches to strategy, responsibility, opportunity, collaboration and plans for sustainability in order to gain an overview of their role in supporting Welsh language learners.
While the aims of the Act underpin the project no specific reference to the engagement of those organisations with the Act was sought or discussed, the responses provide clear evidence of the focus on Welsh learner engagement and development within the five areas of the research and the following key points are distilled from the overarching report:
- Strategy All have strategies suited to their situation for Welsh language learners and there is continuation built into their approaches, with a clear remit and focus within their roles in enabling, developing and supporting Welsh learners.
Responsibilities are clearly focused within the overarching criterion on which each organisation bases its role and for the Coleg the student experience sits at the heart of its responsibilities.
A wide range of opportunities focused on the facilitation of Welsh learners are offered holistically through the organisations and more formally through the Coleg’s educational opportunities.
Respondents describe collaboration withorganisation/sector which are relevant to their aims and approaches and these may be on a national, regional or local level but in all cases learners are central to that collaboration.
Approaches included practical approaches through the outcomes of projects, awareness raising, longer term planning and building incentives for learners and sustainability is core to the longer term priorities of the Coleg.
Organisations may have a core of employed staff but the community of individuals who support the central role of those organisations are important drivers of their plans, strategy and sustainability and ensuring the future of the Welsh Language and their long term commitment to all aspects of cultural life through the medium of Welsh.
It is also evident that while the Coleg is the key provider in ensuring high quality Welsh medium higher education in supporting and developing the skills needed in a bilingual Wales the role of both the organisations and the Coleg can not be underestimated in their importance as the vehicles through which Welsh learners develop into future Welsh language speakers.
This snapshot of activities across an informal and formal platform of Welsh learner activity provides a picture of broad and committed engagement to enabling Welsh speakers of the future.
This could be the beginning of a much deeper engagement with organisations across Wales to gather data and provide evidence which informs the goal of the Act ‘A Wales of vibrant culture and thriving Welsh Language – a society that promotes and protects cutlure, heritage and the Welsh language, and which encourages people to particiapte in the arts, sports and recreation’.
While the project has been specific in looking at cutlure and educational opportunities there is a longer term potential of gaining additional data which could be used to positive effect to inform the Welsh Government’s target of a million Welsh speakers.
Barbara Thomas FRSA, has had a 33 year full time career in Higher Education with a disciplinary background in Art and Design and academic staff development in both an institutional and national context.
I currently work as a consultant in Higher Education and undertake accreditation and recognition work for Advance – HE (previously Higher Education Academy) and review and mentor for accredited institutional frameworks and undertake peer review for National Schemes. Research activities and interests include the areas of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and Research Informed Teaching (RIT) with projects and publications disseminated nationally and internationally.