Support for Welsh in Initial Teacher Education
During the year we completed our thematic survey on how initial teacher education (ITE) partnerships support student teachers to improve their Welsh language skills, including teaching through the medium of Welsh. This report is particularly relevant when considering the Welsh Government’s plans to realise one million Welsh speakers by 2050 and its programme to develop the workforce.
Our report draws on findings from ITE inspections, thematic visits to ITE partnerships and questionnaires for students and newly qualified teachers. Visits to partnerships included discussions with leaders, school visits and interviews with groups of students. In addition, we spoke to representatives from local authorities, school improvement services and other key partners.
Initial teacher education partnerships should:
- Plan purposeful opportunities to develop students’ Welsh language skills and pedagogy in all aspects of ITE programmes to ensure consistent support throughout the programme, including when on school experience.
- Ensure that provision to support the Welsh language focuses on the development of students’ personal skills and teaching to develop pupils’ Welsh skills. This should include language acquisition pedagogy in Welsh-medium, English-medium and bilingual schools.
- Monitor and evaluate the impact of provision for Welsh language development taking into account how students use their Welsh language skills and language acquisition pedagogy to support pupils’ progress in schools.
- Create opportunities for collaboration between ITE partnerships to develop and expand support for teaching through the medium of Welsh.
Leaders in partnership schools should:
- Prioritise and develop a strategy for the development of the Welsh language in response to the expectations set out by partnerships and Welsh Government policies.
The Welsh Government should:
- Ensure clarity of expectation in the professional standards for teaching and leadership to focus on how teachers and leaders develop practice which impacts positively on pupils’ Welsh skills.
- Ensure that ITE partnerships collaborate with school improvement partners to develop a more consistent, coherent and specialised provision for the development of the education workforce’s Welsh language skills and pedagogy as part of the professional learning continuum.
What our thematic review said
Overall, we found that the support for the development of students’ Welsh language skills, including teaching through the medium of Welsh, is variable. Partnerships generally focus on providing specific sessions to improve students’ Welsh language skills during the university-based programme. These sessions are viewed positively by many students and provide valuable opportunities for them to practise their personal linguistic skills under the guidance of a Welsh tutor. These taught sessions are often unrelated to the learning in subject or phase specific sessions. In addition, the availability of secondary subject sessions through the medium of Welsh varies.
Only a few partnerships provide opportunities for students to make clear links between what they have learnt about the methodology of Welsh language teaching in taught sessions and classroom practice when on school experience. As a result, although many students make suitable progress in their personal Welsh skills in Welsh skills sessions, they do not always apply their learning about the teaching of Welsh when on school experience.
In many partnerships, there isn’t a shared vision or a clear and consistent understanding of the partnership’s expectations for Welsh amongst partner schools. Partnerships often do not plan strategically enough the provision for the development of the Welsh language across programmes. This means that provision is fragmented, or that the Welsh language unit is seen as a separate aspect. In general, partnerships do not evaluate the provision for Welsh language development across programmes effectively enough. They do not consider the progress students make in using their Welsh language skills when teaching. In addition, they do not consider the impact of students’ teaching on pupils’ skills and experiences. As a result, they do not identify strengths and areas for development sharply enough to enable them to make improvements.
The professional learning offered by school improvement partners in local authorities and regional consortia to support education practitioners to develop their Welsh language skills and teach through the medium of Welsh varies across Wales. This means that teachers, particularly in the secondary sector, are not always confident in supporting pupils to acquire and develop their Welsh language skills within the curriculum subjects. In addition, this has an impact on their confidence and ability to effectively mentor ITE students to develop their teaching to support pupils with their Welsh skills.