First Minister Carwyn Jones visited Ysgol Gymraeg Trelyn in Pengam on Tuesday to help launch a campaign aimed at raising awareness of Welsh-medium and bilingual education.
Called Live in Wales: Learn in Welsh?, the three-year campaign will target expectant parents and parents with children aged three and under. It will offer information and advice about sending a child to a Welsh-medium or bilingual school.
The First Minister met with parents and read a Welsh language story to children in the reception class at Ysgol Gymraeg Trelyn.
Mr Jones said: “Parents are not always aware, or do not have easy access to information about Welsh-medium schools. This three year campaign will raise awareness of Welsh-medium and bilingual education so that parents can make an informed choice.
“I understand the concerns some parents may have about sending their children to Welsh-medium and bilingual schools, especially if they don’t speak Welsh themselves. This campaign is designed to ensure parents have all the information they need to be confident that whatever choice they make is the right one for them and their child.”
Education Minister Huw Lewis said: “Our Live in Wales: Learn in Welsh? campaign aims to dispel some of the myths around Welsh medium education, such as that non-Welsh speaking parents are unable to help their children with homework and their development.
“Welsh-medium education can offer children new skills and can be a very enriching experience. We know that some parents are put-off because of a lack of understanding of the support available for those who are non-Welsh speaking. Our campaign aims to inform and reassure parents when making the important decision about their child’s education.”
Hywel and Claire Davies, parents-of-four from Fleur de Lis in Blackwood, send their three eldest children to Welsh medium education school – Macsen, eight, Talin, seven and Efa, six attend Ysgol Gymraeg Trelyn.
The couple, who don’t speak fluent Welsh, believed bringing them up bilingually would give them many skills and opportunities.
Hywel, a 42-year-old teacher who is currently working as a cover supervisor at Oakdale Comprehensive, has been learning Welsh sporadically since he left university.
Claire, 39, a nurse, speaks a little Welsh but Hywel says not being Welsh speakers has never stood in the way of their children’s Welsh education.
“I’ve been learning the hard way,” said Hywel.
“Learning Welsh at school means you don’t have to take time out later on – I wish I’d gone through Welsh medium education.
“The benefits are huge – both culturally and in terms of employability.
“It’s such a great gift to give.”
And he encourages other non-Welsh speakers not to feel intimidated by their own grasp of the language.
“There’s flexibility, parents can help with homework in English, parents evenings can be in English and all correspondence is bilingual,” he said.
“Trust your children – they will pick it up and the benefits far outweigh any negatives are so great.
“Even at Christmas plays, you can get the jist and we’re picking up new words every day.”
Youngest child, Hana, 18 months, will attend Ysgol Gymraeg Trelyn when she is old enough.