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Welsh language education under threat following proposed changes to South Pembrokeshire’s school catchment area

Pembrokeshire school children eager to continue their secondary education through the medium of Welsh could be dealt a severe blow next year after a proposed catchment area restructure will make it harder for students in the south of the county to attend Ysgol Caer Elen in Haverfordwest.

Students at the new Welsh language school in Tenby, namely Ysgol Hafan y Mor, were recently told that as a result of the proposed 2024 restructuring programme, free transport will no longer be available to transport them from Tenby to Ysgol Caer Elen.

As a result, they will have to travel a much further distance to Pembrokeshire’s only other Welsh-medium secondary school at Ysgol Bro Preseli in Crymych, or alternatively find their own way to Pembroke from where they can catch a free bus to Caer Elen. It is understood that there is also a second bus available to transport students to Caer Elen, however this doesn’t provide free transport.

As a result, these alternatives are unaffordable to many parents. 

Now, many children who have spent their primary years being educated through the Welsh language will have to revert to English for their secondary education.

This is being hailed as a retrograde step in Wales’ commitment to ensuring that children are taught in Welsh throughout both their primary and secondary education.

“It’s hard to understand why Pembrokeshire County Council is considering changing the catchment area,” commented a spokesperson for Cymdeithas yr Iaith Cymraeg (The Welsh Language Society).

“Our aim is to see more and more  children receiving an all-round education through the medium of Welsh.  Tenby recently opened a fantastic new Welsh primary school at Hafan y Mor, which is doing a great deal to improve the situation, and it’s so important that their achievements are allowed to continue through to the secondary sector.

“And the after-school element is another important issue to consider which enables children to use the Welsh language outside the classroom.  But if they are being educated a long way away from their homes, then this becomes increasingly difficult.”

The proposals are also being questioned by Tenby county councillor Michael Williams.

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“It’s extremely disappointing to hear of these concerns,” he said.

“We’ve made incredible progress in the Tenby area over recent years in promoting and developing Welsh medium education, with a hugely successful school at Hafan y Mor, and parents rightly expected that if their choice of secondary school was to be Caer Elen, then suitable transport would be provided.

“The authority has seriously let them down. The development of the language in the Tenby area is still very fragile and if its growth is to be sustained the authority must play its part.

“And part of doing this is to provide adequate transport, and not price parents out of their choice of school.

“ I appeal to the cabinet and the Director of Education to review this decision.”

Pembrokeshire County Council has been asked by The Herald to comment on the proposal.