'We can't wait 800 years for Welsh-medium education for all', that was the striking message of hundreds of campaigners today in a rally in Cardiff.
Welsh Government figures show that, over the last four years, the share of 7 year olds going to Welsh-medium education has risen by less than 0.1 percent a year. Language campaign group Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg has calculated, if that pattern continued, it would take over 800 years until every child was taught through the medium of Welsh.
Several groups, including teachers union UCAC, umbrella language group Dathlu'r Gymraeg and Merched y Wawr, signed a statement calling on all parties standing in the Assembly elections to transform the way Welsh is taught. The statement was signed at the 'One Million Welsh Speakers' rally in Cardiff today (Saturday, 13th February) where the singer and comedian Caryl Parry Jones, UCAC General Secretary Elaine Edwards and the singer Kizzy Crawford from Aberfan were among the speakers.
Speaking at the rally, Jamie Bevan, Chair of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg, who signed the statement on behalf of the campaign group, commented: "Which ever party or parties form the next Welsh Government, they have to act with vision, and ensure that the will of the people of Wales to see our language thriving is realised. On the eve of the Assembly elections, one of our most important demands is for Welsh-medium education for all. The politicians claim they want to create a fully bilingual Wales - but the present education system doesn't succeed in doing that. According to the government's own figures, the growth in Welsh-medium education is extremely slow. No-one could possibly argue it's not taking too long. We cannot wait 800 years."
Singer and comedian Caryl Parry Jones said: "What's wrong with speaking two languages? Nothing that vision, will and respect cannot answer. The Welsh language wants to live."
Elaine Edwards, General Secretary of teaching union UCAC added: " In order to succeed in reaching the goal, the education workforce needs to be planned far more effectively - attracting fluent Welsh speakers and also improving the Welsh language skills of others. The whole workforce needs to be planned including education support services. We must move forward urgently to create and implement firm and clear policies for the Welsh language - including abolishing second language Welsh. Past education policies have created problems - let us ensure that future education policies fix them."