Informing and influencing the creation of language policies and strategies at local and national government levels to promote the use of Welsh amongst young people
Submitting InstitutionSwansea University
Unit of AssessmentModern Languages and Linguistics
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Studies In Human Society: Sociology
Language, Communication and Culture: Language Studies, Linguistics
Summary of the impact
The research has informed and influenced the creation of language
policies and educational strategies at local and Welsh government levels
which have had a direct impact on:
1) expanding the domains where Welsh is used by young people;
2) embedding the tracking of linguistic progression between key stages;
3) expanding Welsh medium school education in the context of language
policy for the normalisation of a minority language.
The research also informed the work of the campaign and pressure groups
RHAG [Rhieni dros Addysg Gymraeg, trans. Parents for Welsh Medium
Education], and Dyfodol i'r Gymraeg [A future for Welsh],
which have elected the lead researcher, Gruffudd, as Chair within the REF
The underpinning research was funded via a £150K grant from the
Universities Funding Council and published in 1996 (R1). The primary
research was undertaken by Heini Gruffudd (lecturer in Welsh at Swansea
University 1990 to 2004) in response to the publication of seminal work by
the US sociolinguist Joshua Fishman, Reversing Language Shift in
1991. The underpinning research aimed at exploring issues from a Welsh
language context and adopted a methodology and rationale that were
informed by the theory of Reversing Language Shift [RLS] and the
intergenerational transmission of language.
This was the first time that research into the use of Welsh by young
people had been conducted in the context of RLS and in order to inform
holistic language planning at a community level. The communities looked at
in the research ranged from areas with low densities of Welsh speakers —
Port Talbot, Neath and Swansea city — to those with high densities — upper
Swansea Valley and East Carmarthenshire and found that pupils attending
16+ Welsh medium education were more likely to establish positive language
practices than those who had transferred to English medium provision [R1,
p.170]. Of particular concern were the negative attitudes of those who
attended comparatively weak forms of bilingual 16+ provision in areas of
higher densities of Welsh speakers. The main research conclusions informed
the three strands outlined in the impact summary above:
- The need to plan for the development of Welsh medium school education
in order to normalise the choice of language medium in education for all
young people in their local communities.
- The need to ensure and track linguistic progression from primary to
secondary to sixth form levels to maximise positive attitudes to the use
of Welsh amongst young people at the critical 16+ age.
- The need to provide a critical mass of Welsh speakers at the 16+ age
range in order to enhance opportunities to use the language in the
community and provide appropriate community structures.
C1 described the findings of the research as having `...profound
implications for educational policy'. (Colin Williams (ed.), Language
Revitalization: Policy and Planning in Wales, (University of Wales
Press, 2000) p.37 and R5). On the basis of this initial report, Gruffudd
was commissioned by the Welsh Language Board to carry out further studies
in two regions of Carmarthenshire (R2 and R3). This was followed by a
commission by ACCAC (the Qualifications, Curriculum and Assessment
Authority for Wales) for research on language progression between the
primary and secondary sectors in Wales (R6). Given that the initial
research had highlighted strong correlation between community use of Welsh
and linguistic progression in school, ACCAC was particularly interested in
this aspect, as it tackled directly a concern of the Government Welsh
Language strategy document Iaith Pawb (2003: p40), namely that `It
appears that a drift from first language to second language occurs
as pupils transfer from primary to secondary school... We shall be
asking ACCAC.....to examine these issues in more detail.'
References to the research
(R1) Heini Gruffudd, Y Gymraeg a phobl ifanc (University of Wales
Swansea, 1996) 210pp ISBN 1-900346-15-X: this report was an output of the
£150K Universities' Funding Council funded project and was produced in
accordance with their quality measures.
The following (R4 and R5) were published in edited or refereed
(R4) Heini Gruffudd, `Young people's use of Welsh: the influence of home
and community', in Contemporary Wales, 10, (1998), pp. 201 - 218.
(R5) Heini Gruffudd, `Planning for the use of Welsh by young people', in
Williams, C. (ed.), Language Revitalization: Policy and Planning in
Wales, (UWP, 2000), pp. 173 - 207.
(R6) Heini Gruffudd, Elin Meek, Catrin Stevens, Symudiad Disgyblion
rhwng Cymraeg a Chymraeg Ail Iaith (Llais y Lli, Swansea / ACCAC,
2004), 147pp: report commissioned by ACCAC.
Peter Hallam was employed as a full-time research assistant 1998-1999 on
R2. Dr Elin Meek and Dr Catrin Stevens were external part-time research
assistants during 2003-2004 on R6. Research funds for the commissioned
projects were c. £10,000 (Welsh Language Board), and c. £10,000 (ACCAC); a
further c. £5,000 for the `Welsh in the Vale' project (Welsh Language
Details of the impact
i) Expanding the domains where Welsh is used by young people: By
2001, this issue was recognised as a principal strategic theme in language
planning in Wales. Citing `the research results', C6 acknowledged how
Gruffudd's research made them aware of the importance of influencing the
language of young people's languages domains.
As more and more Mentrau Iaith [Community Language Initiatives] came into
existence, so did the recognition through earlier experience with Mentrau
Myrddin that the use of Welsh by young people was a core area for
community language planning, policy and strategy. Gruffudd's research
findings were now influencing the planning processes of a variety of
beneficiaries from the grass roots level, to the Chief Executive of
Mentrau Iaith Myrddin (C3) and senior Welsh Language Board staff.
From 2008, planning for the use of Welsh by young people has become
central within all Mentrau Iaith, as evidenced by annual reports and
corporate plans (C7). All have appointed specific officers to promote the
use of Welsh with young people in the last five to ten years. The impact
of Gruffudd's research in the Carmarthenshire area has been particularly
noticeable, leading in recent years to Welsh language care clubs, the ownzone
project, a youth theatre and an innovative pastoral service as evidenced
in C8. C3 has stated that "...the strategic development work carried
out by the Mentrau Iaith in Carmarthenshire with young people was
largely based on the research into language use by this particular age
group undertaken by Gruffudd. The model has now been used and adapted
across Wales, with Mentrau Iaith providing young people with more social
opportunities to use the language."
Recently, the use of Welsh by children and young people was identified as
an important strategic area by the Welsh government in `A living
language: a language for living — Welsh language strategy 2012-17',
pp. 28 - 32 (C9).
(ii) Embedding the tracking of linguistic progression between key
stages: The underpinning research highlighted marked differences in
approach in more traditionally Welsh-speaking counties, e.g.
Carmarthenshire and Cardiganshire. The guidance given to parents and
students here was weak and Gruffudd argued for a more proactive approach.
As a direct consequence of Gruffudd's report, language progression policy
was revised. According to C2, the research has "...ensured that
consideration of linguistic progression and the language continuum have
become embedded in the language and education planning processes of
Welsh county councils from 2008 onwards."
C4 has stated that: "Ceredigion's Educational Language Strategy was
launched in 2008. Gruffudd's research was instrumental in informing and
guiding policy and practice. During the time immediately before the
blueprint for the Strategy was formed, Gruffudd was invited to visit the
Ceredigion Education Scrutiny Committee and address it on various
aspects of the research results. This undoubtedly contributed positively
towards the Authority's establishment of the Strategy, directly
informing the Strategy's tracking of Welsh-medium provision and
progression between different key stages and influencing the whole
process of establishing new schools in the county.... Recently, the
strategy was a factor in motivating Ysgol Gynradd Aberteifi to switch
from being a mixed-medium school to being a Welsh-medium school [...]
Unquestionably, this dependable body of research advanced the case for
improving Welsh-medium education in the county."
In 2010, the Welsh government produced its Welsh medium education
strategy (C10), describing it as `a historic milestone'. For the
first time ever, the Welsh government tracks and sets progression targets
for Welsh-medium education, between KS 2 and 3, and KS 3 and 4. `Local
authorities will be expected to agree targets for Welsh-medium
education, to be submitted as part of their Welsh in Education Strategic
Plans to DCELLS for annual monitoring from 2011.' (p.22) This
national strategy puts in place the proposals made by the research
commissioned by ACCAC in 2004, along with the previous reports by
(iii) Expanding Welsh medium school education in the context of
language policy for the normalisation of a minority language: RHAG [Parents
for Welsh medium Education] used the underpinning research as a
basis for its own normalisation plans for Welsh medium education. A
particular example of this [which can be corroborated by C5] is the 1999
plan RHAG formulated for the Swansea region. It argued for (i) a sixth
form at the only Welsh medium secondary school in the area, (ii) a second
Welsh medium secondary school, and (iii) new schools in areas of the
authority where lacunae were identified based on an analysis of demand
using Gruffudd's research's arguments for holistic, geographically
balanced, normalisation of the provision of Welsh medium primary schools.
The normalisation plan, again using the template provided by Gruffudd's
research, was presented in the context of enhancing national language
policy by contributing to the maintenance of Swansea's percentage of 13%
Welsh speakers and for the County to measure the demand for Welsh medium
education. During 2008 - 2013, (i) and (ii) had been embedded in the
system and a substantial inroad made into (iii) with two new schools
opening in areas high on the Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation in 2011.
C11 notes a rise in the percentage of 7 year olds receiving Welsh medium
education in Swansea from 8.6% (2001) to 12.6% (2011).
Gruffudd's research has informed the activities of RHAG and persuaded him
to engage in the campaign for Welsh-medium education as the pressure
group's elected Chair in 2000-03 and 2009. He is presently its research
officer, and in 2012 was elected Chair of Dyfodol i'r Gymraeg, a
cross-party pressure group for the Welsh language.
RHAG has campaigned with parents and local government to develop Welsh
medium school education across Wales, leading to the opening of 15 new
Welsh medium primary schools since 2008. C12 provides an evaluation of the
growth of Welsh medium education 2002 to 2012.
The Welsh government's Welsh medium education strategy (C10),
states that it now expects `local authorities to plan effectively for
Welsh-medium provision' (p.13). The body of policy-changing research
produced by Gruffudd, often for government agencies, informed, influenced
and led in part to this `historic' statement.
Sources to corroborate the impact
C1 Professor in Welsh at Cardiff University, a former member of the Welsh
Language Board and an international scholar in language planning The
standard and impact of the research in general.
C2 Chief Executive of the Welsh Language Board to 2012 and current Chief
Executive of NPLD [The Network to Promote Linguistic Diversity] The impact
of the research on planning, policy and strategy within the Welsh Language
C3 Chief Executive of Mentrau Iaith Myrddin (to 2006) and current County
Councillor with Carmarthenshire County Council
The impact of the research on (i) the organisation of specific events to
increase the use of Welsh amongst young people and (ii) education policy
change in the Aman and Tywi valleys resulting in an increase in the number
of subjects offered through the medium of Welsh.
C4 Director of Education at Ceredigion County Council to 2009
The impact of the research on the implementation by Ceredigion County
Council of a strategy to ameliorate linguistic progression between the
primary and secondary sectors.
C5 Head of Education Planning and Resources, City and County of Swansea,
Education Directorate, Civic Centre, Oystermouth Road, Swansea SA1 3SN
The impact of the research on the planning for expansion of Welsh medium
education in the City and County of Swansea
C6 The Corporate Plan Executive Summary of Mentrau Myrddin (2001)
acknowledged how Gruffudd's research raised awareness of the importance of
influencing the language of young people's language domains, accessible at
C7 Evidence of the planning for the use of Welsh by young people in Mentrau
Iaith Cymru: Adroddiad Blynyddol 2011-2012 http://www.mentrauiaith.org/cymraeg/mictaflen.php
and 2012-2014 Corporate Plan
C8 Annual report of Menter Cwm Gwendraeth 2011-12 detailing strategic
development work with young people http://www.mentercwmgwendraeth.org.uk/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/Adroddiad-Blynyddol-2011-12.pdf
and also the website: http://www.mentercwmgwendraeth.org.uk/plant-a-phobl-ifanc
C9 Welsh Government five-year strategy, from 1 April 2012 to 31 March
2017A living language: a language for living — Welsh language strategy
C10 Welsh medium education strategy
C11 Strategaeth Addysg Cyfrwng Cymraeg: Annual Report, 2011-2012 pp 27-28
evidences the rise in the percentage of 7 year olds receiving Welsh medium
education in Swansea.
C12 An evaluation of the growth of Welsh medium education from 2002 to
2012 edited by Heini Gruffudd, accessible at http://www.rhag.net/dogfennau/rhagolwg_28_english.pdf