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AIBU to ask for your help making up my mind?

(21 Posts)
creampie Mon 17-Oct-16 12:02:34

This is more of a WWYD and I probably am. Ring unreasonable asking internet strangers to help me make such an important decision but I've thought about it so much that it's all a bit of a muddle now, and I need help sorting out my reasoning!

My son goes to welsh medium school. None of us speak Welsh. He seems to be getting on ok, teachers happy with him, but he does regularly say he wants to go to English school (no particular reason given, not being bullied, likes school, and he's only 6 so I do t think he really understands the decision he's making).

I like the school, but I feel incredibly detached from it because I don't speak the language. I can't volunteer to help out, for example, and I feel really awkward going up for assemblies/plays etc as I don't understand what anyone's saying, and have to keep explaining I don't speak Welsh.

I remember my mum being very involved in my schooling but I'm not sure whether I really liked or cared about that at the time.

I don't want to move him based entirely on my feeling "left out" but wonder if he'd benefit more from school if we felt more comfortable there and were more involved? How important is it that parents get involved with the school in this way?

As an aside, he would definitely be going to the English comp so is it better to move him now so he's with the friends he'll be at comp with?

I don't know what to do, I've been round in circles, and I don't know whether I should move him to English school or not.

He seems happy enough where he is, but may do better educationally in English school. Is it better just to be somewhere you're happy at primary age, and to worry about the academics later?

Agggh! Any advice hugely appreciated

user1476140278 Mon 17-Oct-16 12:12:51

Why don't you learn to speak Welsh? I'm Welsh so perhaps I'm biased but there's no reason you shouldn't? If the school is good and he's otherwise doing well there, I'd personally make an effort to get involved by learning the language.

He will see this and it will have a positive influence on him.

Put your energy into that. Is he perhaps asking to go to an English school because he's overheard your reservations?

Alwayschanging1 Mon 17-Oct-16 12:44:40

If you lived in France would you want him to go to an English speaking school, or would you accept that you should all learn the local language?
To deprive him of the opportunity to learn the language and fit into his local community is wrong. To speak a second language is real skill for anyone to have.
I sympathise that you find it hard, but this is a great opportunity for him.

harderandharder2breathe Mon 17-Oct-16 13:27:02

Why did you choose a Welsh primary? And why then an English secondary? Your reasons for choosing a Welsh medium school are they still valid? Is there an alternative comparable English medium school? Most children I know at Welsh medium primary continue on to a Welsh medium secondary, so it strikes me as a bit odd that you're sure he's going to English medium secondary. In my town there's two excellent English medium secondary schools, many children also get a bus to the next town (15-20 mins away) to go to Welsh secondary. So if his friends at school will all likely go on to Welsh secondary and you're adamant about English secondary then you might be wise to think about switching now.

creampie Mon 17-Oct-16 13:27:10

Sorry should have mentioned, I am learning, have been going for 3 years, but blimy it's a tricky language grin

ontheedgeofthecliff Mon 17-Oct-16 13:34:39

How will you be able to help him with his homework when he gets to 9/10?! Is there an alternative English school option? Most people living abroad would choose a mother tongue school if it was available, unless you have a fluent Welsh speaker at home it will be increasingly difficult. Yes, speaking a second language is great - I say this as a linguist - but don't compromise the first language in doing so.
Getting involved with the school can be great - but are the Welsh speaking parents going to welcome you??!! Where do you sit on that dilemma ....

Allthewaves Mon 17-Oct-16 14:04:10

Why did you choose a Welsh medium school? Have those reasons changed?

creampie Mon 17-Oct-16 14:13:26

We chose Welsh medium for the benefits of bilingualism on the brain, and because it's becoming increasingly useful to have it if you want a job in Wales. Those reasons haven't changed.

I don't think we could help him with homework as the years go on. I don't think my welsh will ever be good enough to write a decent essay on the writings of Shakespeare, for example, and he doesn't strike me as a child who will be hugely motivated without a bit of parental help. I feel he would miss out on the benefits of having 2 university educated parents if he continues at Welsh medium comp, so that was where that decision came from. Unless things change in the next few years of course.

The English and Welsh primaries are comparable in terms of distance, ofsted etc.

I'm so on the fence with this. I really want to make the right decision.

Has anyone got any children, or know any children, educated in a language the parents don't speak well?

Gwenci Mon 17-Oct-16 14:32:40

A friend of mine was born and raised in Cardiff and went to Welsh speaking schools along with her brother but neither of their parents speak Welsh.

I can't imagine they were able to help with homework or school activities but it doesn't seem to have impacted my friend as she has a degree and a masters from a very decent (English) uni.

But then her and her brother are quite academically motivated anyway. You've already mentioned that you feel your DS would benefit from parental involvement in homework later in his school life so I can see why you're struggling with this decision.

Are you certain he will be going to an English secondary school? Only, if so, he may well struggle to maintain the Welsh he learned at primary anyway. Once he is immersed in a English at school and at home, will he have any chances to continue using Welsh past age 11?

Gwenci Mon 17-Oct-16 14:35:16

P.S - Gwenci (pronounced with a hard 'c' sound - gwen-key) is Welsh for weasel; one to add to your vocab wink

quasibex Mon 17-Oct-16 14:43:24

If no bullying I'd keep your son in Welsh medium because...
1. Age 6 he won't have done any formal learning in English yet. He's currently 2 years behind in phonics/reading/writing. Welsh schools accelerate this learning to bring the children to the same standard by the end of BL6
2. Being a fluent Welsh speaker is not a requirement for being involved with the school. They should welcome any and all volunteers (our PTA and board of governors have non Welsh speakers).
3. Moving up to secondary/comprehensive whatever they are called these days invariably means being split from your friends anyway as they purposefully mix school intakes so everyone will be in the 'finding new friends' mode.

Besides you're giving your son an easy Welsh GCSE by ensuring his fluency before moving to English school.

Speak to his teacher about his progress in Welsh. Unless he's awful I'd stay put.

quasibex Mon 17-Oct-16 14:50:03

Sorry cross post. OP I'm a Welsh learner too but my eldest is doing really well in spite of my ineptitude in helping her.

One of the homework tricks our teachers recommended is getting your child to translate any homework verbally. It helps them rationalise the homework before they speak about it. You can then speak about it in English and help them form ideas before they complete it in Welsh.

Our teachers set homework that compliments work done in class, they quite like that I can't cover my daughter's tracks and her homework reflects her actual understanding and ability.

Gwenci I may have a new favourite animal word...I've been obsessed with Wiwer for far too long grin

quasibex Mon 17-Oct-16 14:51:42

op sorry drip posting. I also have several friends do that are 1st generation Welsh speakers (as in their parents did not) and none of them regret their Welsh eduction.

user1476140278 Mon 17-Oct-16 15:06:56

You can help him with his homework in the future...you help him in English and he writes in Welsh. It's not hard. You may not be able to help him with grammar but as you're not thinking of putting him in for exams to a selective school, this is by the by.

ZippyNeedsFeeding Mon 17-Oct-16 15:44:48

I live in a Gaelic-speaking area of Scotland so we have largely the same sort of system. There is enormous pressure to conform and put your children in Gaelic-medium primary (there is no Gaelic-medium secondary). And I think it works well for children whose home and social lives largely revolve around Gaelic language and culture. However, I have seen it cause huge problems for parents whose first languages are not Gaelic (not just the Sassenachs like me, but also a significant number of Polish families, for example).

MrZippy was born and bred here, and had to learn English once he started school, but at home we don't speak Gaelic at all. We decided it wasn't in our children's best interests to put them through GM just because it was the "done thing". It has caused some problems because there is such blatant discrimination against English-speaking children at the only school we have access to, but once the kids went to secondary it has been fine. Among the children we know, there have definitely been some who struggled with learning in a second language and this would have been the case with at least one of ours. There is no English-language nursery at all in our area, so we had some experience before we made our choices. It isn't true that all children just easily absorb another language, some just end up very, very confused and isolated.

I see that Wales is in a different situation (I went to primary school there myself) because Gaelic in not the national language of Scotland and it isn't possible to sit most exams, or your driving test in Gaelic here, but it can also be difficult to get work with the council (one of very few employers in this area) without it. However, I hope that my children won't restrict themselves to scraping a living here (the best they could hope for really) and will spread their wings once they go away for college/university.

Are you definitely never going to move, at least until he has left school? Having not listened to one of my children when they wanted to change schools and regretted it, I think I would at least investigate further into his reasons for not wanting to continue where he is. Children can be quite tribal and it may be as simple as not feeling he really belongs. If he moves, how much Welsh is taught in the other school? Would he be able to see how it went for, say a term, and then move back with minimal damage if necessary? Is his teacher aware that he wants to move?

HuskyLover1 Mon 17-Oct-16 15:44:53

As an aside, he would definitely be going to the English comp so is it better to move him now so he's with the friends he'll be at comp with?

YES! He's only 6, he will make the transition brilliantly at this age. I had to move my DS to a different primary school when he was 5 (we moved to a new area), and he was fine. And your son is saying he wants to move. Add to that the language barrier, this is a total no brainer. Think about which High school you want your son to attend, then move him to a Primary that feeds in to that High School. He will go thru High School with all his friends, which is hugely comforting for him (and you).

My parents sent me to a High School that was not linked to my Primary. I had no friends there at all, boy it was hard. I did make friends, but it was a harder start than it would have been, had they just let me attend the local High School.

ZippyNeedsFeeding Mon 17-Oct-16 15:51:35

If it helps, I went to four different primary schools and still had to repeat the last year because secondary wouldn't take me a year early (I sat the 11+ twice at 2 different schools and passed both times). It never set me back at all and moves were more often than not at very short notice and in the middle of a term.

ZippyNeedsFeeding Mon 17-Oct-16 15:53:15

Sorry that last post was garbled. I was moved a year ahead in Wales, then we moved to Germany and wasn't allowed to move on to secondary so I had to do all the same stuff again for a year.

creampie Mon 17-Oct-16 16:06:19

Thank you all so much for your input. I've now got a list of sensible questions to ask his teachers when I meet with them. I think a big point will be to find out how many of his class are likely to go on to the English comp in our town and how many will go to Welsh comp in the next town over. I don't want him to go up with no one he knows (although if he keeps up with the local clubs, he'll know children in his year from those, I suppose)

RedHelenB Mon 17-Oct-16 16:20:35

Secondary is the ideal time to make new friends so I wouldn't worry about tha until he is oldert. As Welsh is a dead language I could usually guess what my Welsh friend was speaking about as there are so many English words! If he is learning the language fine I would stick with it if you are planning on staying in Wales.

harderandharder2breathe Tue 18-Oct-16 13:59:29

The school will also be used to dealing with non Welsh speaking parents too (unless you're in a very very Welsh rural village possibly!) so should have strategies to help you help him

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