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Is dyslexia too politically sensitive in Wales?

(14 Posts)
welshcockle Tue 22-Nov-11 14:46:06

I came across the below article on Welsh education.

I was really shocked to read that English speaking children who are forced to learn Welsh in Welsh schools can seriously have their spelling and sentence construction impeded^.

It also says that such children who, if they do have dyslexia, often have a delay in their dyslexia being diagnosed by several years because they are forced to learn Welsh when their first language is English.

Most of you in the rest of the UK will not realise that most Welsh people do not speak Welsh - the website says that 80% of Welsh people only speak English - but that more and more Welsh children are being forced to learn Welsh, and are then educated through Welsh, even though neither they or their parents speak it as their first language.

I am shocked that these children, if they have dyslexia, can go for several years without it being diagnosed because of this forced Welsh policy in Welsh schools?

What harm is that doing to the children? It must be awful for any child with dyslexia.

This is the bit that shocked me:

There are a number of known issues concerning the damage that early years Welsh medium education has been doing for years, particularly to native English speakers and, to my grave concern, to dyslexics.

IMO Welsh medium education should come with a government health warning!

Welsh is a relatively simple phonetic language ? like several similar languages. It is actually easier to learn to read in Welsh than in English, which is more complex and irregular in phonetic terms.

Learning to read in Welsh can adversely affect the spelling and sentence construction of native English speakers even if they don?t have learning difficulties.

If kids do have learning difficulties then the diagnosis of dyslexia ? which around 10% of the population is thought to suffer from to some degree ? can be delayed by up to several years. Much depends on the skill and interest of the teacher(s). In Gwynedd and Anglesey ysgols, for example, it is known that dyslexic kids can remain undiagnosed, and therefore unsupported, for a couple of years, or more, AFTER they are first allowed to use English as a second language at age 7. There is no reason to believe the situation is any different in the WM ysgols being foisted upon the rest of Wales.

Progress in Welsh may initially appear to be adequate and the difficulty only really surfaces after English is introduced. So the kids can be 8, 9, 10 when their difficulties are realised when they should be diagnosed and supported earlier.

The situation in WM ysgols has been aggravated because it is also known that there has not been a proper Welsh language dyslexia diagnostic test for years! So even Welsh speaking families potentially stand to lose out by WM early years education!

I first saw this on Anglesey (then under Gwynedd County Council LEA) in the 1980s where my partner was a teacher ? I saw regular patterns of errors in pupil?s written work which I quickly deduced, and my native Welsh speaking partner confirmed, were the result of English language kids being forced to learn through the medium of Welsh. Protestation was pointless ? a change of career was the only suggested course of action!

I have seen it several times since. I have friends now with children who have CLEARLY had their literacy and therefore their general education damaged in these ways. Some, sadly, have become ?hostile? towards English because it is more difficult for them than Welsh.

There are peer-reviewed scientific papers on all this ? some of the work was, and is still being, done at Bangor University. It should NOT be possible for anybody concerned with education in Wales to claim they are unaware of these issues.

Yet, I cannot see any evidence what-so-ever that parents currently being encouraged, or FORCED, to put their kids into WM ysgols are being told about any of this. IMO this is a clear breach of human rights but nobody wants to talk about it ? least of all the pro Welsh language lot who now permeate the public sector at all levels.

There is little wonder that Wales is producing an increasing flow of school leavers who are either functionally illiterate or semi-literate in 2 languages. Many are simply unemployable when they leave school.

Last time I tried to attend a closed conference on dyslexia in Wales I was told that ?it is too politically sensitive?. That?s a NO! You may draw your own conclusions whether any or all of this constitutes a cover-up.

startail Fri 25-Nov-11 15:46:49

I am English, but spent my school days in Wales. Back then Welsh was a minor irritant. I spent Y7 to Y9 being to quote my long suffering teacher being "Beyond Hope".
I'm mildly dyslexic and find languages very difficult. I gave up both Welsh, which I have to say I was taught very well and French which I was taught very badly at the earliest opportunity.
I regret that the subject block taken up by Welsh had not been available for German or Latin, both of which I'd have found useful.
My childhood area is 100% English speaking and yet the local council wastes a fortune printing everything in both languages.
Friends send their children to Welsh medium schools, not out of a desire to have them educated in Welsh, but because that is where there is investment and small classes.
Other friends commute long distances over the boarder to jobs in Wales and refuse to move. They do not feel the time their DC would spend learning Welsh would be of any value.
I expect we will both now get flamed, because to question spending on the Welsh language is to wake up the Elephant in the room.

sashh Mon 28-Nov-11 04:02:24

"I am shocked that these children, if they have dyslexia, can go for several years without it being diagnosed because of this forced Welsh policy in Welsh schools?"

That's because Welsh is spelled phonetically, you could argue that they have the luxury of learning maths and science in a phonetic language so although their English language is delayed they don't have the additional hurdle of English to overcome to access parts of the curriculum.

Exactly the same case can be made for Spanish speakers in US schools.

mumeeee Tue 29-Nov-11 17:05:49

I live in Wales. You don't have to send your children to a Welsh School. There are English and Welsh medium schools. While it's correct that all children do have to learn some Welsh it's only a small
amount in primary school and just one if a range of subjects in High school. It's only in the Welsh medium schools that everything is taught in Welsh.

lelly88 Thu 15-Dec-11 00:05:37

There are some areas in Wales that don't have the choice and only have Welsh medium schools available.
My son went to a welsh medium school(our choice) as my DH speaks welsh, he is dyslexic but was picked up early- yr 2 by a clued up teacher who told us to move him to an English medium school before yr 6. She knew he was bright and "shouldn't be on the low set table" but there was "nowhere else he could sit and get help". Because of his language barrier they didn't pick up on his high ability in Maths and science at all ( now top set in secondary for these). He now flourishes in his brilliant secondary english medium school.
I would also say we were told he wouldn't get the funding for the help he was getting in English medium- 1hr a day 1:1 and an hour a week S&L- as they are pouring money into WME. Unfortunately this was all to improve his welsh speaking!! Which was the very problem it seems. So a waste of money, as soon as the welsh was stripped away, things improved. He's of course still having to work extremely hard at essays and writing but if I'd known what I know now I'd have not bothered with WME. I do think it exacerbates the word retrieval and grammar problems.

BigGwyneth Wed 25-Jan-12 22:13:42

Message deleted by Mumsnet.

esme66 Sat 17-Mar-12 14:54:01

I checked out this website and there are two articles by head teachers saying that teaching Welsh in schools is harming children. If head teachers are saying this, maybe we should all be worried (those of us who live in Wales).

DorisDydd Tue 20-Mar-12 10:41:30

Just a word of caution that this is a 'spreading the Anti-Welsh word' type propaganda by a right wing anonymous anti Welsh group called 'Gogwatch'. The site name implies keeping an eye on their much loathed pesky Welsh speaking North Walians. Infighting at its worse and I'm so sorry it appeared here.

Why these people are so prejudiced towards Welsh people and their language in their own country beats me, but to further counter the ridiculous and unfounded scaremongering about dyslexia (and hence hoped validation of their ethnic and linguistic cleansing principles - for reference just see this ethnic cleansing at its finest) I can only give of my experience (and billions of other unprejudiced bilingual people around the world no doubt). And remember they are a noisy minority that do not represent the healthy and inclusive views of 90% of the country and 95% of teachers.

The bud of their vitriol stems from resentment at the lack of absolute parental choice in whether your kid HAS to take Welsh or not; I’m sure there is also a perception of difference/distance by some selfish monoglot parents if their kids can speak a language the parents cant. As an agnostic I feel a bit the same about all the religious stuff they get smothered with at school. However on the principle that it wont really do them any harm, I dont kick up a fuss. Having a level of this knowledge and an exposure to its ‘facts’ is better in order for them to later decide for themselves; its best I dont step in with my strong views, opinion and prejudice.

I delighted in my kids (both originally born in London) becoming transparately fluent in English and Welsh at 6 years old. They now read both languages fantastically at 8 (despite the VAST differences in the languages and their grammar and pronuciation – English really is a pig for pronunciation and those b mutations in Welsh… ). However they suffer no brain drain or disadvantage. Its remarkable and its fabulous.

Why therefore do so many worry that their kids will become some country bumpkins poorly capable in English or prejudiced if they have dyslexia I dont know. May I venture that the converse is true – they will become smarter, sharper and better adapted to differencs in culture, nuance, expression and able to assimilate other languages far better in later life – particularly Spanish/Italian. There is no trade off between choosing Welsh AND English.

My kids dual language skills are in the bag, banked and both before age ten. I am impressed beyond words and am so glad I never denied them this birthright, flexibility and agility of mind. I just can not take a negative from it as there IS no negative in it. There is no intellectual fuel tank to empty – its a bottonmless pit with kids – fuel them and see them flourish.

lelly88 Tue 20-Mar-12 21:34:32

Your DC obviously aren't dyslexic then or you may have been telling a different story, I think the point of the post was definitely discussing the dyslexia angle and bilingualism.
My older son did ok on his WM secondary, just ok. He didn't have the difficulties my younger DS has but unfortunately the WM secondaries are poor in our area. There are some good ones out there I'm sure.

Niceweather Wed 21-Mar-12 06:35:13

Slightly off topic but my friend's son has extremely severe dyslexia. He is exempt from going to French lessons at secondary school so that he can learn to read and write.

DorisDydd Wed 21-Mar-12 10:34:56

lelly88 - apologies if my post came over as crowing for my kids' language skills. That wasn't my intention – I'm sorry. It was just done to reflect the massive positive in Welsh medium education producing skilful bilingual children at a very young age and to counter the notion planted by others that this is a bad thing, and imposition and an useless oppression.

Knowing a good half dozen fully bilingual dyslexic people, my intention was also to prevent making the Welsh language a scapegoat for this condition.

Travel to an English medium only school is always possible if it really is the best option for a child and there isnt one right on your rural heartland doorstep. The choice IS there and it will be right on your doorstep in the more populous areas.

BigWelshSteve Thu 17-Oct-13 19:07:33

For the record, here is an apparently evidence based report that shows that learning mutiple languages creates no difficulties whatsoever for children with language impairments, downs syndrome or autism spectrum disorder:

DefJef Wed 15-Jan-14 10:18:52

Hi. Thought I'd join mumsnet to get and give some feedback on this issue.

My child, Charlie, began at a Welsh medium primary and sank like a stone. His dyslexia was picked up in Year 3 and, on some informal, politically incorrect advice from a professor at Bangor University, we moved him to an English medium primary where he had an immense amount of help in reading, writing and maths.

Now he is in Year 7 at secondary school and very enthusiastic about every subject except Welsh and RE (both compulsory subjects in his school). He says that, having been taken out of class to do a dyslexia program called Lexia, he then goes into Welsh lessons and all the work seems to get undone again.

We have been told that he will find French very difficult as he progresses; to illustrate this he achieved 80% in his spoken French and only 30% in his written. However he is not allowed to stop studying Welsh as it is a legal requirement up to GCSE. He would prefer to tussle with French and drop the Welsh or the RE in order to concentrate on his dyslexia training and has designs on being a French interpreter. Instead he has to continue with those subjects and miss ones that he is good at. We can only encourage him to prove the specialists wrong. And battle on with the Welsh and RE unless anyone out there is aware of dispensations available to dyslexics.

nataliabuckler Fri 28-Mar-14 06:41:10

Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.

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