Mid Wales

BiLingo Welsh language row: Children's commissioner alerted

The children's commissioner for Wales has been alerted to a row over claims pupils were told off for speaking English at Welsh schools in Ceredigion.

Keith Towler said he will respond to concerns surrounding anonymous allegations made on a website called BiLingo.

The website, set up last month, has since removed the accusations.

Ceredigion council said they had not received any evidence to suggest any basis for the allegations.

A spokesman said the authority was happy to discuss any parents' concerns describing schools in the area as "friendly and inclusive".

The website claimed the group or individual behind it is supportive of the Welsh language as a "living and vibrant language".

But it also expressed some doubt about Ceredigion's language strategy, which is designed to support the language and to promote the teaching of Welsh.

The website listed a number of reports where it alleged children had been admonished for speaking English in class and in the yard.

It also claimed that some schools used a traffic light system which could lead to punishment for speaking English.

The BBC has been in email contact with the person or people behind the website but has been unable to establish who they are or how many are involved, and whether the claims are based on first hand experiences or second hand reports.

'Sense of conflict'

Mr Towler said he had been made aware of the issue and would be "responding to those concerned in due course".

Suzy Davies AM, Conservative shadow minister for the Welsh language, said the "worrying accusations" should be investigated.

"If true, these negative experiences can create a real sense of conflict for children and do nothing to promote value of Welsh to families who may still be sceptical about that," she added.

Councillor Hag Harris, cabinet member with responsibility for education on Ceredigion council, said the authority's Schools' Welsh Language Strategy "doesn't feature anything akin to the accusations made on the website".

"However, we'll be happy to discuss any concerns raised with the person or persons that have set up the website," he said.

"We'd also like to encourage any parents that have concerns of their own to speak with their child's teacher or the head teacher at the school.

"In our experience parents have every confidence in being able to discuss any concerns with the school."

'Support and encouragement'

Mr Harris said the authority's education department works closely with all of Ceredigion's schools to help implement relevant policies and strategies, including the Welsh Language Strategy.

"The strategy emphasises giving support and encouragement to pupils and parents alike and we find it very difficult to believe that the accusations have any basis," he added.

"It's also sad to read that the website developers say they are afraid to raise the issue with schools themselves.

"Ceredigion's schools are friendly, inclusive and welcoming and have a very committed community ethos and no parents or interested parties should have any misgivings about discussing concerns freely and openly."

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