620,000 is probably the maximum number of Welsh speakers by 2050, according to a discussion paper by Dyfodol i’r Iaith. Although the growth of Welsh schools and improving the teaching of Welsh in English schools would contribute to the numbers, the goal of one million will be far from being reached.
Even if the growth of Welsh education doubles and other plans succeed, the paper suggests that 750,000 Welsh speakers is the most hopeful outcome.
The paper states that there is a need to invest much more extensively in the Welsh language in the early years, in recruiting staff and in developing intensive Welsh learning courses.
If the current aim of establishing 23 new Welsh language schools and 25 additional Welsh classes by 2033 continues, Dyfodol i’r Iaith claims that 28% of primary school children will be in Welsh medium education by 2040. The Government’s target was to have 30% in Welsh medium education by 2030.
Heini Gruffudd, Chair of Dyfodol i r Iaith, said “It is clear from education statistics, and numbers who learn Welsh as adults, that much more extensive investment is needed to have any hope of approaching the million.
“We need to make the teaching profession attractive once again, and we need to plan a comprehensive programme of learning Welsh on intensive courses for prospective teachers, and for playgroup staff.”
Dyfodol i’r Iaith will request a meeting with the Government based on the discussion paper, asking for specific targets on how the million will be reached.
“The important point,” says Heini Gruffudd, “is that credible and achievable targets are set in order to ensure solid growth, rather than throwing somewhat optimistic figures into the air.”