WELSH language education is a step closer in five Carmarthenshire primary schools after council leaders approved proposals to implement it.
The plans would mean all 188 pupils at Ysgol Rhys Prichard, Llandovery, being taught in Welsh.
The change would also see pupils in the foundation phase at Ysgol Y Ddwylan, Newcastle Emlyn, Ysgol Griffith Jones, St Clears, Ysgol Llangynnwr, near Carmarthen, and Ysgol Llys Hywel, Whitland, being taught in Welsh.
They would then have the choice of language provision at key stage 2, when they are seven years old.
“My hope is that many will want to continue along the Welsh medium continuum, and possibly in time we may consider changing the whole provision,” said Cllr Glynog Davies, referring to the four schools, at an executive board meeting on December 2.
Parents, pupils and the wider community have been consulted on the proposals, prior to statutory notices being issued in September this year, which gave objectors a further opportunity to voice concerns.
There were five objections in total to the statutory notices, relating to concerns about the removal of choice, alleged discrimination and exclusion, and parental worries about not being able to support their children, among others.
In their response to these concerns, council officers said the authority had a legal duty to prepare a Welsh in education strategy with the explicit aim of improving planning for the provision of Welsh medium education, for improving the standards of that education and of the teaching of Welsh.
The council’s most recent strategy, which called for a bilingual Carmarthenshire, was approved in June 2018.
The strategy said Welsh medium education should be available to all pupils, within reasonable travelling distance from their homes, and that primary age pupils will be expected to continue with this programme when transferring to secondary school.
The council wants all primary pupils to be able to speak, read and write Welsh and English fluently by the end of key stage 2.
Carmarthenshire has 58 Welsh medium primaries and one secondary school one, with 25 English medium primaries and four secondary school ones. There are other schools which fall between the two categories.
Cllr Davies, executive board member for education and children, said: “The authority is keen to move schools along the language continuum.”
Referring to the Welsh Government’s target of one million Welsh speakers in Wales by 2050, he said: “The council wants to play a very positive role that this does happen.”
Cllr Davies also said the planned change for Ysgol Rhys Prichard had been happening naturally, and that only two of the original 54 consultation responses had been objections.
Full council will have the final say on the proposals for all five schools.
Cllr Cefin Campbell, executive board member for communities and rural affairs, said the low number of objections across the five schools was “heartening”, and that parents should be made aware of the positive impacts of bilingualism.
“The best thing we can give our children, as a county council, is the gift of bilingualism,” he said.