Local News & Archive — May 15, 2015 at 4:11 pm — Updated: May 15, 2015 at 4:11 pm

Ruthin headteacher apologises in Welsh language row

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A headteacher who claimed forcing students to learn Welsh would make them educationally weaker than their English peers, has apologised for his comments.

Ruthin School chief Toby Belfield said his remarks in a newspaper letter were not meant to cause offence and had been taken out of context. The Welsh Language Society – Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg – described his comments as ”anachronistic”, while a local sailing club at Llyn Brenig has banned the private school from using its facilities.

Writing to the Denbighshire Free Press, Mr Belfield said: “Pupils that have Welsh as their first language are less likely to enter top-ranking universities throughout the UK. This might not be a problem for some narrow-minded people that wish our Welsh children to remain forever in Wales – going to Welsh universities and gaining employment only in Wales”.

The letter went onto criticise the Welsh education system as ”one of the weakest in the world”, adding ”it’s about time Welsh parents opened their minds to opportunities for their children outside Wales – and, in order to achieve this, the educational system in Wales needs to be at least as robust as the English one, with English as the first language.”

In response, Cymdeithas education spokesman Ffred Fransis said: “Mr Belfield’s strange ideas are almost as anachronistic as the idea that there should still be private schools in Wales in the 21st century. Every objective study shows that children who are fluent in Welsh perform better educationally. It seems he hasn’t read the two independent reviews of teaching Welsh in English-medium schools which point to the major advantages which come with bilingualism…we will be asking the Education Minister to review the existence of private schools like the one he runs.”

On Friday morning, Mr Belfield said he offered an unreserved apology for the offence caused, but stood by his objection to another letter which recommended mandating all Welsh schools and teachers to speak and teach in the Welsh medium. He added: “If all teachers had to not only speak Welsh, but had to teach through the medium of Welsh, then the pool of teachers available to work in Welsh schools will dramatically be reduced, and high quality academics will not necessarily be able to guide/teach our Welsh children.”

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