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Francis: Safeguarding the future of the Welsh language

"Mae'r iaith Gymraeg wedi dod yn bell ers ymgyrchu a phrotestiadau y 1970au. Wedi dweud hynny, cred llawer nad yw Deddf yr Iaith Gymraeg 1993 wedi cyflawni ei llwyr botensial, a bod lle i wella a chryfhau.

Bwriad sefydlu Bwrdd yr Iaith Gymraeg oedd rhoi cyfrifoldeb iddo i amddiffyn yr iaith a sicrhau ei bod ar gael i bawb yng Nghymru, nid cyfyngu'r iaith a dod â hi o dan adain y Llywodraeth.

Mae'n eironig, mewn ffordd, fod yr iaith mewn sefyllfa mor fregus—bron â bod mor fregus ag yr oedd yn y 1970au—ac eto yr ydym wedi cael dogfen 'Iaith Pawb' sydd i fod i wella statws yr iaith Gymraeg a chreu Cymru ddwyieithog. Ni allwn weld prawf o hyn, a dyna'r broblem. Nid yw pethau'n symud ymlaen fel y dylent.

Efallai fod 'Iaith Pawb' yn ddogfen radical ar yr adeg y cynhyrchwyd hi, ond nid yw'r strategaeth a nodir ynddi o unrhyw fudd hyd nes y bydd yn cael ei gweithredu.

Mae'r blynyddoedd yr wyf newydd eu cydnabod fel blynyddoedd o gynnydd i'r iaith o ran statws, cydnabyddiaeth a darpariaeth hefyd wedi bod yn flynyddoedd pan welsom newidiadau sylfaenol yn y gymdeithas yng Nghymru.

Gwelwyd llawer o newidiadau ym myd amaeth, ac mae diboblogi cefn gwlad a mewnfudo wedi newid ardaloedd a oedd ar un adeg yn cael eu hystyried yn gadarnleoedd yr iaith Gymraeg am byth. Pryder ynglyn â hyn a esgorodd ar 'Iaith Pawb'.

Fodd bynnag, mae'r iaith Gymraeg yn fwy dibynnol yn awr nag y bu ar unrhyw adeg arall yn ei hanes ar gefnogaeth y wladwriaeth ac ar rieni Saesneg eu hiaith sy'n dewis addysg ddwyieithog i'w plant.

Mae addysg Gymraeg yn hanfodol i barhad yr iaith. Mae mwy a mwy o ddisgyblion yn dysgu Cymraeg yn yr ysgol, yn enwedig mewn ysgolion dwyieithog dynodedig. Dyna pam bod cynnydd yn nifer y bobl sy'n gallu siarad Cymraeg wedi ei gofnodi yn 2001. Nid oes angen athrylith, felly, i sylweddoli bod angen inni gynyddu nifer y bobl sy'n siarad Cymraeg yn rhugl.

Fodd bynnag, rhan bwysig o hyn yw gwybod, neu ddarganfod, faint sydd eisiau cael eu haddysg drwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg. Tan hynny, sut y gellir darparu gwasanaeth dwyieithog, a sut y gallwn wybod faint o athrawon sy'n gallu dysgu drwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg fydd eu hangen?

Mae'n amlwg mai addysg drwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg yw'r sylfaen ar gyfer adeiladu Cymru ddwyieithog. Dylai awdurdodau addysg lleol weithredu fel asiantau er mwyn hybu hyn yn unol â'r galw gan rieni.

Addysg yn sicr yw'r ffordd ymlaen. Yr wyf yn siomedig ar un ystyr, wedi dweud hyn, mai Alun Pugh druan, y Gweinidog dros Ddiwylliant, y Gymraeg a Chwaraeon, a fydd yn ymateb i'r ddadl hon ar ran y Blaid Lafur.

Fodd bynnag, bydd y Gweinidog dros Addysg a Dysgu Gydol Oes, nad yw yn y Siambr, yn anffodus, yn gwybod am fy mhryder a'm rhwystredigaeth ynglyn â'r diffyg cynnydd a chynigion pendant ar nifer o faterion addysgol.

Ar adeg pan fo'r prif arolygydd ysgolion yn rhybuddio bod angen gwelliannau ym maes dysgu Cymraeg fel ail iaith, mae pryder mawr nad yw pob awdurdod lleol yn cydymffurfio â chynnwys eu cynlluniau iaith pan fyddant yn ceisio newid neu adolygu darpariaeth addysgol mewn ardaloedd lle siaredir Cymraeg yn bennaf.

Bydd hyn yn sicr yn arwain at gau ysgolion bach. Bydd y Gweinidog dros Addysg a Dysgu Gydol Oes bob amser yn gwadu'n bendant mai ei Llywodraeth hi sy'n dweud wrth awdurdodau lleol am gau ysgolion.

Wrth edrych ar ardal fel Rhondda Cynon Taf, sydd â phoblogaeth o 250,000 o bobl a dim ond pedwar athro neu athrawes fro, gallwn weld pa mor anodd yw hi i gyrraedd pob un y mae a wnelo hyn ag ef.

Yn Llanfihangel-ar-arth yn Sir Gaerfyrddin, canfu cymdeithas neuadd ysgol a ffurfiwyd yn dilyn cau ysgol fod grantiau ar gael i'w datblygu fel canolfan gymunedol, ond ni allent gael arian i atgyweirio'r toiledau er mwyn cadw'r ysgol honno ar agor.

Mae rheolau cyllidebol Llywodraeth Cynulliad Cymru'n golygu y gellid defnyddio arian ar gyfer canolfan gymunedol ond nid ar gyfer ysgol. Ac eto, fel y dywedodd Denise Idris Jones ar Pawb a'i Farn ddydd Iau diwethaf, yr ysgol yw calon y pentref.

Yn yr un modd, bydd y Gweinidog dros Addysg a Dysgu Gydol Oes yn gwybod am fy ofnau ynglyn ag ariannu ôl-16 a'r ffaith nad yw'r system hon yn ystyried y gost sy'n dod yn sgil darpariaeth drwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg, a darpariaeth ddwyieithog yn fwyaf arbennig, mewn ardaloedd lle mae'r boblogaeth yn wasgaredig.

Mae'n amlwg mai rhai o'n hysgolion gorau, lle mae'r cyraeddiadau uchaf, yw'r rhai hynny sydd â chweched dosbarth, er enghraifft, yn y Canolbarth, sy'n dysgu drwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg.

Gan edrych ar y bwriad i uno cyrff cyhoeddus sy'n cael eu noddi gan y Cynulliad, beth fydd yn digwydd—ac efallai y gall y Gweinidog ddweud wrthym—i'r pwyntiau niferus a nodwyd yn 'Iaith Pawb'?

Mae'r uno'n fater costus, ac nid yw'n eglur a fydd modd cyflawni'r pwyntiau gweithredu sydd yn y ddogfen hon, nac, yn wir, a oes amserlen ar gyfer eu cyflawni. Mae uno Bwrdd yr Iaith Gymraeg yn peri cryn bryder inni. Byddai'n gofyn yn fwyaf penodol am gynlluniau iaith Gymraeg cadarnach, ond a fydd y Llywodraeth hon yn gofyn am hynny neu'n ceisio sicrhau hynny? Ym mhle mae'r dystiolaeth y bydd yn gwneud hynny?

Dyma ni heddiw—mae'n dair blynedd ers cyflwyno 'Iaith Pawb', ond mae'r cynllun gweithredu yn ddiffygiol. Nid oes blaenoriaethau, nid oes digon o dargedau diriaethol, nid oes amserlen, ac nid oes cyllideb fanwl nac arweiniad clir gan ein Gweinidog. Geiriau mwyn a dyheadau heb gyflawniadau yw'r cwbl a gawsom."

The Welsh language has come a long way since the campaigning and protests of the 1970s. Having said that, many believe that the Welsh Language Act 1993 has not achieved its full potential, and that there is room for improvement and strengthening.

The intention of establishing the Welsh Language Board was to give it the responsibility to protect the language and to ensure that it is available to everyone in Wales, not limit the language and bring it under the Government's wing.

It is ironic, in a way, that the Welsh language is in such a fragile position—almost as fragile as it was in the 1970s—and yet we have had the 'Iaith Pawb' document, which is supposed to raise the status of the Welsh language and create a bilingual Wales. We cannot see any evidence of this, and that is the problem. Things are not progressing as they should.

'Iaith Pawb' may have been a radical document at the time that it was produced, but the strategy it sets out is worthless unless it is delivered.

The years that I have just acknowledged as years of progress for the language in terms of status, recognition and provision have also been years when we have witnessed fundamental changes to society in Wales.

There have been changes in agriculture, and issues of rural depopulation and inward migration have changed areas once regarded as Welsh-speaking heartlands forever. It was out of concern for this that 'Iaith Pawb' was born.

However, the Welsh language is more reliant now than at any other time in its history on the support of the state and on English-speaking parents who choose a bilingual education for their children.

Welsh-language education is crucial to the survival of the language. More and more pupils are learning Welsh at school, particularly in specifically designated bilingual schools. That is why an increase in the number of people able to speak Welsh was recorded in 2001.

It is not rocket science, therefore, to realise that we need to increase the number of people who are proficient in Welsh. However, an important part of this is knowing, or finding out, how many want to be educated in Welsh. Until then, how can a bilingual service be provided, and how can we know how many Welsh-language-medium teachers will be needed?

It is clear that Welsh-medium education is the foundation stone of building a bilingual Wales. Local education authorities should be the agents to promote this in accordance with the level of parental demand.

The way forward is clearly through education. I am sorry in a sense that, having said that, it will be poor Alun Pugh, the Minister for Culture, Welsh Language and Sport, who will respond to this debate on behalf of the Labour Party. However, the Minister for Education and Lifelong Learning, who, unfortunately, is not in the Chamber, will know of my concerns and frustrations at the lack of progress and robust proposals on several educational issues.

At a time when the chief inspector of schools warns that improvements in the teaching of Welsh as a second language are needed, there is a great concern that not all local authorities conform to the contents of their language schemes when they seek to change or review educational provision in predominantly Welsh-speaking areas.

This will undoubtedly lead to the closure of small schools. The Minister for Education and Lifelong Learning will always strongly deny that it is her Government that is telling local authorities to close down schools.

Looking at an area such as Rhondda Cynon Taf, which has a population of 250,000 people and only four athrawon bro, we can see how difficult it is to reach all people concerned.

At Llanfihangel-ar-arth in Carmarthenshire, a school hall association formed in the wake of a closure found that grants were available to develop it as a community centre, but could not access money to repair the toilets to keep that school open.

The Welsh Assembly Government's budgetary rules mean that money could be used for a community centre but not for a school. Yet, as Denise Idris Jones said on Pawb a'i Farn last Thursday, the school is the very heart of the village.

Similarly, the Minister for Education and Lifelong Learning will know of my fears regarding post-16 funding and the fact that this system will not take into account the cost created by Welsh-medium provision, and particularly bilingual provision, in sparsely populated areas.

It is obvious that some of our best and most high-achieving schools are those with sixth forms, for example, in mid Wales, which teach through the medium of Welsh.

Looking at the Assembly sponsored public bodies merger, what will happen—and perhaps the Minister can tell us—to the many points set out in 'Iaith Pawb'?

The merger is a cost-cutting exercise, and there is no clarity as to whether the action points listed in this document will be achievable, or, indeed, a timescale as to when they will be achievable. The merger of the Welsh Language Board is of particular concern. It would request a tightening up of Welsh language schemes particularly, but will this Government ask for that or chase that? Where is the evidence that it will do so?

Here we are today—it has been three years since the introduction of 'Iaith Pawb', but the action plan is deficient.

There are no priorities, there are no tangible targets, there is no timetable, and there is no detailed budget or clear leadership from our Minister. Warm words and aspirations without achievements is all that we have had."

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