By Rhiannon Pugsley

Background and context  

The Welsh Government's Welsh Language Strategy, Cymraeg 2050: A million Welsh speakers (2017), states the Government's aim to increase the number of Welsh speakers to one million by 2050. At the core of the strategy's success is the need to increase the number of teachers teaching Welsh (as a subject) as well as increasing the number of teachers teaching through the medium of Welsh. With both Educators Wales and Caru Dysgu. Drwy’r Gymraeg recruitment campaigns in full force and the Government's commitment to continue to fund the Iaith Athrawon Yfory Language Incentive Scheme, it is clear that attracting potential Welsh-medium teachers to the sector is a priority for the Welsh Government as it endeavours to reach the ambitious numbers for recruitment by 2050. 

Nearly fifteen years ago, through its 2010 Welsh-Medium Education Strategy, the Welsh Assembly Government (2016: 1) set out its vision to drive ‘continued growth in Welsh-medium education and training in all sectors and age ranges’, including a strategic goal of growing the Welsh-medium education workforce to meet the demands of this growth. However, it could be argued that the position of the Welsh-medium education workforce is as fragile as ever and that the prospect of reaching the figures presented in Cymraeg 2050: A million Welsh speakers are unrealistic.  

While the latest Welsh Government statistics (StatsWales, 2023) show an increase in the numbers of student teachers following Welsh-medium ITE courses from 175 (2018/19) to 325 (2021/22), the picture of a long-term increase is significantly more complex. Indeed, in his August 2020 briefing note, the Welsh Language Commissioner expressed his concern that a lack of Welsh-medium teachers would undermine two of the main objectives of Cymraeg 2050, namely expanding Welsh-medium education and increasing the number of pupils leaving English / bilingual education as Welsh speakers.  

The same concern was echoed by the Independent Welsh Pay Review Body in 2019 where particular attention was drawn to the ‘significant and increasing gap between targets for recruitment into ITE and student numbers recruited’ (Independent Welsh Pay Review Body, 2019: 55). 

Delving deeper into the latest figures highlights a twofold concern for the sector. Not only are there small numbers of fluent Welsh-speaking trainees who choose to follow an ITE course but a significant number of those who choose to follow the course appear to do so through the medium of English rather than Welsh, with around a third of the cohort annually choosing to follow English-medium ITE courses (StatsWales, 2023).  

The challenge is therefore clear: if we are to meet the targets of Cymraeg 2050: A million Welsh speakers it is vital that we transform these trends and attract to the workforce Welsh-medium education practitioners who are fluent in Welsh and who choose to follow Welsh-medium ITE courses. 

Confidence in speaking and writing  

Here at Swansea University, we undertook research among our Secondary PGCE cohort, using surveys and interviews to identify the reasons student teachers follow their respective pathways. We found that confidence, both in writing and speaking, were the main factors influencing students' choice to follow the Welsh-medium secondary pathway. Whilst all the students indicated that they were confident in conversing through the medium of Welsh, only those following the Welsh-medium pathway indicated that they were confident in teaching through the medium of Welsh. The more formal nature of the teaching process and the implicit linguistic requirements of the process were found to be significant factors in the students' decision regarding the medium of their ITE pathway. 

A similar pattern was reflected when considering writing through the medium of Welsh. Only five students reported confidence in writing through the medium of Welsh and some trainees cited the need to communicate in writing within their schools, such as for lesson plans and emails, had been a driving force in choosing the English-medium pathway. It is interesting to note that all students in the study identified their written skills as the least fluent of all Welsh language skills, which reflects their confidence in the field and their readiness to use Welsh in writing during their professional teaching experiences. 

It was a surprise to discover that the Iaith Athrawon Yfory Incentive Scheme had little influence on students' choice to follow the Welsh-medium route. This scheme aims to encourage Welsh speakers to follow the Welsh-medium ITE pathway by offering a financial incentive, paid in two parts – the first paid at the end of the ITE year and the second upon completion of the NQT year. Only one student indicated that the incentive scheme had been a prompt to follow the Welsh-medium pathway and it is interesting to note that the grant did not offer enough motivation to encourage four students following the English-medium pathway to transfer to the Welsh-medium pathway. Indeed, there is little evidence that the new incentive scheme is more effective than its predecessor in attracting trainees to teach through the medium of Welsh, despite the fact that the sum offered has now risen to £5,000. It is often seen by trainees as a bonus rather than a springboard when choosing the medium of their ITE pathway. 

What next? 

To support students following the Welsh-medium pathway, and in response to the research findings, we at Swansea University have developed a Welsh-medium strategy including providing additional opportunities for students to develop their Welsh writing and oracy skills and developing a glossary of both subject-specific and pedagogical terminology to enable students to feel confident engaging in academic discourse. We are also working closely with school partners, and Educators Wales, to increase recruitment into the sector.  

If we are to truly address the situation and attract more trainees to Welsh-medium ITE courses, it is vital that ITE course providers ensure that they respond to trainees' concerns and provide for them a range of resources and opportunities to enable them to confidently undertake the Welsh-medium pathway – particularly in building their oral and written confidence. Institutions must provide ITE courses that meet students’ needs and effectively prepare them to undertake work within the Welsh-medium classroom. We can't assume that the Welsh-medium pathway is the natural step for fluent Welsh speakers undertaking the ITE courses, nor that teaching is the obvious career for graduates here in Wales. The competition is vast and the flexibility of a number of other jobs post-Covid means that recruitment for teaching courses is challenging. If we are to reach the ambitious figures of Cymraeg 2050: A million Welsh Speakers a deliberate and effective response is essential.  


Independent Welsh Pay Review Body. (2019). First Report – 2019. Llywodraeth Cymru. 

Welsh Government. (2016). Evaluation of the Welsh-medium Education Strategy Final Report. (Social research number: 15/2016). Welsh Government.

Welsh Government. (2017). Cymraeg 2050: A million Welsh speakers. (WG31851). Crown Copyright.

Welsh Government. (2018). Evaluation of Welsh-Medium Provision in Initial Teacher Education. (ISBN Digidol: 978-1-78964-067-0). Crown Copyright.

Welsh Government. (2020). Welsh Government Welsh Language Competency Framework for Education Practitioners. (WG41488). Crown Copyright.

Llywodraeth Cymru. (2022). Statistical Bulletin: Initial Teacher Education Wales, 2020/21. Ystadegau ar gyfer Cymru.  

StatsWales. (2023, May 25). First years on ITE courses in Wales by ability to teach in Welsh, school level and year. StatsWales Llywodraeth Cymru.

Blog written by:

Senior Lecturer Cymraeg (PGCE Secondary) Rhiannon Pugsley