An exciting scheme introducing Welsh language immersion methodology within Cylchoedd Meithrin and securing linguistic transition from the Cylch to Welsh-medium schools in the north east.
Following a conversation in 2015 between Mudiad Meithrin and an early years teacher who is extremely supportive of the Cylchoedd’s work in Denbighshire, it was decided to change the way support was given to Cylchoedd Meithrin (as far as language support was concerned). Rather than the Language Officer offering language support that varied from cylch to cylch (sometimes to build the staff’s confidence and sometimes for good practice), it was decided to create a structured scheme that would be relevant to cylchoedd on every level.
With a high percentage of children in our cylchoedd from non-Welsh speaking backgrounds, and language immersion being an essential part in securing language attainment, it was obvious that a scheme was needed to facilitate the work. The scheme would also offer the opportunity for linguistic transition and ensuring consistency between the cylch and the school’s language, as well as consistency between the Welsh used by the staff with the children.
How was such a scheme created?
Enter Alaw Humphreys. One of the enthusiastic language officers in our team (with Mudiad receiving local grants to employ her and others). Alaw had already created a song book “Chwarae’n Hapus” that was based on play areas within the Cylch and the song words using the daily vocabulary that supported the staff’’s language within that play area. For example:
Torri, torri, torri
Gafael yn y Siswrn,
Dau fys a bawd,
Gafael yn y siswrn,
I fyny ac i lawr.
Cofia gym’ryd gofal mawr!.
It was then decided to reconcile the linguistic patterns and the cylchoedd’s daily routine. These were split into small sections such as Welcoming, Registration, Going to the toilet and washing hands before moving on to introduce specific language patterns for the play areas.
The ‘Croesi’r Bont’ scheme was piloted in Denbighshire between September 2015 and July 2016 in 5 cylch settings who fed 3 Welsh-medium schools in the north of the county that had a high percentage of children from non-Welsh speaking backgrounds.
As part of Alaw Humphreys’ job as Mudiad Meithrin Language Officer in Denbighshire, she visited the 5 cylch settings every fortnight, introducing activities within the scheme and setting targets for the Cylch to complete by her next visit.
Currently there are 3 elements to the scheme:
A pack of language resources which focuses on the Cylch’s daily routine along with language patterns within the play areas. They’ve been introduced in stages 1-3 and stages 4 and 5 will be introduced from January onwards.
2 books and 2 CDs of original songs (“Chwarae’n Hapus 1 a 2”) composed especially for introducing daily routine language patterns and play in areas within our cylchoedd and Nursery classes. A CD of better-known songs is also included.
Children’s language development assessment scheme – a simple joint system (leader and Croesi’r Bont Officer) which occurs 4 times a year. This presents a simple and clear graph showing the Cylch’s language development.
Nursery class teachers within the accompanying schools were also given a copy of the scheme along with the CDs to raise awareness of the language patterns introduced at the cylchoedd and to learn the songs. This was a way of preparing for the effective social and linguistic transition between Cylch and school the following September.
As many of the staff in our Cylchoedd are learners themselves, the scheme was also a way of ensuring that staff at our Cylchoedd were introducing a standard and consistent language pattern to the children in their care.
The scheme received excellent response by the cylch staff, Welsh-medium teachers, and nursery class teachers that were involved with the venture.
Following the success of the pilot scheme in Denbighshire, other counties across the north east (Conwy, Denbighshire and Flintshire) have invested in the scheme and finance Croesi’r Bont officers.
What impact has this had?
Praise for the scheme can be seen in a number of Estyn’s inspection reports.
Schools have been praising the children’s language.
At the end of the academic year in the north east, the cylchoedd and parents within the counties were given the opportunity to buy copies of the CD for a reasonable price. This would promote the use of language patterns over the summer holiday at home. Currently, 400 have been distributed.
We must support the children’s linguistic transition – once the journey has begun – there is no turning back!