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Primary school children benefit thanks to the National Sabbatical Scheme

26 July 2023

Two women and a man standing together and smiling.
Lowri Davies, Jonny Small and Sabbatical Scheme tutor, Ann Samuel

Children from two primary schools in Wales have developed a special relationship with each other thanks to the National Sabbatical Scheme.

Jonny Small, who is a member of staff at Ysgol Gynradd Goetre Fawr in Monmouthshire, has brought the Welsh and English medium education system together by spending time at Ysgol Gynradd Goetre Fawr and Ysgol Gymraeg Y Fenni as part of an innovative partnership scheme of the South East Wales Education Achievement Service (EAS).

This comes after Mr Small, who is originally from Surrey, completed the Sabbatical Scheme’s Welsh in a Year course at Cardiff University. The purpose of the Sabbatical Scheme is to develop the language skills of education practitioners with the intention of increasing their confidence in using the Welsh language and training them to be language teachers.

After he had completed the course, fortunately he was accepted on the EAS partnership scheme and began to share his time in both schools, establishing a new choir which included children from both schools. The name of the choir is Côr Tre'r Fenni and the choir sang bilingually for the first time in a concert at the Borough Theatre, Abergavenny, on 5 June.

Elen Roberts, Principal Curriculum Partner of the South East Wales Education Achievement Service, said: "The Sabbatical Scheme is key to develop the language skills of practitioners in English-medium schools, but it is more than this. The Welsh in a Year course ignites love for language and culture and opens doors to collaboration possibilities across the Welsh medium and English medium sector and across the language continuum."

Thanks to the Sabbatical Scheme and his immersion in Welsh over two terms at Ysgol Y Fenni, Mr Small is now fluent in the language. He said: “The sabbatical scheme has changed my life hugely. I didn't expect to speak Welsh confidently enough to work in a Welsh-medium school, but the sabbatical has provided all the skills to broaden my language.

"Because of the sabbatical, I can divide my time between English and Welsh schools, and I can use my musical skills with more children.

"Also, the children at my English school are able to experience things like the Urdd competitions, because the opportunity at the Welsh school has taught me about the culture. We decided to twin our schools this year, and in the future, we plan more experiences together."

Lowri Davies is the Project Manager of the Sabbatical Scheme for Welsh Language Training at Cardiff University. She said: " We are very proud to see Jonny having the opportunity to use the skills he has developed on the Sabbatical Scheme and have such a positive impact on his school and his community. Jonny has worked very hard to develop his skills to a very high level and this special scheme has given him the opportunity to continue to develop and share his pedagogical training across both schools."

If you would like to know more about the Sabbatical Scheme, visit the website.

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