This week has seen a comment regarding the language hierarchy of the area create controversy, so rather than join in, we asked for the data.
In response to a question from Cllr Dana Davies at this week’s Executive Board meeting, Councillor Hugh Jones, Lead Member for Place,Communities and Partnerships made the remarks that have since been repeated locally and nationally.
The comments have made the regional news with Daily Post pondered if the reason why Welsh is apparently lagging in 4th place locally was due to a Portuguese slum in Acrefair (!)
The Independent also picked up the story, stating ‘the statistic emerged’ during a Council debate.
The comment made by Cllr Jones was covering recruitment processes and associated language provision in Wrexham Council. The statement made was: “Interesting in Wrexham the erm language demand, or the language take up, is firstly English secondly Polish thirdly Portuguese and fourthly Welsh.”
The interchange can be viewed on the webcast archive from 1h 6mins onwards.
No one in the meeting challenged that statement, nor did any Councillor asked for detail on how that was calculated.
Wrexham.com queried after the meeting if the comment was in relation to the number of people in Wrexham who speak the languages or the popularity of language courses / classes in the area. Wrexham Council told us it was with regards to a ‘survey’.
Further to that response we queried what the survey conducted was regarding, where it was conducted and how many responses it had. Wrexham.com also asked to have the actual data breakdown of the results.
To add context to the survey, we asked how many such surveys were commissioned by Wrexham Council, and if there were multiple surveys why this particular one was used as an example of language usage.
Wrexham Council replied supplying data tables, and comment saying: “Statistical analysis of our translation/interpretation requests show that after English and Welsh, Polish and Portuguese are the most widely used languages amongst the adult population in Wrexham and we welcome this.
“This is also borne out by the increasing number of school students for whom these are their first languages. At the same time we are committed to supporting and promoting the increased use of the Welsh Language.”
The Council add that they ‘recognise the importance of providing information and services to its customers within their own language’. Wrexham Council say they currently have contracts for face to face, telephone interpretation and document translation with two main companies, The Big Word and Prestige Network as well as contracting the services of a Polish interpreter.
Two sets of data has been provided, one detailing languages spoken in Wrexham schools, and the other showing languages spoken in Wrexham.
The below data, provided by Wrexham Council, shows information taken from the January PLASC (Pupil Level Annual School Census) and includes all pupils in Primary, Secondary and Special Schools (Including Sixth Form).
The second set of data also referenced the above schools information, however we have separated it out to just the two main companies used and a Polish interpreter.
The data provided does not indicate the English / Welsh split, nor does it clearly support the ‘Welsh in 4th’ comment made at the Executive Board meeting. It does however backup the subsequent statement above, “after English and Welsh, Polish and Portuguese are the most widely used languages…” which knocks Welsh up from 4th to 2nd.
Although treating a number representing a pupil’s language and a number representing possible translation or interpretation services as the same thing is rather spurious, we have conducted the addition to discover what ballpark the Welsh figures could need to be for 4th slot.
Taking the overall 17,909 English/Welsh figure against a Polish total of 829 (658+171) and Portuguese at 196 (166+30) it would mean only 1% of the nearly 18,000 pupils are Welsh speakers. With several Welsh Primary Schools, as well as Ysgol Morgan Llwyd’s pupils the number is well in excess of that regardless of the rest of the welsh speaking population.
Cllr Jones said: “The data I referenced at Executive Board earlier this week reflects the growing popularity of these languages now spoken in our multi-cultural society.”
“Wrexham Council remains committed to supporting the Welsh Language. We are currently consulting with our Welsh speaking residents to identify how we can improve the services we provide to them and the barriers they face when communicating with the Council in Welsh.
“The results of this consultation will help us as we move forward with the implementation of the Standards starting in March 2016.”