Sioned and Ian sent their son, Macsen, to the London Welsh School. In this interview they explain the reasons behind their decision and some observations about his time there.
1. Sioned and Ian, can you tell us a little about your life in London, how did you end up here and why are you still here ?
I came here to work at the BBC in the eighties and have since worked as a freelance TV and Film Producer. I’m now back at the BBC, commissioning comedy for Radio 4.
I returned to London on graduation to find work. I have been a freelance writer for TV and Radio since the early eighties.
2. Ian, being a non Welsh speaker and from Bath and London how did you initially feel about Macsen attending a Welsh school in London?
I was happy from the outset. I knew that bilingualism gives children many advantages and I was keen that our son should learn about both his native cultures.
3. What do you you think the benefits were of sending Macsen to the Welsh school rather than another school in your area?
We would have loved Macsen to walk to school with the local children and are delighted that at his senior school he is able to do this and is very much part of our local community. However, he gained so much from being at the Welsh School, that we think it was a small price to pay especially at primary level.
Macsen had an incredibly rounded education at the Welsh School – the Welsh curriculum uses learning through play which appealed hugely to us and seemed to work very well, encouraging a joy in learning in a stress free environment. There was also an emphasis on the arts and he greatly enjoyed all the performing opportunities at the school from the House of Commons St David’s Day service every year, to the Christmas Panto and the Urdd competitions. Macsen also loved the science lessons – particularly with Miss Evans who put a special emphasis on practical experiments. There were many opportunities for school trips too which he really enjoyed.
As the class sizes were so small, Macsen’s early problems with his fine motor skills were dealt with by a custom made course from Finland sourced by Mrs George. His love of learning was definitely encouraged by the school – all his current teachers have commented on the fact that he is keen to learn and expects to do so. We would add that all the children at the school were encouraged to voice their opinions and were confident about doing so – we would attribute this to the small classes but also to the unique atmosphere of the school where all the children feel comfortable with expressing themselves and have the expectation of being listened to. Lastly, as an only child, Macsen was greatly helped by the family ethos of the school. He remains close to several of his co-pupils and has made friendships there which will remain with him for many years to come
4. Sioned, can you explain your reasons for sending Macsen to the school?
I wanted him to speak Welsh fluently and be capable of reading and writing in the language. But I also wanted him to have fun in the language, to play in Welsh, to experience the Urdd and Llangrannog and to see the language as more than something dry and archaic. I also loved the idea of the school’s family atmosphere and the small class sizes. I had met many parents at the school and they all seemed delighted with the education there.
5. What would you say to people who are thinking of sending their child to the London Welsh school?
I would recommend it unhesitatingly for all the reasons above. And now the children have the added bonus of beautiful premises!
If we had our time again, we’d make exactly the same choice. The benefits to Macsen have been incalculable.
6. How did Macsen cope with moving from a small school to a large secondary school?
Really well, all his teachers remarked on how self possessed and mature he was when he arrived, which again we would attribute to the self confidence and appetite for learning he got at the Welsh School. The children all seem to get a bit bored in Year 6 and Macsen was very keen to go on to the big school as it were. The first month or so was quite tough for him as he only knew a couple of kids there but senior schools nowadays have lots of strategies to deal with this and he soon made a lot of friends. The school told us incidentally that children who come without a peer group often settle better than those who spend their first term at senior school splitting up with their primary friends.
7. Did Macsen benefit from being bilingual and how does his teachers think he is coping with a larger school?
Yes – he definitely found French and Spanish much easier as like Welsh they have a lot of Latin in them. He’s also recently taken what the school calls his heritage language (in his case Welsh of course) and got and A*. He was delighted to be at a larger school and I think had the confidence and maturity to deal with it by the time he was eleven.
8. Does Macsen still mix within a Welsh speak environment?
Yes he has remained close friends with several classmates from the school with whom he speaks Welsh. I speak to him in Welsh every day and he both reads and watches TV in Welsh.
9. Macsen, how do you feel about your primary school and the friends you made there?
I enjoyed my time in primary school, where I made many good friends whom I still see to this day, three years after I left for secondary school.