Vast increase in resources and teachers needed for Cornish language to succeed in schools


Nick Phillips waves his huge Cornish flag in a strong wind in St Buryan (Image: Greg Martin / Cornwall Live)

Offering Cornish lessons in secondary schools will only be possible if there is a “big increase” in resources and teacher training, new research from the University of Exeter has shown.

New research, presented at the Association of Celtic Students Using the Cornish Language conference, led by Kensa Broadhurst of the University of Exeter, has shown that the language will only be successful in the public education system if it achieves status. and a place within the school day, as well as well funded and remunerated traveling teachers, or resources and retraining for existing teachers within schools.

The study also shows that Cornish is attractive to both high school students and teachers. It must have a purpose beyond the classroom, opportunities for passing exams, or become a requirement for further use beyond secondary education.

Ms Broadhurst said: “For Cornish to be successful at primary level, you need both the support of school leaders and a teacher who can speak Cornish or lead the sessions.

“Cornish does not have a strong enough place within Cornwall’s primary system, either as part of the program or as part of a club, due to insufficient manpower, but if school staff are becoming more willing and confident to teach the language, and less dependent on external providers, this is expected to continue to grow.

“One of the biggest problems facing those looking to revive a language is the lack of appropriate teaching materials and qualified teachers. Learning a language only through grammar books and dictionaries only gives an artificial flavor of the range of use in a particular language, so we must seek to provide as diverse a range of education and teaching materials as possible. , in order to preserve the language as a living being, suitable for use in our daily life and to better reflect the purposes for which it was originally used.

The study found that a marker of success for Cornish in primary schools will be the acceptance of the language as part of the national curriculum, which says, “Teaching can be any modern or ancient foreign language. “.

Most Cornish lessons are delivered through adult education. There are also Cornish preschools and bilingual family events.

Before the 1980s, Cornish would have been taught in a handful of schools. The introduction of the national curriculum limited any Cornish language offering to lunchtime and after school clubs, and it depended on either the supply of volunteers or a passionate teacher able to speak Cornish or to use available resources.

In 2018, the Welsh Examination Board, WJEC, introduced the Entrance and Level One exams in Cornish. These exams were taken in 2019 by a pilot group of students attending Cornish adult education courses, 26 at entry level and four at level one.

The exams have been suspended in 2020, but it is hoped that other students will take them and that the level two Cornish qualification will be developed.

The University of Exeter has introduced an undergraduate course in Cornish for Beginners and introduced an evening course in Cornish online for all staff and students.

Ms Broadhurst added: “If the number of candidates for WJEC exams continues to increase, a new GCSE might be possible, which in turn could lead to a Tier A provision.

“This could be an attractive proposition for adult learners as well as for schools, but the availability of teachers capable of teaching at these levels and of quality educational resources remains a problem. “

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