Meat Loaf was surely one of the great philosophers of the late twentieth century. He summed one of life’s perennial issues when he taught us that “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad”.  Most of the big challenges in life involve balancing three competing interests; finding the sweet spot can be difficult.  When toothache strikes, you want dental care to be good, cheap and quick, but as we all know, that can be hard to come by.  Any two easy; all three difficult. 


Here in Ceredigion there are some unresolved issues with education.  As always three competing interests are in play.  First is the preservation and enhancement of the Welsh Language and all of the history and culture that goes with it.  Second is giving our young people a great education allowing them, their families and communities, and of course Wales to reach their full potential.  And finally in a world where money is always tight, we have to balance the books financially. 


Right now we don’t seem to be hitting the sweet spot.  Rural primary schools are threatened with closure.  Recent letters confirm that the decision to make primary education Welsh speaking only is causing considerable anxiety.  And our Council Tax bills are rocketing. 


The Welsh language matters, because identity matters.  It glues society together.  As one of Europe’s oldest languages, and Britain’s original language, it carries with it a wonderful culture of literature, poetry, music and history.  Despite invasions and institutionalised oppression (the Welsh Not), it has survived.  Quite literally “Yma o Hyd”.  Maybe that’s due to a stubborn streak in the Welsh, or the isolation of our rural communities.  Sometimes when you tell people they can’t have something they want it even more.  The Welsh Not backfired! 


But the recent census sadly confirms that in Ceredigion, one of the bastions of Welsh language and culture, the number of Welsh speakers is falling.  So we need to worry. 


It’s widely accepted that children who grow up bilingual are brighter.  That must be something to do with developing neurological pathways in their growing brains.  And it seems that for children, learning two (or more) languages can be almost effortless if they are exposed to them.  Compare that with someone of my age grappling with learning Welsh!  


By a few strokes of fate, English is the International Language.  It could so easily have been Spanish, or more likely French.  One day it may be Mandarin Chinese!  But, the plain truth is that for now English is the common language of commerce, finance, science, medicine, navigation etc.  It’s why English students can be and often are monoglot, and that is their loss. 


A child brought up in Welsh as a bilingual English speaker starts life with better brain development and fluency in the International Language.  That’s a huge advantage that an ambitious outward looking Wales should embrace.  Accepting that as the natural state in Wales, would allow our children to learn another language too.  Some will become polylingual; how important would that be for a Wales that wants to carve out new markets around the world, or even one day be independent.  Spanish, German or maybe Mandarin would be so useful to Welsh ambassadors. 


Recognising the natural opportunity we have and grasping it, doesn’t have to cost anything.  A win-win situation can be achieved with common sense and ambition.   How do we apply that here in Ceredigion? 


Firstly, think carefully before introducing the English Not.  It may well backfire just as the Welsh Not did.  Education needs to be inclusive.  Children (and adults) need to want to speak Welsh, not to have to, and especially not to be told that they mustn’t speak English.  We shouldn’t deprive our children of the opportunity bilingualism brings or make anyone resent Welsh. 


Secondly we need to bin this consultation on closing rural schools.  These truly are a bastion of the Welsh language and culture, and of course give our youngsters a fantastic start in life.  They are the modern centres of the rural community, and we let them go at Wales’ peril. 


So this is a message to Ceredigion’s Plaid Cymru council.  Getting this right matters.  These schools (like Llangwyryfon) are financially viable.  There is no justification for closing them and if you really want to preserve our language and culture grasp the opportunity in front of you.  Do some deep thinking, like Meat Loaf did.  You can prove him wrong on this one! 


A friend who is involved in the campaign to keep Ysgol Llangwyryfon open came to Wales as an English speaking youngster.  As he says, it was Welsh in the playground as well as the classroom.  He learnt Welsh because he wanted to, and not because he was told he must.  Now his own children go to the same school as he did.  First language Welsh of course, and naturally bilingual. 


It’s God’s country and it keeps on giving.  Let’s hope that our politicians don’t get in the way!