IN THREE years’ time pupils from Torfaen, Newport, Blaenau Gwent and Monmouthshire who want to go to a Welsh-medium high school in their catchment area could find they have nowhere to go.

Gwent’s only Welsh-medium high school that accepts students from more than one county will be full.

Not only will it be full, but projections show that Ysgol Gyfun Gwynllyw in Pontypool will be oversubscribed by 135 places by 2017.

Caerphilly’s Welsh-medium high school, Ysgol Gyfun Cwm Rhymni, only caters for pupils within its county and is already full, leading to the creation of a £20 million Welsh-medium secondary school at the former St Ilan School site.

If they had done nothing, projections show the school would have been 900 pupils over capacity in eight years.

So what exactly are councils and Welsh Government planning for three years’ time, and why is Welsh-medium education so popular in Gwent?

One explanation could be that parents want their children to have an opportunity they missed out on, said Plaid Cymru AM Jocelyn Davies, whose party champions the Welsh language.

“My children benefited from a bilingual education and have an awareness of our ancient culture and language, as well as having had an excellent standard of education across the board,” she said.

“There have been a number of studies recently that have demonstrated the wider benefits of multilingual education in other subjects. This all bodes well for future generations, provided the demand for bilingual education is met.”

Fellow Plaid CymruAM Lindsay Whittle, whose daughter was educated at Welshmedium schools, described demand across South East Wales as tremendous and said people in Wales have become more proud of their identity.

“There was no such thing as a Welsh-medium school when I was growing up,” he said.

“The benefits of being brought up bilingually are well established.”

With demand on the rise across the region, but plans to create another Welsh-medium secondary school in the next three years only at the discussion stage, are parents determined to stay in the county, or will they move elsewhere to ensure provision for their children?

Jennifer Pollock, who lives in Newport with her husband and three children, is concerned there will be no provision for her daughters, aged four and two, by the time they are old enough to attend a Welsh-medium secondary school.

“My worry is that time is running out and there won’t be anything there,” she said. “I don’t see how they can magic up a secondary school by 2016.”

Mrs Pollock’s 11-year-old son is in year 6 at Ysgol Gymraeg Casnewydd and will soon go to Ysgol Gyfun Gwynllyw and she hopes to send her daughters into Welsh-medium education as well. “Nothing is in place for my daughters in 2016,” said Mrs Pollock, 35.

“We went to an open day at Ysgol Gyfun Gwynllyw and the headmaster stated they have had an investment of money and the school was doing really well, but from 2016 they would no longer be able to provide places.

“From then on I was thinking ‘crikey’, because for my daughters it will be quite different than it has been for my son,” she said.

“Does anybody know what there is going to be for my children?

I want them to know where they are going and to feel confident.”

Mrs Pollock hopes politicians will agree to provide a Welsh-medium secondary school in Newport because of its thriving Welsh-medium primaries.

“If they are building Welsh-medium primaries they need to follow it through and provide education right the way through,” she said.

Friend of Mrs Pollock, Nicola Smith, sends two of her three children to Welsh-medium schools and said she is optimistic that a new school will be built in Newport.

“It takes 45 minutes to travel to Pontypool so socially it would give more opportunities for children to use Welsh more within Newport,” said Mrs Smith, 41.

“My 16-year-old daughter goes to Ysgol Gyfun Gwynllyw and my five-year-old son goes to Ysgol Gymraeg Bro Teyrnon.

“We’re not Welsh-speakers but we chose Welsh education because we love the Welsh language.

“What is going to happen to my children’s education?” she said. “They have got to start preparing for it now, it is no good coming to 2015/16 and there’s all this panic.

“It needs to be planned for, parents need to know, we don’t want to worry and stress and think, ‘have our children got to move?’ I don’t think a child should have to come out of Welsh-medium education and move to an English school, that’s not right.”

Newport, Torfaen, Blaenau Gwent and Monmouthshire councils are in discussion with Welsh Government about the possibility of providing another Welsh-medium secondary school in the county, under the banner of the South East Wales Consortium.

A spokeswoman said: “The priority is to ensure that all children seeking Welshmedium secondary provision are able to continue to do so and that it is of a high standard.

“At present this work is in the form of a full-option appraisal of all potential solutions, being developed with advisers in the specialist field of Welsh-medium education.

Any forthcoming plans to expand Welsh-medium secondary provision will be subject to full public consultation, and parents will be a key stakeholder in this process.”

A Welsh Government spokesman said they expect all local authorities to identify how they will provide sufficient and appropriate places, and the School Standards and Organisation (Wales) Act 2013 will place a duty upon local authorities to prepare, consult on and publish a Welsh education plan for approval by Welsh ministers.

As part of the bill, under certain circumstances, local authorities will have to “measure parental demand” for Welsh-medium education in their areas.

Mrs Pollock said there is demand, and parents are willing to stand up for their belief in Welsh-medium education.

“Parents are being put off that there is no secondary provision, but they want to fight for it,” she said.

“There is a strong voice within the community asking for this to happen.”

More and more pupils are learning Welsh

STATISTICS from the 2011 census show that in Monmouthshire the number of Welsh speakers is on the rise, while nationally 9.9 per cent of the population can now speak the language, up from 2.3 per cent in 1991.

Its Welsh-medium primary schools, Ysgol Gymraeg y Fenni in Abergavenny and Ysgol y Ffin in Caldicot, have seen pupil numbers across the two sites double from 146 in 2003, to 311 in 2012/13.

Torfaen’s three Welsh-medium primary schools have 670 pupils on roll, up from 496 in 2003, with numbers expected to rise to 733 by September this year, 844 in 2016 and 884 in 2017. In Newport, 527 primary pupils are enrolled in Welsh-medium education, forecast to rise by at least 46 pupils per year for the next three years. The number of Welsh speakers in the city has also increased from 2.4 per cent in 1991, to 9.6 per cent in the 2001 census, and Newport pupils account for nearly 30 per cent of the population at Ysgol Gyfun Gwynllyw.

Only Blaenau Gwent has seen a drop in numbers taking up Welsh-medium education, from 299 pupils in 2002, to 273 in 2012, although a council spokeswoman said the council will continue to monitor the demand for places to ensure sufficient provision.

In the consultation document for creating a new Welsh-medium school in Caerphilly, the council says demand for Welsh-medium education has increased annually in the county and numbers are 50 per cent higher than in 1996.