Dad refuses to let children learn to swim until they can have lessons in Welsh

A father has refused to let his daughters take swimming lessons until his request that classes be provided in Welsh is granted.

Aled Powell told his daughters Awen and Elan that they cannot take swimming lessons unless they are taught in Welsh.

Both girls, the eldest of whom is now seven, have been been asking him every week when they can start learning to swim.

Mr Powell, who has been requesting Welsh swimming lessons since 2019, says his children are growing up and he is aware they are missing out.

He told Wales Online : “I’ve been discussing with Wrexham Council for over three years, I’ve made complaints to the Council and the Welsh Language Commissioner, and nothing fundamental has changed.

“What am I supposed to do?”

“The Council has a duty to give provision in Welsh, but they clearly don’t care about their Welsh speakers.

“The choice I’ve been given, basically, is swimming lessons in English or no swimming lessons at all.”

The girls have even taken matters into their own hands, writing a letter to the council in Welsh, pleading for progress so their dad will finally allow them to take lessons.

Dated November 8, the letter was written in Welsh and translates as: “When do we get to go and learn to swim in Welsh? From Awen and Elan.”

Several investigations into the matter have been conducted by the Welsh Language Commissioner, but Mr Powell says when swimming lessons will be available in Welsh for children in the area is still not clear.

Mr Powell said: “The Welsh Language Commissioner is currently on their third investigation into the matter, but in the meantime my children are growing up.

“I don’t want lessons for my children years from now when they’re in secondary school.

“Awen was four when I started requesting lessons and she’s now seven.

“She and her little sister are asking every week when they can learn to swim.”

Speaking on behalf of the Wrexham branch of Cymdeithas yr Iaith, Nia Marshall Lloyd said: “It’s incredible that a local authority is behaving in such an indifferent way when the area’s parents are asking for something as basic as swimming lessons in Welsh for their children.

“This should be a straightforward matter – clearly the main obstacle is Wrexham Council’s attitude towards the Welsh language.

“We are calling on Council leader Mark Pritchard to accept responsibility for this and intervene at once to ensure that swimming lessons in Welsh are available to children in Wrexham in the new year.”

In response, Wrexham County Borough Council said that they were aware of the issue and are working with the Welsh Language Commissioner and Freedom Leisure to resolve it.

The council also pointed out that they have continuously been advertising online for Welsh-speaking swimming teachers.

Alongside the advertisement, Richard Milne, Freedom Leisure Area Manager for Wrexham, said: “We’re working in partnership with Wrexham County Borough Council in our commitment to deliver Welsh speaking swimming lessons across the borough.

“We have a fantastic opportunity for the right person who is a Welsh speaker to join our friendly team and help deliver this important life skill to children and adults.”

Stephen Jones, Welsh Language Officer, added: “As a Welsh local authority, we’re committed to providing more services in Welsh to our residents.

“Our partners at Freedom Leisure fully understand this and we’re working together to attract more Welsh speakers to team, but also encouraging non-Welsh speaking staff to learn Welsh for use in the workplace.”