The Minister for Education and the Welsh Language Jeremy Miles has published new guidance for categorising schools according to Welsh-medium provision.
The new categories have been informed in part by the success of a similar model used in Euskadi.
Announcing the changes, Miles said: "I want all school aged learners to have the opportunity of becoming bilingual citizens - learning Welsh in school provides the best way of achieving that. This is why I want more schools, as part of our Cymraeg 2050 commitments and delivering the Curriculum for Wales, to move along the language continuum by increasing the amount of Welsh offered.
How quickly learners acquire the language will depend on how much contact time they have with Welsh at school, which is why this guidance is being published to help those that lead on school planning and curriculum delivery understand what school category they are in, based on the amount of Welsh medium provision they deliver. The more contact hours, inside as well as outside of the classroom our learners get in Welsh, the more chance they will be able to speak it by the time they leave school. Cymraeg 2050 states that Welsh immersion schools, where the majority of the learning is through the medium of Welsh, is the principal method of creating Welsh speakers. This policy recognises and safeguards the immersion education model that exists here in Wales. It also addresses the different ways of delivering immersion, depending on the geographical, demographical and linguistic nature of the area in which the school exists."
The key areas of change include reducing the number of categories that define the Welsh language provision in a school to 3 in the primary sector and 3 in the secondary sector, with each following the same pattern - English-medium (Category 1); Dual language (Category 2) and Welsh-medium (Category 3 and 3P).
The percentage of Welsh language provision will also now be calculated based on the school time allocated to learning and using Welsh which includes curricular as well as extra-curricular time, with the highest being 3P, where 100% of pupils undertake 90% or more of their school activities, both curricular and extra-curricular in Welsh.
One of the "core principles" in introducing the new arrangements is that "no school should offer less Welsh-medium provision in the future, in both its curriculum and separately its non-curricular activities, than has been done in the past".
Miles said: "I want to see all schools and local authorities moving along the Welsh language continuum giving learners a better chance of leaving school being able to speak Welsh. Teachers and other partners are currently working to develop a framework for Welsh which, with supporting materials and professional learning, will support learning and teaching Welsh in English medium schools as part of the Curriculum for Wales.
This is important for parents and carers so they can make informed decisions about the type of school setting they would wish their child to attend. This is a national policy that provides local solutions. Welsh belongs to us all and I want to make sure that our learners are not only able to speak the language, but are happy to use it in all walks of life. I’m confident that this guidance will help us lay strong foundations and pave the way to achieving this."