Sunday, 11 December 2016

Was Cornish language funding cut because it was too successful?

In April 2014 the Cornish were granted national minority status. This was supposed to include the same protection that the government allows the Welsh, Irish and Scottish. This was also supposed to include government departments and public bodies taking Cornwall's views into account when making decisions. Finally, this was also supposed to include combating discrimination and preserving the culture and identity of Cornwall. Hmmmm. Read more here.

Lo and behold! April 2016 and the decision was made to cut Cornish language funding. I'm not making it up.

So setting aside the argument that this decision may in fact be illegal (good one, government!) let's look at what happened in the 2 years between 2014 and 2016 to warrant this decision being made. 

Before the funding was cut, Cornwall was receiving a mere £150k a year for the Cornish language. Let's compare that figure to some others. The UK government has a total of £30 million available for museums until 2018. The UK government is also creating a new £30 million cultural protection fund to support the protection of cultural heritage in global conflict zones overseas. That's great - but then why stamp down on Cornwall's cultural heritage?

Does £150k a year still seem like such a huge "waste of tax payers' money" to you? Let's break that down to the number of people in Cornwall, around 536,000. That's 28p per person... per year!

But despite the lack of it, what was Cornwall able to achieve with this money? Here's some examples of what was achieved by MAGA (Cornish language partnership of Cornwall Council along with a team of volunteers) in a 5 year period before the funding was cut, solely relating to education.

1. Instigated and run a successful intensive course. First held in 2009, this residential course near Falmouth has been over-subscribed and lead to additional courses being held at Truro High School and St Austell. 

2. Developed and run Say Something in Cornish. This fantastic online facility is totally free! Complete beginners to the Cornish language can learn the basics at their own pace with these fun and easy-going lessons.

3. Developed and run Learn Cornish Now. This site acts as a platform for people wanting to begin learning Cornish, offering help and advice as well as information about available classes and courses. 

4. Developed and maintained an open virtual learning environment for online learners. A free resource, hosted by Cornwall College, containing a variety of MAGA courses. 

5. Given out resources to schools. Pocket guides, children's stories and St Piran's Day themed packs to give teachers ideas for activities and stimulate enquiries and interest in Cornish language. 

6. Developed Early Years Practitioners training.

7. Directly taught in over 30% of primary and 50% of secondary schools in Cornwall, supported teachers developing their own abilities to teach Cornish and provided material and guidance for language activists to visit schools independently.

8. Regularly contacted every school within the Cornwall Local Education Authorities over a two year period.

9. Petitioned Teacher Training organisations.

10. Worked with a number of Higher Education Institutions and language organisations to raise the profile of Cornish and the work of the language movement.

11. Worked in partnership with a variety of quangos and organisations to teach Cornish and develop Cornish based resources.

12. Developed and run bespoke corporate courses for Tesco stores and Cornwall Council.

13. Developed and produced a variety of resources in the Standard Written Form of Cornish.

14. Created a website and structural frame work for a Cornish Language teaching association.

15. Developed a partnership agreement with the WJEC to provide an alternative for the now withdrawn Asset Languages assessments. Providing a nationally recognised qualification framework for Cornish Language exams.

16. Annually run sessions on Cornish language teachers training days.

17. Provided technical assistance to community groups recording and editing audio files.

18. Supported MAGA run stalls at major events such as Royal Cornwall Show, Head teachers’ conferences and Flora Day.

.... and then in April 2016 the funding was cut.

There are plenty of people passionate enough about learning Cornish and with a little bit of funding for resources, the language seemed to be beginning to thrive again. So why now, when more and more people are interested in learning Cornish has the funding been cut? 

It's as if our government doesn't want Cornwall's unique identity and culture to survive, let alone thrive. But thanks for the "National Minority Status" all the same...


  1. I am wondering if the reason the government stopped funding is the demands of the Cornish language community were underambitious, merely asking that they continued to fund at a similar level as they had for 6 years. These demands were modest enough to be ignored, and the government thought that this could be treated as a purely local issue (even though the recognition as a national minority is at a UK level) that the council could find the money for.

    We should be more radical, asking them to match pound for pound the spending on Trident replacement in funding for the Cornish language.