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School reorganisation case sees Court of Appeal hear oral submissions in Welsh for first time

The Court of Appeal is thought to have heard oral submissions in Welsh for the first time during an appeal this month over a county council’s plans for school reorganisation.

The submissions were made by Owain Rhys James of Civitas Law on behalf of the Welsh Language Commissioner.

Before the Court of Appeal (The Chancellor of the High Court, Sir Geoffrey Voss; LJJ Lewis and Nicola Davies) on 8 and 9 December his written submissions were bilingual whilst simultaneous translation meant that he appeared solely through the medium of Welsh at the hearing. The Welsh Government’s written submissions were also provided bilingually.

In Driver, R (On the Application Of) v Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council [2020] EWHC 2071 (Admin) Mr Justice Fraser in July 2020 quashed a decision by Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council to implement proposals for a wide-ranging re-organisation of primary, secondary and sixth-form education in the Pontypridd area.

The judge said the decision to re-organise sixth form education was taken in breach of section 50 of the School Standards and Organisation (Wales) Act 2013 (ground 1); and that the council had failed to take into account a specific factor for proposals to reorganise secondary schools or remove sixth forms, namely how the proposals might affect the sustainability or enhancement of Welsh medium provision in the regional 14 – 19 network and wider area and promote access to availability of Welsh medium courses in post 16 education (Ground 2(g)).

The Court of Appeal heard the appeal on 8 and 9 December 2020 sitting in the Cardiff Civil and Family Justice Centre.

Before the Court of Appeal, the Commissioner’s intervention dealt with the proper approach to interpreting bilingual devolution and invited the Court to provide guidance.

See also: Bilingual devolved legislation, the Welsh language and public law and Cyfraith ddwy-ieithog a’r iaith Gymraeg yn y Llys Gweinyddol by Owain Rhys James and Isabelle Knight.

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