A theatre company that plans to open a performing arts school in Wales has been criticised for demanding students only speak English onsite.
Hyperbole Theatre Company is set to open the new training facility, which plans to hold classes for adults and children, at a former primary school in Llandysul, Ceredigion, in autumn this year.
However, the company has come under fire for allegedly asking that students speak English onsite, both in and out of the classroom.
According to Wales Online, Hyperbole originally stated on its website: “All training is undertaken in English. National and international students must be fluent in the language and participate fully while on site, both in and out of class.”
The company then allegedly changed this to state: “All sessions and training is undertaken in English due to the nature of the material covered. National and international students must be fluent in the language to participate fully and understand instruction while on site, both in and out of formal classes.”
It added that “in line with government legislation, personal conversations between students are unaffected”, before the webpage was reportedly removed.
Cymdeithas yr Iaith (Welsh Language Society), which campaigns for the rights of Welsh people to use the language in their everyday lives, called on the school to employ local tutors so that “at least part of the training was in Welsh”.
Representative Ffred Ffransis said: “The wording in the original communication that children should not use Welsh anywhere on the site, in or out of class, was reminiscent of the 19th century ‘Welsh-Not’ – a system through which children were given a beating at the end of the school day if they had been heard speaking Welsh.
“Parents of prospective young students at the proposed school of performing arts were very upset at this response. Cymdeithas yr Iaith supported parents and asked that the local authority should explain to the organisers that Welsh was the medium of education in every school in the area.”
A statement from Hyperbole Theatre Company said: “HTC teaches British and American musical theatre and works on plays by contemporary British playwrights in English, as part of their children’s youth theatre and young actors programme in the South West and Wales.
“As such young people work in English in class while preparing the work for full rehearsals and performances, as the material is written in English.
“Private conversations at any time are unaffected by this, and in line with legislation children and young people speak in any language they choose. As they do in similar organisations in the local area where the main site is based.”
Despite earlier reports in Wales Online that the school would no longer be opening in Llandysul, Hyperbole Theatre Company confirmed that “due to extensive local support for the site” the company still plans to open the facility in autumn 2019.
The statement added: “The site is privately owned and the owner of the company is Welsh.”