On Friday November 23rd, Ysgol Gyfun Rhydfelen near Pontypridd celebrated its 50th anniversary with a concert in the Reardon Smith Theatre in Cardiff.
In 1962 the school opened its gates for the first time and the 80 pupils who attended that day became the first to be taught in a Welsh-medium comprehensive in south Wales. Coming six years after its predecessor Ysgol Glan Clwyd opened in 1956 in Rhyl, Rhydfelen was seen as a milestone in Welsh language education.
By 1973 the school had grown to nearly a 1000 pupils, but they didn’t all come from the village of Rhydyfelin and Pontypridd. Before Ysgol Gyfun Ystalyfera in Swansea (1969), Llanhari in Pontyclun (1974) and Glantaf in Cardiff opened their doors Rhydfelen attracted pupils from all over south Wales. Some had to travel over an hour just so they could be taught in Welsh. This is evidence of the commitment parents and pupils had to Welsh language education.
The first Welsh school was established in Aberystwyth in 1939. A private primary, Ysgol Gymraeg yr Urdd was set up by Sir Ifan ab Owen Edwards, the founder of Urdd Gobaith Cymru, the Welsh League of Youth. Eight years later in 1947 the first publicly funded Welsh school, Ysgol Dewi Sant, opened in Llanelli.
By the 1960s the number of pupils in Welsh language education came from non-Welsh speaking homes. Many thought these schools were offering a higher standard of education.The Education Reform Act in 1988 made Welsh a core subject of the National Curriculum in Wales in Welsh speaking and bilingual schools. In the rest of the schools in Wales it was given foundation status.
If you want to discover more about Welsh medium education visit this BBC site.
Rhydfelen at 50
Before the celebrations began on the 23rd I went along to the Reardon Smith Theatre to see how preparations were going. Former pupils Cleif Harpwood, lead singer of the legendary Welsh rock band Edward H. Dafis and Morgan Isaac, Cuba Cuba frontman told me what the night had in store.
So all that is left to say now is happy Birthday. Penblwydd Hapus Ysgol Gyfun Rhydfelen!