The Somaliland community in Wales is writing to Education Minister Jeremy Miles asking for a Somali language GCSE to be run in schools

By Abbie Wightwick 

Members of the Somaliland community in Wales are asking the Welsh Government to introduce a GCSE in Somali language in the new Welsh curriculum. Ali Abdi, a prominent Somaliland activist in the 15,000-strong community, said it was important for young people to recognize and gain qualifications in their language and heritage.

It’s almost 20 years since the last campaign for the introduction of a Somali GCSE led by the then former head of the Ethnic Minority Achievement Service at Fitzalan’s High School, Asha Ali. Fresh calls for a Somali language GCSE have now been made at a cultural event in Cardiff.


Former Cathays High pupil Ali Abdi is writing to Education Minister Jeremy Miles to ask for a Somali language GCSE to be offered as part of the new curriculum for Wales. He said: “With a large number of Somali pupils studying in Welsh secondary schools, it is imperative that they have the opportunity to learn in their mother tongue and be recognized for their linguistic and cultural heritage.”

Somaliland Community In Wales Calls For GCSE In Somali Language
Ali Abdi

Mr. Abdi said offering a GCSE in Somali language would provide students with Somali heritage with a greater sense of cultural identity and belonging and improve their academic achievement. He said introducing a Somali GCSE would be in tune with the Welsh Government’s stated commitment to diversity, equity, and social justice.

“Over the past several decades, Somali immigrants have made significant contributions to Welsh society, enriching the cultural fabric of the nation. From business and entrepreneurship to education and community development, the Wales Somaliland community has played a vital role in shaping the social and economic landscape of Wales.”

Taageero Cymru, a community-led organization dedicated to supporting Somali children and families in Wales, hosts a supplementary school for Somali pupils from the Grange Pavilion in Cardiff once a week after school. Co-founders Layla Saeed and Amina Ahmed said they have 40 students each week and many more children with Somali and Somaliland heritage attend schools across Cardiff and elsewhere in Wales.

It is more than a century since the first Somalis arrived in the docks of Cardiff in the 1880s. The community in Wales has grown to number between 10,000 and 15,000 and are part of the city’s and country’s identity. Mr. Abdi said that if a Somali language GCSE is introduced in Wales it could be exported to England and other parts of the UK, where there is also a Somali and Somaliland population.

Somaliland Community In Wales Calls For GCSE In Somali Language
Ali Abdi is a former Cathays High pupil and Somaliland community activist in Cardiff (Image: Western Mail)

Asked if it would consider a Somali language GCSE, a spokesperson for exam regulator Qualifications Wales said: “We recognize the value, contribution, and importance of Somali language and culture in Wales. Following a consultation in 2021, we shared our decision on why we proposed three (French, German, and Spanish) international language GCSEs, where we anticipated that there was likely to be enough demand from schools and learners to make it viable.

“Learners in Wales have the opportunity to study GCSEs from English awarding bodies in a variety of community languages, such as Arabic, Urdu, and Polish. However, no such GCSE is available in Somali at this point in time.”

The WJEC exam board said: “As an awarding body, we develop qualifications that meet an approval criteria that is set out by our regulator, Qualifications Wales. In 2021, Qualifications Wales set out the subjects that will be available as made for Wales GCSEs for first teaching from 2025.

“We are committed to supporting inclusivity and diversity, and are always willing to participate in discussions to consider offering additional qualifications. These discussions would be led by Qualifications Wales, however, we are open to taking an active role to enhance the learning opportunities for learners across Wales.”

Somaliland Community In Wales Calls For GCSE In Somali Language
Layla and Amina speaking at Taageero Cymru

The Welsh Government said in a statement: “The curriculum for Wales empowers schools to design their own curriculum to meet their learners’ language needs. Learners now have the opportunity to use and progress in their community languages from primary through to secondary school.

“The choice of language is a decision for schools, who will engage directly with their learners to discuss the options, pathways, and individual learner circumstances and needs.

“While we work closely with Qualifications Wales and WJEC to ensure our qualifications align with the curriculum for Wales, as the independent regulator and the exam board, the content of qualifications is a matter for them.”