Welsh medium education should be distinguished from the teaching of Welsh (known as Cymraeg or Gymraeg) as an academic subject. Welsh as a subject is taught as first language in Welsh medium schools. In English medium schools it is taught as a second language and became compulsory for all pupils in Wales at Key Stages 1, 2 and 3 (up to age 14) in 1990. In 1999, it became a compulsory subject for Key Stage 4 pupils (GCSE (ages 15 and 16)). Provision of Welsh as a subject in independent (private) schools is less widespread — only a few provide it, and it again is taught as a second language. There is no private designated Welsh-medium school in Wales, although one does exist in London, known as the London Welsh School.
Roughly a quarter of schoolchildren in Wales now receive their education through the medium of Welsh. Children wishing to join a Welsh medium school do not have to speak Welsh to attend if they are young enough to learn the language quickly. Ysgol Glan Clwyd is an example; although 70% of the pupils attending this school come from homes where English is the main or only language, 95% of pupils finish their education speaking Welsh as well as a native speaker. Ysgol Glan Clwyd was the first Welsh-medium secondary (comprehensive) school, and opened in Rhyl in 1956.
In 2013, reporting on comments by former Welsh SecretaryPaul Murphy, the BBC reported that the admissions officer for Oxford University indicated that Welsh medium schools were especially reluctant to encourage pupils to seek places at top UK universities if this meant leaving Wales, which reportedly has contributed to a decrease in the number of Welsh pupils gaining places. As an example of the broader problem, which was also contributed to by other issues such as the impact of the Welsh Baccalaureate, and was not limited to Welsh medium schools, Murphy had indicated that "students from the south Wales valleys are five times less likely to apply to Oxford or Cambridge than students in some of the more affluent English counties".