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Thursday, December 26, 2013

At last, Welsh Labour apologises for its appalling record on education

In a significant development the Western Mail has secured a long-overdue apology from the Labour Education Minister for the Welsh Government’s failure to reverse sliding school standards.

The paper says that the apology comes in the wake of the damning assessment of Wales’ education system by the OECD, which ranked Welsh teenagers well below those in the rest of the UK on key skills.

Wales came 36th for science, 41st for reading and 43rd for maths in the latest Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) study.

They add that the results were a serious blow for the Welsh Government and that as a result it is increasingly unlikely that the Government's target of being in the top 20 education nations in 2015 will be met:

Mr Lewis, who assumed the education brief in June following the shock resignation of Leighton Andrews, has come under increasing pressure to shoulder responsibility for Wales’ plight on behalf of the Welsh Government.

“We need to be judged on how we turn this necessary rhetoric into reality,” he said.

“Pisa is not a measure of everything, but it does matter and it does give us an idea of where we stand in an international context. The clear message is that we’ve got to undertake a step-change.”

Mr Lewis last month warned it would be unrealistic to expect Wales to better its lowly position in Pisa, given the majority of actions taken to drive up performance had not had time to take effect.

Huw Lewis is right when he says that we all now have a responsibility to put things right. To this end the Secretary of State for Wales has already tweeted his willingness to help:

The question is whether Wales' most notoriously partisan Minister is prepared to take up this offer?  If we are all to take responsibility then we must work cross party as well as throughout the educational system. I await developments in the New Year as to how this rhetoric is to be turned into action.
The fault lies with every political party since none of you robustly challenged Labour when they made the initial mistake of dropping SATs and failed to compare schools in leaguetables/Banding.
All parties continue to be culpable since without exception you support the uncritical spread of Welsh in schools and Welsh Medium schools when WM schools underperform similar English Medium schools and are poor at supporting pupils from a deprived background.
I await the moment when even one AM grows a pair and stands up in the Senedd to question the advisability of Welsh with everything.
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