Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Education: When do we start to point the finger?

The BBC reported today on a worldwide survey that has revealed teenagers in Wales are falling behind other countries in basic education.

The 15-year-olds scored below average in maths and reading and average in science, said the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. The UK as a whole fared worse than in previous years, but Welsh students came bottom of the "home" nations. The Education Minister welcomed the report as a "snapshot" of where Wales stands on the international stage.

The Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) performance tables are based on tests taken by 15-year-olds and involved 400,000 15-year-olds from 57 countries. The results are published every three years, but the UK did not participate in the last round of tests, taken in 2003.

In what was the first year Wales has been considered separately from England, Welsh students fared significantly worse than their peers in their neighbouring country. They tested below average in maths and reading, but average in science. In maths, the mean score of students in England and Scotland was "significantly higher" than in Wales. And while reading performance in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland was similar, in Wales the average score was lower. Performance in science across all four parts of the UK was similar. But the report adds that the average score of students in Wales was significantly lower than in England.

David Reynolds, professor of education at Plymouth university described the survey results for Wales as "shocking":

We are round about countries like Azerbaijan and Croatia and this should be some kind of joke but it is not... There are two hints as to why this is happening. We don't seem to have enough able pupils. We always in Wales were told that our problem was the lower achieving pupils. But we have not got a high enough proportion of pupils doing well and so overall our scores are down. The other hint is that it is money. Over time the assembly probably has not spent on education what it should.
Professor Reynolds called for the creation of a cross party commission to investigate the findings. Pisa researchers said they attempted to discover how well pupils could apply knowledge, rather than simply regurgitate facts and figures. Their results marked a sharp fall for Britain overall from where it stood in 2000. It fell from eighth to 24th for maths, with some pupils in China scoring top marks in the subject. In reading, the UK fell from seventh to 17th, placing it below countries including Estonia and Poland.

Even more shocking are Education Minister, Jane Hutt's dismissive remarks that were reported by the press:
...priority was to secure better outcomes for learners, not just to score highly in Pisa rankings... Not that we do not recognise the importance of Pisa as a yardstick against which we can measure our progress. The real benefits of the Pisa assessments will come not from the headline figures and league table rankings, but from the detailed analysis of strengths and weaknesses and what more we can learn from the best and most effective practice internationally.
Welsh Labour have been in power in a devolved government since 1999. Since then we have seen four Ministers in charge of education in Wales. Although I don't generally like the idea of a blame culture, when do we start pointing the finger, and at who? Jane Hutt's performance has always been lacklustre and her reputation precedes her at Health. Hutt should be listening to the opinion of eminent people - that's what they're there for - and if appropriate, offering a review of current policy in order to address a serious issue in one of Wales' few important areas of devolution.

We have a responsibility to ensure that our children receive the best education possible. The government should accept that it's their responsibility to take the lead and assist us in being able to achieve this.


Mike 5 December 2007 at 17:23  

Her policy making days should have ended in 2005 when she was made Minister for Business. Her reputation at Health was apalling, made even worse by Brian Gibbons later.

Anonymous 5 December 2007 at 17:37  

She just happens to be a classic example of someone who shouldn't have stepped out from the Council comfort zone. The Assembly Ministerial team need big hitters.

Anonymous 5 December 2007 at 17:51  

What on earth was Jane Davidson doing during her time as Misister for Education? Don't tell me that she put all her effort into the Welsh Bac.

Jonty 5 December 2007 at 17:55  

Whatever happened to education, education, education?

Anonymous 5 December 2007 at 18:37  

Jane Hutt's not up to the job of education. I don't have confidence in her, does anyone out there? All I can hear in my mind at the moment is that our education system in Wales compares to Azerbaijan.

Gareth Thomas 5 December 2007 at 18:37  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Gareth Thomas 5 December 2007 at 18:45  

When Prof David Reynolds expresses his concerns as trenchantly as he has I think we should take note. This should be one of the biggest political issues in Wales at present and there should be a great national debate/row about it.

Anonymous 5 December 2007 at 19:13  

The story is finally on the news this evening

Alun 5 December 2007 at 19:29  

It's as if she has to wear her equal oportunities hat and stops short commenting on the fact that we're "round about countries like Azerbaijan and Croatia" for fear of offending others.

East of Offa 6 December 2007 at 10:10  

A UK Government would be voted out of office if standards were found to be as low as in Wales. Why do the Welsh insist on voting in droves for Labour, and mainly because of family tradition?

Anonymous 6 December 2007 at 10:28  

East off Offa because many people are idiots who are still scared off voting for anyone else because of the so called 'nasty Thatcher Tories myth peddled by Labour, that's why they will always have the uppoer hand in Wales, whatever happens.

On the issue don't count on any actually being done in education because that would mean someone actually making a decision and doing something, we can't have people doing things now can we.
Since when was education important to Welsh Politicians apart from thier own and thier families.

Miss Wagstaff 6 December 2007 at 10:41  

There does seem to be too much attention focussed on Wales' constitutional future; general squabbling; and making the coalition work for appearance sake rather than constructive policy work.

This doesn't make me confident about the future role of the Assembly, and worry that we'll be left behind in key areas.

Anonymous 6 December 2007 at 12:08  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous 6 December 2007 at 12:22  

I'll second that Miss Wagstaff.

General Picton 6 December 2007 at 13:16  

Look at Adam Price asking for soldiers to be trained through the medium of Welsh. Why worrying about the lack of equipment which tends to mean that you have a fair chance of actually finding out whether or not Welsh is really the language of Heaven when you had your induction training through the medium of Welsh.Are what passes for a political elite in the is Banana Republic of ours determined to make us the laughing stock of the UK? Answers on a Welsh love spoon!

Freda Speech 6 December 2007 at 13:22  

There is no one person to blame - it lies with Blair, Davidson, and shortsighted policy.
Schools are in need of modernisation, teachers are demoralised. Get away from eh admin and preoccupation with league tables.
Teach our children in an interesting way, treat teachers with respect, they are crucial, sort the crappy buildings out.
Learning should be fun and relevant.
Look at the kids who disrupt the others - get them out of the classrooms and sort them out.
Stop trying to be clever with education-

Miss Wagstaff 6 December 2007 at 14:32  

General Picton - You're right. there are far more concerns in the armed forces than the Welsh language.

Freda Speech - "Stop trying to be clever with education"

I like that tagline very much.

Anonymous 6 December 2007 at 15:18  

C'mon, you can't take Adam Price's comments about Welsh in the armed forces and paint that that he cares nothing about education. Why not take another random quote by any other politician and say, 'oh they don't care about x'.

The problem education in Wales is that teachers call the shots and that in the 'socialist' spirit nobody's allowed to shine. Our kids are too poor see, they need free breakfasts and other bribes. Better go for Labouris bribes than challenge kids in Wales.

Anonymous 6 December 2007 at 17:52  

Look education in the UK has gone down the pan because of all the loony leftist ideas that have held sway for the last 30 years.

And the Kinnockite generation who benefited from going to grammar schools and then pulled up the ladder on suceeding generations of working class kids who have been so ill-served by these leftie ideas.

Don't blame crap education on the Assembly, it is the whole rotten BBC/Guardianista led establishment who should be in the dock.

If we want a decent education system we should look beyond England and find ideas in those countries that are suceeding.

Tom Paine 7 December 2007 at 06:52  

As someone "educated" in Wales, in two of the U.K.'s earliest comps, I would speculate that it has something to do with leftist ideology in Welsh education. If academic success is despised as shameful "elitism," what can we really expect?

It may also have something to do with the resolve of academically able Welsh people (who - like it or not - are more likely to have academically able children) NOT to have children unless they can afford to educate them outside the chaotic Marxist schools of Wales.

Griffith Jones 7 December 2007 at 09:02  

Jane Davidson was too close to the teacher unions. jane Hutt is simply in the words of Attlee'not up to the job' in which ever cabinet post she has held. Unfortunately we are stuck with an Assembly of second raters as the country goes down the tubes.

Anonymous 7 December 2007 at 15:01  

It may also have something to do with the resolve of academically able Welsh people (who - like it or not - are more likely to have academically able children) NOT to have children unless they can afford to educate them outside the chaotic Marxist schools of Wales.

This is priceless - clever people are not having kids for fear of sending them to Marxist schools.
Please tell me where those Marxists schools are - I'd love my kids to learn a bit of dialectical materialism and get a grounding in capitalist economics.
All this talk of loony lefties wrecking kids' education is highly amusing - we've had 30 years of Thatcher-Blairism in case anyone was nodding off in the back of the class.

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