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How did we do?

Betsan Powys | 13:47 UK time, Monday, 6 December 2010

A few weeks ago I set you some homework.

I asked you to write a comparative study of two statements made in response to a Bristol University report that said doing away with league tables in Wales had - well, not quite done for the quality of education here but had left schools in Wales performing comparatively worse than schools in England. Results in both had improved but results in schools in England were greater than the improvements in Wales.

The first statement was an extract from an Assembly Government spokesperson:

"We want to improve performance across all schools and believe strongly that league tables are not the most effective way of presenting information to schools, parents, and the wider public.

"Robust self evaluation and performance data play a vital role in promoting continuous improvement and we fully endorse this. As a result we have designed an All Wales Core Data Set for primary and secondary schools which will give key information about school performance".

Then there was an "additional line", one that was emailed a little while later, from the Education Minister, Leighton Andrews:

"In Wales over the decade of devolution we have implemented most of the changes the profession wanted to see. So we don't have league tables. We will see in December when the international comparisons of school performance are reported in the OECD's PISA survey whether that approach has paid off. "

If you did your homework (or got your Mum and Dad to do it for you) I wonder whether you also thought you heard the unmistakable sound of a Minister knowing there were disappointing results coming his way and putting the onus fair and square on the shoulders of teachers.

Well tomorrow we will, indeed, see how Wales has fared.

It's not looking good. In fact it's looking bad. No, it's looking awful if the rumours amongst teachers and educationalists and teaching unions are anything to go by. A man in-the-know walked past my desk this morning and saw the headline of the Times Educational Supplement Cymru: "Wales flunks global tests". He mimed zipping his lips and left.

Those rumours suggest Wales has dropped down the world rankings, falling even further behind the rest of the UK. In other words schools in England might be worried about their failure to keep up with the rest of the world but if Wales is falling even further behind England, well, work it out. It's pretty bleak.

The words "reality check", "weak ministerial leadership", "unions having a stranglehold on educational policy", "death knell of an industrial society if we can't keep up," "widescale review of policies needed" and "game changer" are already being whispered by those who suspect that come tomorrow, the current Education Minister will tell teachers and unions that Labour have listened and made the changes they wanted to see - and look where it got them? Bottom of the class.

They'll come back at him with two crucial words: "funding gap."

A few weeks ago a couple moving to Wales to work, friends of a friend, got in touch to ask for some advice on where they should live. I did my best, shared what I know as a parent of children around the same age, as a Cardiff girl which is where he'll be working and which is where, I now gather, they'll be living.

They'd been in touch with another mutual friend who'd been just as keen to help. Where did she suggest you settle down, I asked?


She was a slightly ashamed mutual friend last week when we spoke.

I suspect she'll be a slightly smug mutual friend tomorrow.


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