Welcoming back 'the repentant sinner'

 

Did the Education Secretary in England ring the Education Minister in Wales last night to tell him that he is abandoning plans to scrap GCSEs?

You won't, I think, be surprised to be told that no, he didn't. Hardly surprising since the Welsh Minister found out about the original plans via the Daily Mail anyway.

Labour are calling it "a humiliating U-turn" and hoping #Ebacctrack will be trending on twitter before too long. It is, say the coalition, more like a tweak.

For the Westminster politics, turn here. For the impact on Wales, keep reading.

Make no mistake - despite the fact that this is a decision taken in England by a man who has no direct say over what happens in Welsh schools, it is hugely significant for pupils, parents, teachers and unions in Wales and yes, politicians too. Leighton Andrews was straining as he tried not to gloat this morning, offering the Welsh Labour government's welcome to the "repentant sinner" Michael Gove back into the GCSE fold.

So why the impact on Wales?

Take a moment to read this, a blog entry I wrote just a few days ago.

If you don't have that moment then I'll give you the gist of it. It seemed to me that the head teachers, the unions, parents and pupils I'd spoken to that day had been pretty united. They thought Leighton Andrews' decision not to scrap GCSEs, but instead to tighten them, not to scrap a modular way of teaching but accept it's high time to put a new emphasis on standards, on numeracy and literacy was probably the right thing to have done.

But that didn't mean they were happy. They were fundamentally concerned because they feared the Welsh GCSE, and the Welsh Baccalaureate they would bestow on Wales' brightest pupils would be regarded, in England, as second class. The fear was that the English Baccalaureate certificate with its 'more challenging' tag, with its big bang end of year exam would mean universities and employers outside Wales regarded a qualification gained in Wales, in future, as not quite as shiny as the gold standard EBacc.

In other words they thought Wales would lose the political PR battle if the EBacc and WBacc went head to head.

But they won't. They won't because Michael Gove will tell the Commons later today that he's shelving the new qualification, retaining the GCSE brand in England, and changing the league table criteria for English schools to include a capped points score - something Mr Andrews was keen to tell 5Live listeners has been in place in Wales for 18 months.

What's the wider story here then? Well, it's that the headlines of a wildly divergent qualifications systems between England and Wales will now read as a less divergent qualifications system between England and Wales. But there will still be important differences. The emphasis in Wales will be on skills and the needs of employers as much as academic rigour. In England - it's expected that whatever he rows back on, Michael Gove will not retreat from his push for a more knowledge based curriculum. Coursework is still likely to play a bigger part in Welsh qualifications than their English counterparts.

But don't underestimate the significance of the far more consistent branding that will now remain, after all. Whether pupils sit exams in Prestatyn, Presteigne or Preston, they will all gain GCSEs and that will make parents, teachers and unions here in Wales a whole lot happier.

 
Betsan Powys, Political editor, Wales Article written by Betsan Powys Betsan Powys Former political editor, Wales

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 78.

    75.Boxer_the_Horse
    Nos Da Boxer. Hope you have sweet dreams of Empire and not that evil language

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 77.

    75.Boxer_the_Horse
    I have sung Calon Lan in Llanelli
    Well Done Boxer glad to see you embracing the language. I do have images of John Redwood and the Anthem. Fair Play you do know there is a Welsh culture mind you any Fool knows that!! South or North great Welsh Institutions. You'll be able to attend the new WM school and join in the singing. Ask for Jerusalem

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 76.

    74.John Tyler
    My request for an Hour? I'm not the Ed. Minister by the way?
    Are you saying the language and culture of a Country should be ignored or supressed.There was a man with a small moustache who had similar ideas.Silent majority why aren't you doing something about it. May be you haven't got the support you think. You request is outrageous as WM Schools are becoming increasingly popular

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 75.

    #73 Hate to tell you, Woodsey, but your last blog reveals you as a provincial. Any Fool Know that both the Millenium Stadium and the Millenium Centre are in South Cardiff. As are the Cardiff City ground and St David's Hall.
    I have sung Calon Lan in Llanelli. Now that is a place that has a discernible, adult culture. But it is a little small. What happened to Neath, Pontypridd or even Coventry?

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 74.

    ... #68, wooodsey, where you wrote ...

    "You live in Wales and it has a culture and language. Is an hour too much for you anglophiles"

    Could you elaborate, there are many cultures, many languages amongst the peoples of Wales. If, as I suspect, you refer to your personal cultural and linguistic preferences, your request for an hour is outrageous, I and the silent majority would decline .

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 73.

    72.Boxer_the_Horse
    Refer to my Blog 69 Look at Peoples attitude to the language.
    Boxer you must get that chip of both shoulders. Culture is not just the language. Choirs like Treorchi are thriving. Why would you worry about the stadium thought you'd be seen more at Twickers singing Jerusalem.
    rather than Calon Lan that evil language!! South East is not Just Cardiff North

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 72.

    'Greater sense of identity'
    With 80% of the population feeling that they (and what makes them angry, their children) are being made second-class citizens in their own country.
    You swapped the Morriston Orpheus Choir for Boys Aloud, and this is a triumph of culture? Now John Owen-Jones: then Paul Robeson.

    The Arms Park was unique: the Millenium Stadium is Modern International. Host the Superbowl

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 71.

    70.Boxer_the_Horse
    Bilingual schools, Welsh Government, Boys Aloud, Men Aloud, Girls Aloud/Greater sense of identity, Great New Institutions in the Bay, Great Stadiums all in the SE Boxer. An Old Nation has come of age Boxer. Being a son of a miner I don't want to go back to those days and to the bigotry of religion. The Empire is OVER BOXER

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 70.

    'You live in Wales and it has a culture'
    I have lived in Wales for 45 years, in the south east - where most of the population lives, and what little elements of culture were uniquely Welsh have faded. The nonconformists, the male-voice choirs, community singing, the working-class solidarity of the miners: where are they now, and what has replaced them ?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 69.

    66.Slightly foxed
    Looks like you are in the minority
    http://blogs.walesonline.co.uk/devolution/2012/02/welsh-language-survey.html

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 68.

    66.Slightly foxed
    Perhaps you'd like an English Flag in the classroom and 'God save the Queen sang every morning in assembly. Also we could read a chapter from Cecil Rhodes. You live in Wales and it has a culture and language. Is an hour too much for you anglophiles

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 67.

    66.Slightly foxed
    Perhaps you should look at why we have RE, Parenting Skills etc,
    They do Welsh for one hour a week and in Year 10 they do a short course unless they opt for Welsh and in a lot of cases they do that exam in Year 10 and 11. It little knowledge is dangerous.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 66.

    It's a real shame ....but Welsh children are hampered by having to learn Welsh. Add up the hours spent learning the language....The time, which other children have, could be spent on other subjects.

    Like it or not, Welsh children will have to compete with those from other countries as never before - Not just those from the UK.

    If their future is to be brighter, Welsh should be an option.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 65.

    #64 No, Mab, it's just that you don't really read anyone else's blogs.
    It doesn't matter if Wales has an objectively better system of education or qualifications. Whilst people want to live and study and work in England, they have to have a bit of paper that is understandable in England. If Wales had kept modules whilst England adopted end-of-course exams, the Welsh quali would not be accepted

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 64.

    The WG stated that they were keeping GCSE/A levels whilst England did it’s own thing and all you Anti Devo slackers bemoaned at the time saying how “ Wales will be a joke, educationally substandard, regarded as second class. ” So Gove’s reversed his decision, the WG were right and England's returned to the same system you lot criticised for Wales maintaining. Bunch of hypocrites!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 63.

    62 Fo - No I would not - but I agree with you - we would be better off without the WA.

    60 Woodsey - I confess that I also went to Uni in England. Unfortunately not toOxford. I went to Bath because it provided a better standard than Welsh Unis - why did your son go to Oxford?

    Must go - 2 important games tomorrow - come-on the Bluebirds

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 62.

    Re 61

    Using your logic, you'd abolish every legislature in the world. Where would that leave us?

    I'm off now.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 61.

    57 Fo But you miss the point - wasn't the Assembly supposed be different.
    If the WA simply copies the antics of Westminster then logic dictates that you believe that the Assembly should be abolished.

    We cannot rely upon just a few good MP's and just a few good AM's.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 60.

    59.Boxer_the_Horse
    He is now back in Wales contributing to the economy and uses Welsh in the Workplace, Home and Socially. Is Don was impressed and complimentary on his bilingual background.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 59.

    #55 'a Welsh speaking person from the Valleys '
    FTR, your son wasn't Welsh-speaking. He was presumably bilingual, and had sufficient grasp of English to profit from an Oxford education.
    I support him, but how does it fit in with engineering Wales so that 'all may live their lives in Welsh' as the current adverts have it ?
    Of course, he could have gone to Aber.

 

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