Education in Wales – can the system cope?  

Martin Price considers the raft of reforms facing the education system in Wales

My grandfather was a headteacher of a secondary school in the Potteries.  He had strong views on education right until his death in his hundredth year.  He reckoned that politicians had been mucking about with schools ever since he started his working life as a reporter covering the 1906 Liberal landslide election before becoming a teacher.


What would he have made of the current state of Welsh Education?  Because he spent all his long retirement in West Wales, and he made a point of reading the Western Mail and watching the Welsh television news, he would have been well aware of the current changes in Welsh Education.   He would have had strong opinions, but I suspect even he would have struggled to keep abreast of all that is changing.


Given the parlous stage of the Welsh media, I fear most of the Welsh public outside the Welsh Education bubble have little understanding of the scale of what is going on.  The UK press debates endlessly the iniquities of the English Education System with its Multi Academy Trusts, Free schools, newly renumbered GCSEs and so on. Where is the debate about Welsh Education?  Are the changes a good thing? Are they too wide-ranging or not ambitious enough? Outside the bubble who knows, or perhaps cares? Is it all a good thing?


The most obvious reform is the new Curriculum proposed by Professor Graham Donaldson.  “Successful Futures” now “Curriculum for Wales” is a radical new way of looking at how learning takes place and what is learned.  It has been a shock for teachers in the Pioneer schools, who for the past twenty years were trained to follow strict guidelines, to be asked to design curricula around broader areas and to think in a very different way about how people teach and learn and what skills and facts young people in the twenty-first century need now and will need over their working lives.  Fortunately, Wales has learned from Scotland’s experience of trying to rush things and timescales have been stretched. My own observations are that this is going well at primary level, but less so at secondary.


For most countries, making a fundamental change to the curriculum would be more than enough to be going on with, but not in Wales.


One of the most important factors for a pupil to get a good educational experience is the quality of the teacher in front of them in the classroom.   New professional standards for teachers are being introduced, to keep up the skills of the existing workforce with ongoing training. At the same time there has been a root and branch review of teacher training in Wales, which will be completely different from September 2019, with radical changes in teaching methods and which Universities are providing the courses.  And then control of Teachers Pay and Conditions is also being devolved, with the opportunity of rewarding good performance.


Exams are changing too, not the GCSE numbering system as in England, but a greater emphasis on timed exams at the expense of coursework, as well as content changes in many subjects and making Numeracy a separate exam from Mathematics.  You might think, naively, that the purpose of exams is to provide qualifications for individual pupils, as a basis for their future careers, but, as every politician knows, their real purpose is to provide a check on the performance of schools and shame schools into improving.  


Welsh Schools are put in four categories: green, yellow, amber and red, supposedly so that resources can be targeted. For most people in the street, they form a crude view of how well their local school is doing. Categorisation is based on performance measures and therefore targets for each school.  At the secondary level the indicators used are a moving target, with significant changes arriving from Welsh Government year on year and even at a late stage within the year being measured.


What about our most vulnerable pupils?  The Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Act received Royal Assent in January 2018 and is now being implemented.  Its aim is to deliver a fully inclusive education system for the learners of Wales and will replace the Special Educational Needs system, with something more flexible and responsive.  This is indubitably a good thing. It is what a civilised society should aspire to do. The challenge is how to make it happen within existing resources and meet the raised expectations of parents for their vulnerable children.


The Welsh Government’s ambition is to see the number of people able to enjoy speaking and using Welsh reach a million by 2050. Schools are fundamental to “Cymraeg 2050.”   “The Welsh language is one of the treasures of Wales. It is part of what defines us as people and as a nation.”  The vision is that all primary school pupils will leave at eleven being able to hold a conversation in Welsh. Not enough English-medium schools in Wales can say that happens now.


Welsh Government has also been looking at the governance of schools over the past couple of years, consulting widely on whether and how to move to a more skills-based Governing Board, while still retaining something of the current representational model with elected parent, teacher, staff governors, as well as community and local authority appointments.  The proposals also suggested reducing the size of Governing Bodies, to increase their effectiveness. Estyn, the inspection body, has been very critical of poor leadership by Governing Bodies when schools have been placed in Special Measures.


Of course, Estyn itself will have to change what it does because of all this activity, and the Cabinet Secretary commissioned Professor Donaldson to do a review.  His recommendations are more far-reaching, suggesting a move to a “Learning Inspectorate” with a dramatically expanded role in school improvement.


So to sum up, at the same time as a wide-ranging change to the curriculum and the way it is taught, Wales is also making fundamental changes the way teachers are taught, develop and are paid, the exam system, the way schools are governed, how some of the most vulnerable pupils access the system, how schools are measured, and how the schools are inspected.


Can our Civil Servants, Education professionals and most importantly Wales’s children cope with it all?  Is there enough “headspace” and “joined up thinking” to make sure it all work?


For what it’s worth, I think that all these changes are by and large a very good thing.  I just wish they were not all happening at once, and that there had been a little more public debate outside the Education bubble as to the advisability of changing everything at once.


As to my Grandfather, I suspect he would have been more cynical.  He reckoned educational reforms are like buses. If you don’t like this one, there will be another one along in a minute.   He would probably extend the simile to note that in Wales, you wait for ages at the stop and then lots of buses of various shapes and sizes all turn up at the same time.


Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

All articles published on Click on Wales are subject to IWA’s disclaimer.

Dr Martin Price is a Governor of two secondary schools, Chair of the Vale of Glamorgan School Governors Association, and a member of the Advisory Board of the Central South Consortium Joint Education Service.  He writes in a personal capacity.

17 thoughts on “Education in Wales – can the system cope?  

  1. If your grandpa relied on the Welsh media as a trusting source of information on Welsh education, he would have not been any wiser, Martin – Why?
    You are right, the Welsh education has been undergoing numerous changes, most in a desperate attempt on the part of the Welsh Government to prevent the rot and halt the ever-declining standards but no Welsh media outlet dares touch the principal reason for this sorry mess.
    You guessed it, it’s the Welsh language imposition, prioritisation of Welsh speaking teachers and sadly often before competence that has inflicted most of the damage.
    I’ll finish with a small example by giving you the link to Katie Hopkins’ podcast on Welsh ‘education’ –
    Within minutes of the podcast reaching the public domain there was a huge outcry from the Welsh-speaking nationalists demanding Katie’s head but if anyone looks at her Twitter account she received 1,000’s positive endorsements and most from the Welsh parents.
    Then the ‘deafening silence’ from all the English language media (BBC/ITV) with the only exception the ‘Western Mail’ who called the video an absolute and utter lie but no attempt to go behind the ‘sound bites’ and to take a serious look at what Katie was saying.
    Then the S4C proclaimed to be the arbiter of ‘scrutiny’ and Guto Harri invited Katie to explain herself by giving her less than 60 seconds to do so – Beggars belief but that’s the Welsh media at its best.
    The sad reality and the truth is that the recently released KS2 results by the Welsh Government clearly show a link between the Welsh Language and the failing standards especially for children with no Welsh at home.

  2. Some good summary here and the point about the parlous condition of media coverage and weak civil society is well made. What this lacks as critique is any debate or even research reference as to the virtue of the various changes in tow. Actually nothing else counts in Welsh schools except ‘The New Curriculum’. The govt has bet the farm again, just like some compulsive policy gambler.

    Tellingly the bet won’t be assessable until 2025/2030. The govt has built in huge delay on the back of ‘sensible implementation’. It is doing the same on teachers pay and conditions, see Waters report just issued. This is simply electoral exculpation. And new curriculum is not going to be the dealbreaker since curriculum is not a problem. As for Cymraeg 2050, Mr Price’s comments are dangerously naive and point to his desire to acquiesce politically on all fronts.

    More coherent commentary will be available next month in my book The Slow Learning Country: out of the dim into the light. As no Welsh publishing house had the cojones to break ranks and publish it, details of its self-publication will be available shortly. Mr Price was dead right about our media and civil society. IWA is the last recourse of free thought.

  3. click on wales is a place for ideas and analysis. The comments which readers leave here are an important part of the debate about how to make Wales better. It is a space where different views can and should collide, so that we can develop solutions to the challenges Wales faces.

    IWA’s view is that the Welsh language is of inestimable value to Wales. As something to be cherished and protected, policies to enhance and propagate it deserve rigorous scrutiny. Where there are concerns about the effectiveness of actions to protect the Welsh language, we believe these should be aired in a constructive manner. Pitting the Welsh language against public services is a false premise, and does nothing to move Wales towards shared solutions.

    On a practical note, we are a small team and sometimes it takes a day or so before we are able to moderate comments. We’ll update our comments policy, which explains how we make decisions, to reflect this more clearly.

    Rhea, Editor of click on wales

  4. @Rhea Stevens
    I agree almost entirely with your comment on WL. I have reservations only by your use of ‘inestimable’, since this sounds like an absolute. That said, rigorous scrutiny must be the sine qua non of WL commentary. I disassociate myself from any other approaches. That is why I think Martin Price’s unweighted comment above on Cymraeg 2050 is shallow, with reference to English-medium schools. The structural and political implications of this critical policy are unexamined.

    My forthcoming book includes one chapter on WL policy in schools past, present and future. It is laden with political, statistical and educational analysis and scrutiny. Regrettably, in doing so, it was deemed too polemical for commercial publication, in spite of providing original solutions that seem to me more democratic and likely to bring long-term thriving compared with Cymraeg 2050.

    This is a highly charged area for public discourse, as we all recognise. But strangling authentically constructive debate in the media and publications for ideological, what I call almost religious reasons, is as risky as some of the one-eyed, over-assertive comments for and against we can see littering blogs and social media in Wales.

    You are correct to ask for rigour, research and civilty. But I am saddened that in some quarters even meeting these non-negotiable criteria is not a guarantee of a fair hearing. Not in education and schools in my chastened experience. That’s why IWA remains a beacon in the too often gloomy land of the pulled punch.

  5. Oh dear Rhea:-

    “click on wales is a place for ideas and analysis. The comments which readers leave here are an important part of the debate about how to make Wales better.”

    I speak as one who was for some years banned from commenting on the IWA site. Did I break the rules? No, Lee Waters who eventually reinstated myself and others, admitted that I did not but that patrons of the IWA found my views on the imposition of the Welsh language by political diktat offended them. I will just point out that “the debate about how to make Wales better” depends on the IWA embracing the idea that it is quite possible that Welsh language authoritarianism in the field of public sector employment and particularly in the field of education might quite possibly make things worse.

    Dr Price does not question if it is right and proper for the Labour government to decide unilaterally that by 2050 one million Welsh people should speak Welsh. Is it a moral imperative? Is it “right” in the moral sense of the word to remove English medium streams and schools and replace them with Welsh medium schools? Is it “right” that first language Welsh speakers have their “human rights” infringed if they do not have an available Welsh medium school but that first language English parents do not have a reciprocal “human right” to have an available English medium school for their children?

    When Unesco produced research that showed that early learning through a language other than the home language resulted in children failing to reach their academic potential did the Welsh government question for a moment the wisdom of compulsory early submersion schooling in Welsh medium schools?

    Of course not; no doubt they like you Rhea believed that ” the Welsh language is of inestimable value to Wales”.
    I recently wrote to Eluned Morgan, copying her two years of Key stage 2 data which showed that pupils who do not have Welsh speaking home environments ended Welsh medium primary school well behind similar pupils in similar English medium schools. I asked her if the WG had researched this factor I’ll copy the answer to you:-

    “We have not commissioned specific research into the attainment of different groups of pupils within Welsh medium schools to date.”

    So, despite the findings of a PISA supplemental paper by Drs Jerrim and Shure that showed that Welsh medium schools produced a smaller percentage of high achievers than English medium schools, despite years of data showing under-achievement in WM schools, and despite all of Unesco’s warnings about early immersion, the WG has not bothered to do one iota of research.

    So IWA and Rhea I state quite plainly that the Welsh language, imposed thoughtlessly on our children can do inestimable harm.

  6. Political interference in education isn’t exactly new. I grew up in a town which had such good local education it refused to implement the 1870 Education Act! The town worthies were prevailed upon – another word is threatened – and the 1870 Act was eventually implemented.

    ‘Where is the debate about Welsh Education?’

    Some of us have been trying to have one for years – decades even – but we are ignored and/or shut-down and/or abused at every turn. Quickly described as anti Welsh language, anti Welsh, or simply told to go live somewhere else – objective debate hardly ever happens.

    I trained as a teacher 74-77 in a multi-racial multi-lingual city and decided half way through not to teach because there was – errr – too much political interference. I wouldn’t have lasted a year! I spent 3 years railing against the prevailing hard left ideology dressed up as pedagogy but still managed to come out with a special commendation in education theory because I did the research and argued my case coherently based upon that research.

    This is something the political class, academia, and the biased media in Wales have never obviously allowed when it comes to the failings of Regional education. When I came to Wales in 84 education overall was on a par with England. The exception being the forced Welsh language submersion education in Gwynedd (which included Anglesey back then). I have spent over 30 years watching L1 English kids under-perform, and sometimes fail unnecessarily, under this inappropriate regime. The L1 Welsh generally do OK – why wouldn’t they when they’re being educated in their home language and there is less deprivation in the L1 Welsh population because of the blatant discrimination in public sector job allocation in a county which relies too heavily on public sector employment. We all know the lack of English medium education has been a factor in recruitment difficulties but nobody wants to talk about the eliffant in the room. Nobody ever wants to talk about the eliffant in the room unless it’s to tell us we are going to be subjected to more of it.

    Now we all know correlation is not causation, except when it is, but the decline in education in Wales correlates with the implementation of compulsory Welsh. These few words, hidden in plain view, in the 1988 Education Reform Act seem to have been passed on the nod without obvious public consultation – I never noticed any anyway.

    These few words which made Welsh compulsory in all state schools in Wales:

    (c) in relation to schools in Wales which are not Welsh-speaking schools, Welsh.

    implemented with varying degrees of enthusiasm throughout Wales LEAs, correlated with the beginning of the decline. It cannot be denied that compulsory Welsh reduced the chalk-time available for the other core subjects in EM schools. Something had to give.

    One current problem is the growth of WM education. I, and others, have years of FoIA data which show, to my satisfaction and to the satisfaction of others, that L1 English pupils in Welsh medium schools under-perform and the damage is being done in primary years. Most simply do not learn Welsh well enough either to maximise their potential in school or to compete fairly with their L1 Welsh peers. Some fortunate souls are able to progress in English medium secondary schools, which end up carrying out too much remedial work in KS3, but others are railroaded into WM secondary schools on the basis that their Welsh at Level-4 is ‘good enough’ to continue in WM secondary education. Many continue to under-perform.

    Even though some of this FoIA data is now in the public domain, hidden in plain sight on the Assembly disclosure log, it is not being acted upon. There is further evidence of the under-performance of WM schools in the PISA 2015 report which could have been firmed up by additional analysis but the WG refused and ordered some rather meaningless further analysis to divert attention away from their failing flag-ship policy of expanding WM education. There is no evidence the WG or any other relevant body has made any use of this data. Instead we continue to be lied to by omission with claims that WM schools are as good as, or better than, EM schools and all the rest of the spurious claims of bilingual advantage from aging, not very robust, research while more modern research showing the opposite continues to be ignored. This appears to be a carefully constructed campaign of deliberate mis-information. Of course we are not being shown a like-for-like comparison because the WM schools tend to have much better SES profiles – lower eFSMs, fewer EAL pupils, fewer disabled pupils.

    I don’t think anybody would disagree that deprivation is the major determinant of education outcome so it is necessary to try and compare outcomes on a like-for-like basis. eFSMs banding is the easily accessible measure. When we do this we find fairly consistently that L1 English pupils under perform in WM schools and that WM schools tend to under-perform their EM equivalents. This isn’t news – Gorard published in the 1980s that the perceived advantage of WM schools was only a feature of their relatively lower deprivation levels. 30 years later very little has changed except that the SES advantage of the WM schools is slowly being reduced as they increase in number – they are not quite the elite schools they were 30 years ago so their performance is declining. I expect worse to come.

    At least Rhea Stevens should be able to agree that education outcomes are predicated mostly by SES factors since she co-authored this report:

    What this report lacks, like so many others relating to Wales, is any empirical analysis of outcomes based on home language and language medium of education. This has been left to concerned citizens who have been systemically and cynically ignored.

    The decline in standards in Wales can’t simply be blamed on compulsory Welsh or on the growth of WM schools. But both appear to be factors. Most of the rest of the problem can be laid firmly at the door of the WAG and its preference for comprehensive dumbing down and lack of selection, plus several years lack of meaningful testing which allowed the decline to pass relatively unnoticed for several years.

    Does the current wave of reforms address much of this? Not really – it is simply rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic when the iceberg has been visible for years. The WG is still sailing straight for it.

    By removing continuity of education with England, by making it virtually impossible to compare outcomes with England or the better performance in Northern Ireland, the WG has effectively obfuscated the decline. All we are left with is PISA every 3 years and I think that tells us all we need to know. It could tell us so much more and it is to be hoped the WG will allow NFER to make the EM-WM performance comparison from the 2018 PISA results which they failed to make from the PISA 2015 results. It’s going to hurt but everybody in Wales has the right to know.

  7. There is something intriguing about the Donaldson review and recommendations. Take this for instance from “Successful Futures chapter 2: “what does the evidence from Wales tell us”:-

    ” There is also a firm commitment to the Welsh language and
    bilingualism, to the principle of comprehensive, inclusive education, and to the
    inclusion of a Welsh dimension in the education of all children and young people.
    These positive views are reinforced by the responses to the call for evidence in
    which the most frequently mentioned ‘best things’ about education in Wales are
    reported as being ‘the Foundation Phase, the Welsh language and bilingualism
    [particularly among younger respondents] and the focus on Welsh identity and the
    Curriculum Cymreig’”

    So that is unequivocal yes? But when we look at the actual analysis done on the responses to “the Great Debate”, carried out by WISERD, this enthusiasm for Welsh language teaching is actually far from straight forward.

    “It is also notable that a relatively large proportion of respondents said that the presence of
    the Welsh language should be limited, particularly in removing its compulsory nature
    (especially in Key Stage 4). However, this needs to be considered against responses to other
    questions in the consultation exercise where the presence of the Welsh language in the
    curriculum was commended or needed greater attention.”

    In percentage terms these two conflicting “camps” were represented in the responses to the question : “Subjects to be added or removed from the curriculum”. Thus the most popular subject that the curriculum needed “more of” was PSE with the same percentage wanting more emphasis on “literacy and numeracy” and those two subjects attracted 12% each. A relatively much smaller proportion wanted “More Welsh language” just 4% in fact and this was the 10th most popular subject mentioned in the responses.
    What Donaldson in his paper forgot to mention was that the percentage wanting “LESS Welsh language” was the 5th most popular suggestion with 6% opting for this. 7% also wanted more Modern Foreign languages.

    Nevertheless, as we all now know, Donaldson insists on the popularity of Welsh, particularly amongst pupils (see above) so it’s worth looking at the actual pupil’s responses to the question on the popularity of Welsh; something that WISERD singled out as worth of comment:-

    Page 48.
    “In WISERD Education, we asked Year 8 and year 10 pupils to list up to three things they liked
    most about their school. Their answers endorse the findings from the Call for Evidence on
    the importance of social relationships at school. The pupils in WISERD Education said the
    ability to meet people and develop friendships were what they liked most about their
    school….In relation to specific subjects and Welsh language in particular, pupils in Year 6, 8 and 10
    were asked how much they like Welsh as a school subject.

    By year 10, towards the end of compulsory education, when asked “How much do you like Welsh as a school subject?” 41.8% answered “not at all” and 37.1% answered “a bit” thus, to put it in the context of all subject popularity, Welsh was the LEAST popular subject at the end of compulsory education closely rivalled only by MFLs and RE.

    As for the three best things in Welsh schools; when children were asked Welsh speaking and bilingualism came nowhere:-
    Schoolwork 47%, Friendships 16%, Staff 12%, Fun 7%….so on down to break time at 2%. So where’s this reported enthusiasm for Welsh?

    ” Some subjects appear frequently –
    Maths, History, Reading and especially PE. The opportunity to learn Welsh was also singled
    out – particularly for those in Welsh medium schools.”

    Yeah, right!

  8. A question for Martin Price:

    A while back I attended a conference where Professor Donaldson was unveiling his new curriculum on the purpose of education, exams and statistics together with some Welsh-speaking individuals from the Welsh Government’s Education Department.

    The conference was well attended and most of the delegates were the school governors (95%+) out of some 150 present at the event.

    At the end of Prof Donaldson presentation, I asked him a simple question:

    “You have done an immense volume of work, but would it not have been a lot simpler if you advised the Welsh Government to adopt the English system and work closely with their DfE as by doing that we’d have IMO a lot better education system and would have probably avoided, years of decline and the need for your input”?

    As soon as I ended my question there was an immediate silence in the hall and you’d have heard a pin drop!

    Prof Donaldson stood up in a reflective mood, saying nothing for a while, then said:

    “I have never been asked this question before and I have travelled wide across all parts of Wales”

    The second he uttered those words, he got a standing ovation from at least 90% of the delegates and the delegates who didn’t have instant translation headphones when Welsh was spoken!

    I realised that there was no further point of asking anything else but was genuinely surprised to witness the level of control the Welsh speakers had of our schools (Most were LEA appointed).

    So, Martin, in your opinion is it healthy/desirable/beneficial to have the Welsh speakers dominate Welsh school governance even in areas where there are not many Welsh speakers?

  9. Just to pick up on what J.Walker is saying above, about the very different circumstances experienced by Welsh medium and English medium schools.
    You will see from the data set ATISN: 11446

    Just how great the advantages are for Welsh medium schools, both primary and secondary. Not just as far as deprivation levels amongst pupils (measured by percentage eligibility for free school meals) but also the differences in pupil populations in other respects.
    When the Welsh government encourages parents to put their children into a Welsh medium school by touting dubious advantages enjoyed by Welsh/English bilinguals the adults who are listening are the educated middle class white population.
    Looking at the local authorities with the highest percentages of ethnic minority and foreign born pupils (Cardiff, Newport and Swansea) you can see that Welsh medium/English medium schooling leads to social division at the earliest stages.
    In Cardiff for example, in WM secondary schools, 8.4% of pupils are from a deprived background; the corresponding figure for EM schools is 22.3%. In WM secondary schools 8.5% of pupils are not “white British” but in EM schools 33% are not “white British”. 18.5% of pupils in WM Cardiff secondary schools are on the Special educational needs register but in EM schools that figure goes up to 24.8%. Looked after children? Missing almost entirely from WM Cardiff schools but 0.8% of EM Cardiff secondary pupils.
    In short in every local authority in Wales Welsh medium schools enjoy huge advantages which should put them head and shoulders above EM schools in levels of academic achievement. To add insult to injury, LAs such as Cardiff pour hundreds of thousands of extra revenue into feather-bedding WM schools. For Cardiff over 5 million pounds in Welsh medium supplement and pupil weighting in 10 years.
    But there are other ways in which the Welsh government have tried to massage the academic achievement levels in Welsh medium schools; look at:-

    The 2017 key stage 4 results for all Welsh middle and secondary schools.
    One of the most often used and important measures of KS4 achievement that the WG uses to compare school performance is the “Level 2 inclusive” or properly the percentage of year 11 pupils who gain 5 GCSEs or equivalent, at A*-C with Maths, English OR Welsh amongst those 5 qualifications.
    Now everyone knows that to compare two schools, the measure must be the same for both schools. So, since Dr Price is a governor from Vale of Glamorgan use the table to compare, say, St Richard Gwyn Cathoic High school with The WM secondary Ysgol Bro Morganwg. This is unfair from the start I would point out since only 7.7% of Bro Morganwg’s pupils are EFSM and 12.8% of the pupils at St Richard’s are EFSM. Even so parents will be impressed that 65.3% of GCSE pupils gained the level 2 inclusive in Bro Morganwg in 2017 compared with 53.3% at St Richards.
    But wait a minute; EM schools have one bite at the cherry as far as gaining the language qualification whereas WM schools have two, and, yes, 3 pupils at Bro Morganwg couldn’t reach the fairly low bar of a “C” in English language but because they did pass Welsh at a C or better they assist that schools pass percentage rate.
    This is now and always has been a Welsh government scam to inflate the academic standing of WM schools. Logically, to compare fairly, Ysgol Bro Morganwwg scored a pass rate of 62.8%.

    Comparing, say, all secondary schools with less than 7% of pupils eligible for free school meals. For level 2 inclusive with Welsh included WM schools had an average pass percentage of 74.3% whilst EM schools had an average pass percentage of 78%. The real comparison, leaving out Welsh from the measure shows that that group of WM schools attained 71.6% pass rate at Level 2 inclusive without their WG imposed advantage….EM schools remain at 78%.

    I’m all for a free and fair discussion of the merits of recent and upcoming changes to education policy in Wales but please could we raise the discussion above these unthinking dog whistle statements about the “inestimable” value of Welsh and the mythological advantages of Welsh medium schooling.

  10. I don’t know which dog “inestimable” is whistling to. It seems straightforward enough. The Welsh language is the principal element that makes Welsh culture distinctive and it is very hard to “estimate” a value for that. It is clear enough that J.Jones and John Walker put a very low value on it; indeed they seem rather to resent Welsh’s continued existence. There are those of us who think we have an obligation to pass the living language on to future generations.

    There should be no argument that the Welsh education system is badly flawed and that efforts to promote Welsh are often misdirected and counter productive. The social apartheid the present system occasions in places like Cardiff is undeniable. A constructive debate would engage everyone in how to provide an adequate, non-discriminatory and bilingual education for all children in this country. If there is any dog-whistling going on it concerns advertising the flaws in the system to imply that Welsh is not a valuable heritage but something archaic and superfluous that should not be inflicted on anyone not brought up in a Welsh speaking family.

    I boycotted this blog when J.Jones was unjustly banned so I defend his right to express his views and his posts usually contain facts. I wish he would apply his knowledge to devise solutions we can all accept, If his current attitudes gain majority support, however, Wales is finished as a distinctive cultural entity.

  11. R Tredwyn,

    I’m sure you must be aware that the Welsh language equality was imposed by Westminster and with very little to no debate on the implications behind the Welsh Language Act.

    The Act has delivered the Welsh language ‘equality’ which in practice made the Welsh language more equal and allowed the Welsh-speaking nationalists within the Welsh Labour Government to impose some obscene privileges, for now, the ‘More Equal’ minority.

    What’s happening in Wales is a crude form of Social Engineering that’s not going to work without further and more damage to the very fabric of Welsh Society as we knew it – The decline is already more than evident in Welsh Education/NHS and the Economy.

    So, back to the referendum and if most people choose the English as the first language of Wales then Welsh would become a cultural minority language with no compulsion behind it and used where practical and reasonable – In other words, we need democracy in Wales!

  12. The “dog whistle” is for people who cannot differentiate between valid criticism of some aspects of education policy in Wales and attacks on the Welsh language and culture. You Ross, as you always do, move swiftly to extrapolate anything I say into an “attack on the existence of Welsh”. Wales is blighted by such attitudes simply because it stifles the exact criticism that I am making. No one, least of all politicians, dare for one moment say a word against Welsh medium schooling. No one dares to suggest what should be an obvious alternative in Wales; complete freedom of choice for parents as to what language medium is used to educate their children, wherever those parents live.
    I will be constructive for you Ross; just imagine if the manifest failures of Welsh medium schools were rectifiable in short order. What if there is nothing fundamentally unsound in early immersion teaching in Wales and what we are experiencing is the long term effect of….lack of criticism of Welsh medium schools?
    Although I can, and have, looked closely at the many deceitful and devious ways that, first, the Welsh language Board and later the Welsh in Education department (ably abetted by RHAG and Cymdeithas Yr Iaith Cymraeg and sundry faux academics) have “sold” Welsh medium schooling I cannot do anything but point out those deceptions and the reality of the situation.
    It may be that the day the Welsh government admits that there is a problem and launches some detailed investigation into that problem is the day that WM schools sit up and take notice. I can’t and don’t say that WM schools can’t turn themselves around but I am as certain as I can be that without first recognising the problem there can’t be a solution.
    Buried in the WG mass of education documents is this:-

    With telling statements such as:-
    “Since 2006 in science the proportion of students achieving level 5 or 6 has
    declined, from 11 per cent in 2006 to 5 per cent in 2015. We have seen an
    increase in the proportion of learners below level 2, from 18 per cent in 2006
    to 22 per cent in 2015. A key factor driving the decline in Wale’s average
    science score since 2006 is a decline in the performance of its highest
    In mathematics, only 5 per cent of Wales’ pupils achieved level 5 or 6, a
    smaller percentage than the OECD average of 11 per cent. There has been
    little change in this distribution between PISA 2006 and 2015.

    In reading, only 4 per cent of Wales’ pupils achieved PISA Level 5 or 6, a
    smaller percentage than the OECD average of 8 per cent.”
    And what is a contributing factor?

    ” the proportion of Welsh medium pupils
    amongst high-achievers is five percentage points lower than amongst non high-achievers
    (12% versus 17%).”

    For all the lauding of WM schools, at every key stage we see the same pattern; failure to achieve at the highest level. Failure to reach the potential of our children. This is true of all Welsh education to a degree of course; years of mediocrity because there can be NO CRITICISM of the sacred Welsh way of doing things. English medium schools carry the brunt of dissatisfaction however while Welsh medium schools are sacrosanct JUST BECAUSE any valid look at their performance is immediately depicted as an “attack on the language”.

    The Welsh medium schools apparently MUST be the spearhead of the aim for one million Welsh speakers by 2050 but, although I may not be around in 2050, I will tell you now that, in that year, the percentage of the population who have Welsh as their preferred language will be no higher than 8%.

    So Ross, you want to see the problem, look in the mirror!

  13. Sadly the IWA has decided not to publish my response to Ross Tredwyn. He deserved a response and the IWA, which boasts about its uncensored unbiased discussion platform, should be ashamed to hide factual information which does not support their own highly biased Welsh agenda.

  14. Jon, I’ve made this point earlier in this thread. We are a small team, and it can sometimes take a few days to moderate comments.

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