We Should Not Be Fearful of Being Ambitious. the Young People Who Are the Future of Wales Deserve No Less; September Is Welsh Education Month in the Western Mail. We're Asking Leading Members of the Schools, Colleges, Higher Education, Political and Academic Scene to Debate the Following: Education in Wales Must Do Better. Discuss. Today Brian Lightman of the Association of School and College Leaders Responds to the Challenge

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), September 24, 2011 | Go to article overview
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We Should Not Be Fearful of Being Ambitious. the Young People Who Are the Future of Wales Deserve No Less; September Is Welsh Education Month in the Western Mail. We're Asking Leading Members of the Schools, Colleges, Higher Education, Political and Academic Scene to Debate the Following: Education in Wales Must Do Better. Discuss. Today Brian Lightman of the Association of School and College Leaders Responds to the Challenge


Ten years ago the paving document The Learning Country was published.

This set out an exciting, highly ambitious and convincing vision for the future of education in Wales which had been developed in partnership with the whole education community and therefore reflected an exceptionally high degree of consensus and sign-up.

scene At this early stage in the devolution process this created a powerful momentum to take forward our education service and make it genuinely worldclass.

do the As a headteacher at that time I was inspired and driven by that convincing aspiration which applies today as much as it did 10 years ago. Alongside colleagues across the whole of Wales, we worked hard to make it a reality with considerable success.

of So why is it 10 years later we still believe that education in Wales must do better? To answer that question I will explore some aspects of the implementation of that powerful vision and what happened in the ensuing 10 years.

One of the fundamental difficulties with devolution has been the inherent tension between the wish to develop a distinctive Welsh agenda and the fact that we are still part of the UK and British education system. There is considerable mobility between England and Wales, with teachers, parents and pupils experiencing both systems and, in many areas of Wales, neighbouring schools on either side of the border competing for pupils. Inevitably and understandably comparisons will be made.

The problem, of course, as the two systems have diverged, is that those comparisons have not always compared like with like and this has been particularly acute as the English education system has adopted a very different set of priorities and preferred outcomes. The trick I think that has been missed on both sides of Offa's Dyke is that this fact has been ignored and that the opportunity to learn from each other has therefore not been taken.

Consequently some successes in Wales have not been achieved in England.

On the other hand the Welsh education service has fallen behind England in areas where they have clearly been more successful than us. Nowhere has this been more evident than in the statistical measures that reflect how performance in national examinations and international assessments such as Pisa (Programme for International Student Assessment).

In Wales there is a healthily broad conception of what a good education means. In terms of a secondary school this means a balance between knowledge, skills, understanding and attitudes with a strong emphasis on a broad curriculum.

Nowhere is this reflected more vividly than in the Welsh Baccalaureate which embeds the development of employability skills into the teaching of every subject and which recognises the crucial importance of those aspects of education which make us better citizens - community service, personal and social education and an understanding of the society in which we belong and the role we have to play.

These may be lofty ideals but the need for them has never been more evident than in August as we have all watched with horror some of the events in London and other cities. But while we have been doing this and many other worthwhile things have we taken our eye off the ball with other developments happening in England? During the past 10 years in England performance tables have driven the curriculum and many outcomes in our schools and we ignore this at our peril. ASCL would argue that this has created many perverse incentives and an unhealthy emphasis on driving pupils through the C/D borderline and into some qualifications which have been selected on the basis of the points they carry in the league tables rather than their value in terms of the future employability of the recipients.

In the context of Michael Gove's English Baccalaureate, which is no more than another performance indicator for an arbitrary set of GCSE results, there is a passionate desire in England for a similar kind of qualification to the Welsh Baccalaureate to be developed.

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We Should Not Be Fearful of Being Ambitious. the Young People Who Are the Future of Wales Deserve No Less; September Is Welsh Education Month in the Western Mail. We're Asking Leading Members of the Schools, Colleges, Higher Education, Political and Academic Scene to Debate the Following: Education in Wales Must Do Better. Discuss. Today Brian Lightman of the Association of School and College Leaders Responds to the Challenge
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