27/11/2013 The Wales Report


With the results of international league tables for educational performance about to be announced, will Wales achieve its hoped-for results? Presented by Bethan Rhys Roberts.

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Tonight on the Wales Report: Testing times for Welsh education - with the


results of international league tables soon to be announced will


Wales make the grade? What can be done to tackle poverty


in rural communities across Wales? We have a special report.


And what will the vote on independence in Scotland mean for


devolution here in Wales? Stay with us for the Wales Report.


Good evening and welcome to the Wales Report - the programme that


examines the issues that affect lives in Wales and questions the


decision makers. Education in Wales is currently at a critical juncture.


Five of Wales 22 local education authorities are in special measures,


and yesterday AM's clashed over the future of education provision in


Wales. Next week, Wales faces the next test, as the international


league tables for 15-year-olds known as PISA will be published. In the


last round, three years ago, Wales was ranked lowest of the UK


countries in the tests that compare literacy, maths and science. The


poor performance led to wide-ranging changes to education here but last


week Education Minister Huw Lewis warned that parents should not


expect to see a great improvement. Here's our Education Correspondent


Arwyn Jones. We live in and disconnected --


interconnect world. Education is a commodity for governments, a badge


of honour as well as a tool to attract businesses and the Welsh


government is no different. At the heart of it all, P. In Wales we have


always been rather proud of our education system. This idea of a


self educated working class who saw books out of poverty has always been


a large part of our national consciousness but we have come a


long way from those days of chalk and back boards and next week we


find out how Wales has fared in the so-called PISA rankings. When the


last results came out, it was a wake-up call.


These results are disappointing. They show an unacceptable fall in


our overall performance. Everyone involved in the education sector in


Wales should be alarmed. There can be no alibis and no excuses.


As a consequence, we have seen a raft of changes to the education


system. There have been changes to the way the information we get from


our schools is measured. Children as young as seven now sit and examine


every year. Schools are placed into bands and teachers follow a few


framework in the classroom, or following on from those results


three years ago. There might be another answer...


Taking the government 's lead, some schools like this one in Carmarthen


now include PISA style questions in their lessons. Not just to improve


our standing in the league tables but they say to improve education


overall. Having results compared with


students all over the world, it is not the easiest thing to hear when


you are being tested but at the same time, I think that is quite good


because it is not just trying to beat the other countries. It is


trying to work out who's educational system is working better than


others. In the PISA questions, you have so many sources of information,


they have to bring their everyday experiences into answering these


questions. What we feel these people have been doing over the last two


years is progressing as far as using their own strategies.


On one hand it is never again because I feel like I am being


judged but then it is like a beast because I'm really competitive. --


like a boost. Despite these changes and the


expectations of these pupils, education Minister Huw Lewis has


already started preparing us for disappointment when the latest


results emerge next week. The next results will relate to


2012, when hardly any of those programmes for improvements have had


a chance to bite into the system, if you like. I would anticipate that


any realistic person would look to the next set of PISA results with


caution. The Welsh and have put a lock of


emphasis on climbing up the international league table. They


want to be in the top 20 countries by 2015, the next round of tests.


That was always going to be a huge challenge and some are now saying it


is a test to file but when I recently caught up with the head of


PISA in London, he agreed it was not in possible.


It is a significant challenge but at the same time, if you look at the


most rapidly improving education systems, that pace of progress is


rarely possible if you think about Poland or at the bottom of the


league, Brazil. It is one of the lowest performing countries. The


pace of change there is the one that could bring a place like Wales well


into the top 20. There is hope that the standing of


Wales in the international rankings could improve but to throw a further


convocation into this mix, there are now some who say this PISA game is


one we may not want to pay. This is just one set of data and


international comparisons. This is all they are and they were never


meant to define an education system. PISA say that is not what they are


for but the minister chose to use them to say we have a crisis in our


education system. The question that needs to be asked is do we want an


education system that is fit for purpose or fit for PISA?


Arwyn Jones reporting. Joining me now is education expert and advisor


to the Welsh Government, Professor David Reynolds.


Good evening. What do you expect next week? I haven't seen the


figures and identical them to be particularly good.


I wouldn't be surprised if we got the wooden spoon and were bottom of


the four UK home nations, as it were. I think it is possible we may


even do slightly worse. Further decline?


It is possible because a lot of the policies are only beginning to


impact now. So we are talking about a three year


gap but that was in it -- was not enough time?


Three years in a short period of time but you are trying to do in


three years what wasn't done in the preceding ten. If you look about the


world, governments did an awful lot wherever you look and we tended not


to. What we did was with the Twickenham, not teaching.


After devolution, you say that we took our eyes off the ball in


education? We looked at the wrong ball. We


changed the curriculum and things like the Welsh baccalaureate.


Absolutely fine. We did not realise and I think we were stupid, that we


did not actually get the teaching methods improving.


So the Welsh government was stupid in terms of dictation?


I said we, which includes everyone involved in education.


They run it! You can't do the curriculum without


doing the teaching and in most societies did was curriculum reform


but they empowered teachers. They gave teachers capacity to be better


professionals. We are doing that now but we didn't then.


We are talking about a period where Jane Davidson was education


Minister. She scrapped testing and so forth. She brought in the


foundation phase but was she wrong to stop testing?


My own view is yes, that harmed us. There is evidence done by


researchers from Bristol and my own view is that you need demand to


operate in a country, which is parents demanding that schools get


better, as well as supply, and what we didn't do was put performance


data into the public domain so the parents would know what is going on.


The best way of improving the school system is for parents to push to


improve it and for them to choose. We didn't put the data out to help


them do that. For parents in Wales Today who are


clearly worried about Little Johnny heading to school every day, read


there is something seriously wrong with the Welsh education system. We


read the bad news on an almost daily basis. What is the message? I'll be


getting back on track and by 2015 all will be well? Is that little


comfort to today's parents? In my business we expect things to


get better in education when things like attendance start to pick up and


children start going back to school and that is happening in Wales. I


sense there is change but after ten years of May be doing not the right


thing, it is getting an awful lot of things done in the three years which


is the problem. Will be PISA results in 2015 be


better? Will all have these things kicked in?


I think they will be better but I think the 2015 testing which is


under two years from now, that 2015 testing will be in science, where we


start with a big advantage because we actually are on the world average


performance for science. Our best chance ever is to get it right with


science for the testing in 2015 but, with respect, I think for 2015


to be good, there are things we have to do.


If you ask teachers, they say there is an awful lot of change going on


and it is never settled. It is never allowed to bed in. They say they


need politicians to back off. Would that work?


I think it is reasonable for politicians to say, look, we have


announced everything we can do and let back off and see if parents can


improve things. Let's actually see if the system starts moving. I think


in the next year, someone has to make the judgement about whether


things are improving fast enough. At the moment it is the right decision


that we let things bed in but if it hasn't worked a year from now, we


have to do more to get a good result in 2015.


Education in Wales used to be a batch of honour. You can't say that,


really, today, can you? Will those days return?


I think yes. If we are clever and we learn. I think in Wales we speak as


though we are always a failure in education but we saved a minority


language. We save Welsh through the education system so we did something


right. In the 1970s we ran a fine education system here. It is not


that we don't know how to educate children but somewhere something


went wrong. We can be discover that and I would be interested in seeing


the Welsh government find out why we have in successful with the Welsh


language and we are a success in science and maths and reading and we


should tell everybody more about what we need to do.


Thank you. The divide between urban and rural


Wales is wider than ever before with poverty a blight on rural


communities across the country. The Wales Report has seen figures that


show one organisation geared to help rural areas has paid out three times


more money in the first nine months of this year than in the same period


last year. David Williams has been back to his roots in North Wales to


discover what has been done to reverse the fortunes of a


countryside in decline. The melodious tones emanating from


this primary school in North Wales helped to dampen rather more


disturbing notes which now resonate in the beautiful countryside in


which these countries are growing up in. It doesn't take a scientist to


tell you that this school is going to close pretty school. -- pretty


soon. When you get into that downward spiral of that school


closing, there is no teachers and there is less implement so there is


less need for people. Poverty and hardship now threaten to


bite a whole new generation of young people. Back in the day, I used to


sit at this desk and I was expect to be a model pupil because the man


standing at the front, the, was my father. In return for personal


effort, he infused us with hope. Many of my fellow pupils were the


sons and daughters of those who farmed the land around the school.


Generations before them had done the same. They had struggled, certainly,


but there was no doubt that those who wished to continue on the farm


would be allowed to do so. That is no longer a certainty. The school


now has just 20 pupils, only half of them have parents with any


connection with farming and only one lives on a farm. The way of life is


in danger of disappearing. This man, aged 83, has farmed here all


his life. I remember him. He was an enduring site in the field and on


the hills around here. A constant in the landscape. His family have been


tenants here for over a century in what was a Welsh speaking heartland.


He had hoped that one of his two children would take over from him


but the farm's for income now make that unlikely. In Welsh, his anguish


of choice, he explained to me that his children's decision is a cause


of pain and anguish for him and his wife.


He is himself on the point of giving up farming. Many more like him are


on the edge of the financial abyss, forced to look for help. Their


plight is reflected in part of the dramatic rise of the numbers seeking


assistance from the Royal agricultural benevolent institution,


a charity. The scale of the problem becomes clear when you read this,


and internal briefing drawn up by the institution, and the figures


here have not been released publicly until now. What they show is a


worrying trend. In Wales, in the first nine months of this year, the


amount of grants paid out to farmers in need by the institution was three


times as many as in the same period last year. The figures translate


into cash hand-outs being given to almost 100 working farmers. Compared


with 29 last year. Those statistics are impersonal. What are the


consequences in human terms? How do they reflect themselves in the


stories and the problems which lie behind them? People do not like to


ask for money from charities. This man is the benevolent institution's


welfare officer for North Wales. He has seen first hand what one bad


winter and soaring feed and fuel prices can do to reverse a former's


fortunes. If somebody has lost maybe 200 lambs, they would be losing


money in sales. In terms of an ordinary person working in a factory


or an office, ?15,000 off your salary equates to ?300 a week, would


you are I be able to manage? That's how difficult it has been for


farmers. Some people have come to the end of the road and there have


been cases where people have taken their own lives because they have


given up, haven't there? I have come across people who have been suicidal


this year. Poverty in the countryside is not only to be found


on the farms. In this part of the world, it further scarred the


industrial landscape. This town has the unenviable title of being


Wales's low wage title -- low-wage capital. It was once one of the most


important slate producing towns in the world. It is not all doom and


gloom. A considerable amount of public money has helped the people


of this town help themselves. Roughly ?5 million has been spent


here over the last five years, but is it enough to persuade young


people that there is a future for them here in this strikingly


beautiful but sometimes economic league -- economic league RF part of


the countryside? They are coming in their hundreds,


mountain bikers from all over Britain careering down pads once


trodden by miners, a dangerous pastime, and one which is producing


once again vital revenue. The regeneration project has capitalised


on a national resource, in the hope of turning slate into a new source


of revenue for a town that has paid a heavy price for roofing the world.


We are developing schemes here, the community are developing schemes


here, not someone from outside, ought plonking some sort of holiday


park here. The profit is invested back into the community.


Regeneration project have to have a life aeons the first grant if they


are to be truly meaningful. Creating a dependency culture is of little


use in securing the long-term future of our town which believes it is on


the up after decades of decline. The local MP believes that part of the


answer is to re-establish a quango style rural body with direct links


and input into regen arising -- really energising the --


reenergising the economy. A quango, but a very good one, if I am honest.


They did a lot of good work, assisting people to diversify,


assisting small businesses to take on new staff and being able to


borrow within reason. I want something similar to be brought


back. We need to revisit that. While school's out, the jury is as well on


a whole new generation in the countryside. Pupils in schools like


this one deserves to be treated what -- given what we were given when we


were pupils here. Hope, and the tools to realise our dreams.


That special report from David Williams. Yesterday the Scottish


Government launched detailed plans for independence, outlining the


focus of the referendum campaign which will concentrate on Scotland's


future - on jobs, economic growth and security. The vote will take


place next year, on September the 18th, but what will the outcome mean


for devolution here in Wales? I'll be discussing that with my guests in


a moment. But first here's Scotland's First Minister Alex


Salmond setting out his stall. These things follow as night follows day,


Scotland have indicated their willingness in this document that we


will accept the financing of some of the massive obligations,


liabilities, that have been built up by Alistair Darling and no George


Osborne. That is predicated on the share of assets. One of these assets


is the Bank of England. If Scotland vote yes and wants to keep the


pound, Wales's first Minister would want to be consulted. If one part of


the currency union decides to leave, it is a matter for them of


course. But if an independent nation wants to join, that is a matter for


the people of Wales, Northern Ireland and England. I would want to


have a say in that. Good evening to my guests. First of all, we will get


onto the pound shortly, but let's paint a picture, next September.


Scotland says yes, what happens in Wales? If there is a yes vote, you


will have two years of negotiating between the UK government or the


government for the rest of the UK and Scotland. Between now and then,


there will be a lot of heat and not much liked being generated because


both sides will be naturally spinning their side of the argument.


If Scotland goes its own way, I think for Wales, we did not need to


be too nervous about this. After all, Ireland's left the United


Kingdom in 1922, that did not create great issues. One thing for us is a


concern, but Scotland will get much more weight and momentum to the


devolution process in the case of Scotland and Wales, because Wales


attended to trail behind Scotland. There is that concern that of


Scotland goes its own way, that may cease. On the other hand, the people


of Wales will be able to observe how successful or otherwise an


independent Scotland is over the next five to ten years. That may


impact the views of Welsh voters regarding further powers to Wales.


The crucial relationship will be Wales and England. We do not know


what it will be called. Will we be subsumed? It is a difficult position


Wales would be in because it is a matter of getting your voice heard,


including Scotland, the three Celtic parts of the UK have 10 million


people out of a total of 64 million. England has 54 million.


Overwhelmingly dominant already. Take Scotland out, you have the


Celtic part of the United Kingdom. Suddenly England becomes 92% of the


total. It is going to be very difficult. Particularly for Wales,


although Wales is bigger than Northern Ireland, but Northern


Ireland has a special status. Wales doesn't. Getting Wales's voice heard


is quick to be three times harder than it is now and it is already


very hard. The currency is a huge issue. Clearly the pound is the


issue up in Edinburgh at the moment. Should Wales have a saying whether


or not they can keep the pound? In theory, Wales should have a say. But


nobody is going to listen very much to Wales. No disrespect on this


issue, it is going to be very much London, Westminster Whitehall, Bank


of England discussion. Wales will not count in that at all. I do not


agree with that. The critical thing is whether Scotland would be allowed


to join the currency union, the sterling zone, and cut corporation


tax. That would be unprecedented. They would want to see the taxes


that people pay no -- move it to Edinburgh and you will pay lower


corporation tax. It would be quite proper for him to say hang on a


minute. I do not know what the relationship is, but the issue is


this. If our first Minister says we would object to Scotland staying in


the sterling zone and cutting corporation tax, if they agree to


keep corporation tax at the same level, OK, if we are allowed as well


to cut corporation tax in Wales so we have the same advantage, in other


words rewarding Scotland for breaking away from the United


Kingdom and penalising Wales. Scenario B, what happens here to


mark the SNP is finished, isn't it? I don't think so, I have spent a lot


of time in Scotland. Certainly I think it depends on the outcome,


quite how much the defeat would be for the SNP. Let's assume Scotland


loses the referendum, the SNP does, there will be a move for more


devolution to Scotland. Precisely how far is debatable. That is the


irony, a no vote could lead to more powers for Scotland and Wales. I


think it would lead to Alex Salmond's resignation. He will say,


look, he will think that Scots will want to keep him, the neutrals will


want to keep them as well as the SNP. You know him very well, this is


a massive gamble, isn't it? It is and he is a gambler, but he will at


the anti-by saying he will resign and I think he will resign if they


lose the vote. Nicola Sturgeon will take over which is OK. The key thing


is that in that guidebook, the White Paper they published yesterday,


which is intended to paint a picture, let's get our hands on the


revenue, cut corporation tax and increase public expenditure by


getting our hands on the oil revenue, if Scotland votes no, are


you going to say, he has painted a very positive picture, will the no


campaign paint an equally positive picture of Scotland stays in the


union by offering increased devolution? In a word, how will it


go? It will be much closer than the polls indicate. I think now will


win. But if yes wins, it will put Wales on a difficult position and


the constitution of the rump UK into a very unstable situation. I hope it


is a yes vote. I look forward to campaigning for a yes vote up there.


Thank you very much. That's it for this week's programme.


Huw Edwards will be back in two weeks' time with a special programme


with Health Minister Mark Drakeford. And of course you can get in touch


with any questions for the Health Minister, the issues discussed


tonight, or indeed anything else. Email us at: And we are on Twitter.


Thanks for watching. Diolch am wylio. Good night. Nos da.


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