11/06/2014 The Wales Report


A special interview with education minister Huw Lewis. And a look back at the first 15 years of devolution in Wales. Part of BBC Wales's Measuring Devolution week.

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Minister, Huw Lewis. And why is there such confusion amongst Welsh


voters about the system of government we have? We will be


talking to Rhodri Morgan and Lord Ellis about the legacy of the past


15 years. Ellis about the legacy of the past


Good evening. On tonight?s programme, educational


standards in Wales have been the subject


of much concern in recent years. Rankings in the international


league tables, known as PISA, have slipped. Wales is the worst


performing nation in the UK. And the latest in a long series


of reports has concluded that not enough is being done to support


teachers and that the Welsh government


lacks a long-term vision for the future of education in


Wales. We?ll be talking to the education


minister, Huw Lewis, in a moment. But first, Professor


Richard Dougherty, a former senior Welsh government


adviser on education, He says that while certain policy


initiatives begin with the best of intentions, the Welsh Government?s


implementation of changes over the past 15 years has been


inadequate. A major review of the school system


says the Welsh government lacks a long-term vision. Wales is ranked


43rd... When you dare to be different and stick to a Welsh of


doing things bad reports can be hard to stomach. And now one of the Welsh


government's was trusted education advisers has admitted that policy


makers must try harder. We have to do things better and show that we


are doing things better. Only then can we have the kind of education


system we can be proud of. Since 1999 Welsh government made some


major changes. Lee tables and SATS have been abolished, but the results


have not matched the enthusiasm for change. In their rush to reinvent


Welsh education, have the people in here tried to do too much, too soon?


Much of the effort in the early years of devolution was about


establishing the main planks of a new education system. There was less


attention given band should have been to whether those planks were


sound and whether they were affecting what was happening in


schools. In 2004 the professor chaired a group that recommended the


abolition of SATS. He said they should be replaced with a system


where teachers assess their pupils. It was one of the Welsh


government's biggest changes, but it is said that schools were not given


enough support to make it work. They did not spend anything like enough


money on supporting the new system, so it didn't work as well as it


should have done. The inspector Prib -- provided a report on the new


system fibres after it was initiated and they said that that was patchy.


Of course it would be, if you just handed it over to schools. Taking on


an entire education system was a big ask for This Place in 1999. Since


then, many have wondered whether lack of expertise and focus within


these walls has been a barrier to success, and are they still causing


problems today? They did not have the long-term, strategic learning


that has to be in place. It is only slowly getting there. That is one of


the disappointments, that policies that should be fully in place by


now, like a foundation phase, are still, as a recent report showed,


working to some extent, but the policies are still evidently patchy.


Changes to policy have been constant over the past 15 years. It is argued


that support for teachers has been inconsistent. And that helping those


in the classroom could be the key to better results. The countries with


the highest performance have a high-quality and well supported


teaching profession, who recruit some very able people and when they


are in post they get was a training and support and they appreciate


that. We have not had that in Wales. We need to put the quality of


teaching and teacher is right at the top of the agenda. Since devolution,


Wales has had quite a Labour education ministers. Each has had


different ideas and some have been critical of their predecessors. It


is argued that what has been lacking in general is an overall vision for


Welsh education, one that everyone understands and is committed to.


When schools have a sense of what they are trying to achieve, pupils,


teachers, parents and everyone signs up, this is what we are for, this is


what we're trying to do, let's go for it. That is a microcosm of what


you'd be happening across system. But you do not just say that this is


what you want to do. You go through with it and you keep people going,


moving forward. We are doing well now but we need to do better, we


need this sense of wanting to improve all the time.


Earlier I spoke to the education minister Huw Lewis


at a PISA conference at Cardiff?s City Hall.


I started by asking him if there was a danger of us becoming too obsessed


with measures such as PISA. I don't think so. PISA tells us some


important things we need to absorb, lessons we need to learn. It gives


us a global vision of where Wales stands and that is very important.


We work in a global economy. It is important for the future of our


young people. It gives us an insight into how Welsh education is


delivering the skills that young people need as opposed to the


knowledge that they need to accumulate, the skills they need to


employ an order to succeed. Are you confident you are taking the


measures that will improve our performance in these PISA league


tables? How confident are you? We have made great steps over the last


few years. We are also seeing great change within the system, the


biggest reforms in Welsh educational history. And addressing, critically,


the quality of teaching in the classroom. Everything comes back to


that, quality of teaching. So many experts have said to us, whilst you


concentrate on league tables, you are missing the main point, which is


that if you have not got the right quality in the classroom, it is not


going to happen. In practical terms, what are you doing to improve the


quality of teaching, and are you being strong enough to counter some


of the resistance that we have seen from some teaching unions to think


you're having too much a go? There was a big contrast between the way


that we do things in Wales and what is happening in England. We have


gone to great efforts to ensure that we have a collaborative relationship


with the work force. Just yesterday, I announced a new deal for teachers


that marks a step change in a way that we do business, as regards the


offer to teachers and professional support they would -- they receive.


For too long, Welsh teachers have been the line on ending up in a


school that was switched on to teacher training and professional


development. If you landed in a good environment, that was lucky for you.


If not, then you were not so lucky. We will be passing legislation in


the autumn to make sure that we have a level playing field, that every


school in Wales has access to world class training throughout their


career. It has taken Labour in Wales 15 years to get to that point. Why?


There probably is a fair criticism to say that in the early years of


the Assembly there was a great deal of concentration upon, for instance,


the bricks and mortar of the educational system, bringing it up


to a decent standard, in that regard, and there should have been


more attention in terms of building capacity within the system. Critical


capacity. Teachers, at the coal face. And that is what this series


of reforms and the conference today hinges upon. So you're trying to put


right what your colleagues have done wrong in the past? This is a process


of development. My eyes are fixed firmly on the future. A great deal


of good has been done in the last 15 years. We are building an education


system that has all the essential elements to be world eating. --


world beating. In a global context. For that, we rely upon the quality


of the workforce. When you talk about the investment and support,


was a have said that the foundation phase has done of good wings. It is


innovative, if his pioneering in many ways. And it has taken best


practice. When it comes to an end, you fall off a cliff, then the


classroom environment is in crisis. You have not provided resources to


allow transition from the foundation phase into what we might call more


formal learning. What are you doing about that? I dispute the use of the


word "crisis", by the way. That kind of language does not help the


debate. The transition from the foundation phase itself, right


throughout the school career, if you like, other young person, the


consistent messages coming through from outside observers. In my term


of office I see my role as grappling with that central, distinctively


Welsh problem. We have nuggets of excellence in the Welsh system. My


job, as I see it, is to make sure that we dig them out and spread that


best practice across the system as a whole. I was told, don't expect any


major reforms from the Minister before the Assembly elections. Is


that right? The reform process happens every day. The changes


around professional development that I talked about, you will see the new


regime clicking into place, the regulation and the laws behind


that, coming into force this September. We are engaged every day


in this agenda, and moving it forward. What else are you going to


put in place before the 2016 elections? We are revising GCSEs by


2015. We will take on board the lessons that we have learned from


PISA. That will transmit skills to young people so that they get the


best chances in life. Education systems are big, complicated beasts,


and dealing with complexity takes time. There is not a day that goes


by that we do not move forward. You mentioned the possibility of a gap


year sabbatical for some pupils. Was that a moment of madness are good


idea? We are not talking about a gap year in the sense that an older


teenager might experience that sort of thing. Professor Graham Donaldson


has looked at the curriculum, as a whole. He's looking at a bespoke,


for Wales curriculum. The national curriculum is now very creaky.


Within that, the professor is taking a look at ways in which there might


be a point in the curriculum where young people can experience


inspiration, if you like, about pursuing some personal enthusiasm


which could be artistic or scientific, or committed to sport. I


think we need to create a little bit more elbow room in terms of what


schools are able to expose young people do, but also, critically, to


draw in other partners. We have seen the arts Council for Wales stepping


in with a new offer for schools in terms of creative people, artists,


musicians and others going into schools to take those young people


out of their day-to-day experience, to experience something new. So my


talented 11-year-old, she wants to be an artist, she can out of school


for one term and pursue some artistic interest. Is that what you


are saying? It is conceivable. That is one way of putting it. The


logistics are giving me a headache. Multiplying this across all the


schools in Wales. We cannot do this without partners who are committed.


The Welsh school system has its level of resources. Resources are


not going to appear out of a clear blue sky to pay for new things in


any great quantity. But for the parent watching, we are not doing


well in this area, what we want is more concentration in the classroom,


more focus in the classroom, and this minister is talking about


taking people out of the classroom to pursue what we loosely call


nonacademic interests. They can be very academic. Where is the logic


there? This is about giving ourselves some elbow room to draw in


partners that could lead our young people through experiences that can


inspire them for life. We could be talking about very academic avenues


for more able and talented children were universities are stepping up in


a much more proactive role. We could be talking about the private sector


and away they inspired the business people of the future. We will be


talking to the sports Council, the arts Council, the museums and


Galleries of Wales. Not just the wider public sector, but also the


wider world of the private sector and communities. Back to a PISA


thought, will the next set of results show an improvement in


Wales? I am confident they will. The extent to which we will see an


improvement depends on the choices, particularly lead professionals like


the one present at the conference today, headteachers critically, the


extent to which they choose to embrace this agenda around school to


school working, peer-to-peer working, making should go the doors


of their schools are flung open so that they can measure themselves


against the very best ideas that are operating in many instances just


down the road. There is excellence everywhere you turn in Wales, we


just need to set it free. Has 15 years of devolution


resulted in greater public No, according to the prominent


economist and former Welsh He believes that a lack


of understanding over devolved powers is leading to confusion among


voters and that the Labour Party, which has been in power since 1999,


needs to do more to re-invigorate We?ll be discussing this


and discussing the past 15 years with the former


First Minister Rhodri Morgan and the Assembly?s first Presiding Officer


Lord Elis-Thomas in just a moment. But first,


here?s Gerald Holtham?s assessment. There are lots of good things


devolution has brought to Wales but it has not improved the involvement


in the democratic process. Perhaps because it has missed out on


political excitement. The tension and the close race, the drama and


heated debate. Of all the parties in Wales, the Labour Party is the one


that can best afford to start a debate and the one that is taken


most seriously when it is in many parts of Wales, elections are almost


a formality for the Labour Party, and as a result the public is left


dosing. In its industrial heyday, the same used to be, what Aberdare


things today, Wales thinks tomorrow. The valleys is Labour. I vote for


them only because my parents did and this is a labour community. Because


I have always done it, it would take a lot to discourage me to vote for


somebody else. I vote Labour. Don't ask me who the name is. My parents


were labour, I have always been Labour and my husband has always


been Labour. It goes against the grain to vote Conservative. I've


been usually vote Labour. Why? I have voted for Labour for years and


I don't think there is anybody else. I do read the leaflet but I think it


is just habit more than anything. Unlike their counterparts in


London, some of our ministers are not so keen to appear on television


and be interviewed. They are quite reluctant and that means they are


less familiar to the voters, they are a little bit more remote. And


even when they do speak, it is in the conventional political way,


often defensive or not -- knocking other parties. There is never a hint


of the internal debates or discussions so the public is


inclined not to pay any attention. What Labour needs to generate public


interest is a good argument with itself. Ministers should open up and


speak candidly about the issues they face. After all, they don't have an


easy job. Money is short. It would help them as well as the public if


they were able to really talk about those issues and not pretend that


everything in the garden is lovely. It is not as if they are facing a


hostile press here who jump on everything. Good or bad, we don't


have a backbench in Wales which is snapping up ministers' actions.


There is no Cardiff equivalent to the dramatic revolt we sometimes see


in Westminster. Without much genuine competition, Labour needs to be its


own best rival. Instead of disguising or suppressing interparty


debates, it needs to a them. Interesting politics attracts


interesting personalities. Giving them room to an ash express


themselves would interest people and make the Welsh government more


exciting. Then you capture the public's attention and they can


engage in debates about what we want for Wales.


The economist and former government adviser Gerald Holtham.


An ICM poll conducted this week for BBC Wales found that many are


Roughly half of those surveyed knew the NHS was the responsibility


43% said that the UK government was in charge of health in Wales.


Understanding of education fared better -


over half correctly said that the Welsh government was in charge.


And overall the poll found that just 34% of people felt that devolution


had led to an improvement in the way Wales is governed,


with just under half saying it had not made much difference.


Here to discuss all of this is former First Minister,


Labour?s Rhodri Morgan, and the Assembly?s first Presiding Officer,


Rhodri Morgan, do you consider there to be a big problem with levels of


public in gauge when with politics in Wales? I think it is true


throughout the Western world. People have lost that sense of civic duty


that they had just after World War II when you had phenomenal levels of


participation in elections. Everybody considered it their duty


to go there and take their sons and daughters to make sure that they


voted as well. That has gradually eroded over the years. Is it


particularly a Welsh problem post-devolution? No. People might


have had the ambition that devolution would restore a localised


interest in Welsh politics in particular, but I don't think that


has happened and I think it was unrealistic to expect evolution to


create a surge of interest and participation because there is a


dance going on between the media in Wales, who pretty much ignore, or


the media that people read, the newspapers, by and large they are


produced in London, they don't cover issues in Wales at all, and you just


don't get that bouncing back between the public, the politicians and the


media to create this virtuous circle of interest in politics. If we go


back to 1999, there was a sense of expectation and hope and that we


would have a new model of politics, not a confrontational chamber, a


chamber where it was all to do with open debate and engaging people.


What has gone wrong? I don't think anything has gone wrong. I think the


people of Wales in every opportunity they have had have voted for the


system in all the opinion polls to be maintained and developed. What we


started with was a compromise. It was a constitutional mess. But then,


had it not been a mess, if they had been clarity about the difference


between the Welsh government and the National Assembly, between the


Parliamentary side of things and the executive 's side, we probably would


not have won the referendum. What we have seen is a progression in the


deepening of democracy. Having said that, I do think that now is the


time for a fresh communications drive by the National Assembly


Commission alongside the Welsh government, the kind of thing we did


before the last referendum when we did go out and try to get people to


register to vote and stimulator interest. As regards to the business


of being noncontroversial and a corporate democracy, that has gone


as well because there are people, especially in my party, relish


opposition. They don't seem to understand that politics is about


taking responsibility. Labour also relishes being in power and


preferably without sharing power because that is the kind of model we


have seen. It was suggested in the film that it is Labour's


responsibility to open up the debate, to engage with people,


because it is in the powerful position it is in. Except you have


got proportional representation. Had we not put that in the 1997


referendum in the Labour White Paper model, we know that people outside


of the valleys and the Labour voting areas solidly voted against because


it would be Labour dominated for evermore. We finished up with a


labour saying, we are going to handicap ourselves from winning the


assembly. You have been in power for 15 years. But not always with a


majority. When I took over, we were three seats short of eight majority.


Then we had a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. We only had 28


out of 60. I used to be terrified that I would have the same treatment


as Alun Michael because the other parties could have got rid of me. We


have only had tiny Labour majorities or coalition governments. Now you


have this tiny majority, then the emphasis is on party discipline, not


on let a thousand flowers bloom. 15 years after devolution got under


way, we are in a position where a big chunk of people in Wales don't


understand how powers are divided. What is that tell is about the way


you have communicated how you go about your business? It is not all a


media issue, surely. It is about politicians communicating the way


they handle their own powers. People have a very patchy understanding of


that. Because the constitution is still in adequately organised and


expressed. What you need is what you have just described, you need


transparency for the public to be able to make decisions about the


quality of management of public services at the all Wales level.


That is a responsibility for all of us. The time is ripe for a further


serious attempt at communicating the system but also changing it. We


still have to go to London for permission to legislate less than


ten years ago so we have come a long way but there is no clarity. You


cannot have a democratic system which is effective unless you have


transparency and unless it is understood. That is a great defect.


The last word. Clarity and how important it is to achieve a


position where people have a far better understanding of what they


are voting for and the is people actually handle. Gerald Holtham was


saying that we need more theatre, if you like, in the assembly. It is not


easy to do. We had too much theatre in your time, especially at the


beginning. In a way, you look at what has happened in Scotland with


the SNP has managed to also supplant Labour as the default option. If


they can't think who to vote for, they will vote for the SNP. In


Wales, they will vote Labour. But there is an obligation to have more


exciting debates and so on. But the other parties have got to play ball


as well and the media have got to play ball as well.


That?s it for this week?s programme. We?ll be back next Wednesday.


In the meantime, you can get in touch with us


about the issues discussed tonight or indeed anything else.


Huw Edwards asks the questions that matter to you about your job, your health, your future. Calling to account the decision-makers here in Wales and beyond our borders too, each week the team bring you in-depth reports on pressing issues that matter to the lives of everyone living in Wales.

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