11/06/2014 The Wales Report


11/06/2014

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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Transcript


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

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

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

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15 years. Ellis about the legacy of the past

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Good evening. On tonight?s programme, educational

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standards in Wales have been the subject

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of much concern in recent years. Rankings in the international

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

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

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

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teachers and that the Welsh government

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

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Wales. We?ll be talking to the education

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

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Richard Dougherty, a former senior Welsh government

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adviser on education, He says that while certain policy

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

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implementation of changes over the past 15 years has been

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inadequate. A major review of the school system

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

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

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

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government's was trusted education advisers has admitted that policy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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attention given band should have been to whether those planks were

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sound and whether they were affecting what was happening in

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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the highest performance have a high-quality and well supported

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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need this sense of wanting to improve all the time.

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Earlier I spoke to the education minister Huw Lewis

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at a PISA conference at Cardiff?s City Hall.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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delivering the skills that young people need as opposed to the

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

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

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measures that will improve our performance in these PISA league

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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school that was switched on to teacher training and professional

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

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

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

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school in Wales has access to world class training throughout their

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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debate. The transition from the foundation phase itself, right

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

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consistent messages coming through from outside observers. In my term

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

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

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

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

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major reforms from the Minister before the Assembly elections. Is

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

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

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regime clicking into place, the regulation and the laws behind

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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teenager might experience that sort of thing. Professor Graham Donaldson

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

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

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

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be a point in the curriculum where young people can experience

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inspiration, if you like, about pursuing some personal enthusiasm

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

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

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

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

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

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musicians and others going into schools to take those young people

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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partners that could lead our young people through experiences that can

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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improvement depends on the choices, particularly lead professionals like

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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resulted in greater public No, according to the prominent

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economist and former Welsh He believes that a lack

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of understanding over devolved powers is leading to confusion among

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

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

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and discussing the past 15 years with the former

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:18:09.:18:16.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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is just habit more than anything. Unlike their counterparts in

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

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

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

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

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

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of the internal debates or discussions so the public is

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

:19:39.:19:40.

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

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

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

:19:53.:19:57.

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

:19:58.:20:00.

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

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

:20:04.:20:10.

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

:20:11.:20:17.

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

:20:18.:20:23.

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

:20:24.:20:26.

own best rival. Instead of disguising or suppressing interparty

:20:27.:20:35.

debates, it needs to a them. Interesting politics attracts

:20:36.:20:36.

interesting personalities. Giving them room to an ash express

:20:37.:20:41.

themselves would interest people and make the Welsh government more

:20:42.:20:46.

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

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engage in debates about what we want for Wales.

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The economist and former government adviser Gerald Holtham.

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

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Roughly half of those surveyed knew the NHS was the responsibility

:21:03.:21:07.

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

:21:08.:21:13.

Understanding of education fared better -

:21:14.:21:16.

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

:21:17.:21:19.

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

:21:20.:21:23.

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

:21:24.:21:27.

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

:21:28.:21:33.

Here to discuss all of this is former First Minister,

:21:34.:21:36.

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

:21:37.:21:38.

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

:21:39.:21:51.

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

:21:52.:21:57.

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

:21:58.:22:01.

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

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participation in elections. Everybody considered it their duty

:22:07.:22:10.

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

:22:11.:22:14.

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

:22:15.:22:19.

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

:22:20.:22:24.

have had the ambition that devolution would restore a localised

:22:25.:22:29.

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

:22:30.:22:34.

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

:22:35.:22:36.

create a surge of interest and participation because there is a

:22:37.:22:45.

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

:22:46.:22:51.

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

:22:52.:22:55.

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

:22:56.:22:59.

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

:23:00.:23:03.

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

:23:04.:23:10.

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

:23:11.:23:15.

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

:23:16.:23:18.

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

:23:19.:23:25.

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

:23:26.:23:29.

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

:23:30.:23:36.

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

:23:37.:23:42.

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

:23:43.:23:48.

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

:23:49.:23:52.

between the Welsh government and the National Assembly, between the

:23:53.:23:56.

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

:23:57.:24:00.

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

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

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time for a fresh communications drive by the National Assembly

:24:13.:24:17.

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

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

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

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of being noncontroversial and a corporate democracy, that has gone

:24:32.:24:36.

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

:24:37.:24:39.

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

:24:40.:24:45.

taking responsibility. Labour also relishes being in power and

:24:46.:24:48.

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

:24:49.:24:53.

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

:24:54.:24:57.

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

:24:58.:25:00.

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

:25:01.:25:07.

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

:25:08.:25:11.

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

:25:12.:25:18.

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

:25:19.:25:23.

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

:25:24.:25:28.

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

:25:29.:25:34.

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

:25:35.:25:40.

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

:25:41.:25:46.

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

:25:47.:25:52.

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

:25:53.:25:55.

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

:25:56.:26:01.

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

:26:02.:26:11.

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

:26:12.:26:17.

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

:26:18.:26:21.

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

:26:22.:26:25.

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

:26:26.:26:29.

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

:26:30.:26:35.

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

:26:36.:26:39.

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

:26:40.:26:45.

that. Because the constitution is still in adequately organised and

:26:46.:26:52.

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

:26:53.:26:56.

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

:26:57.:27:00.

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

:27:01.:27:04.

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

:27:05.:27:11.

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

:27:12.:27:15.

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

:27:16.:27:19.

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

:27:20.:27:23.

cannot have a democratic system which is effective unless you have

:27:24.:27:28.

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

:27:29.:27:34.

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

:27:35.:27:37.

position where people have a far better understanding of what they

:27:38.:27:40.

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

:27:41.:27:47.

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

:27:48.:27:58.

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

:27:59.:28:04.

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

:28:05.:28:07.

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

:28:08.:28:13.

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

:28:14.:28:18.

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

:28:19.:28:23.

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

:28:24.:28:26.

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

:28:27.:28:29.

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

:28:30.:28:31.

In the meantime, you can get in touch with us

:28:32.:28:34.

about the issues discussed tonight or indeed anything else.

:28:35.:28:38.

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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