Education The Wales Report


Bethan Rhys Roberts is joined by a panel of politicians from the five main parties in Wales to discuss their plans for the education system.

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Tonight on The Wales Report - From Nursery to University,


the Welsh Government is responsible for your education.


In two weeks you'll have your say at the ballot box and tonight we'll


hear what the five main parties are offering you.


Stay with us for Election Wales 2016.


This year the Welsh Government spends ?1.7 billion on education -


and throughout the first 17 years of devolution it's been an area


poor performance in international rankings and radical curriculum


reform - this is the policy area which has diverged most


Tonight we ask whether the Welsh system is up to scratch.


Join in the debate on social media - #thewalesreport.


with some teachers' views from Ferndale Community School


Wherever you are from should not effect your opportunities in life or


your target in life because everybody is the same after all. It


doesn't matter about your background, as long as you work


hard, even if you find it difficult, if it is what you want to do, go for


that subject. Why is this a good example? I do feel pressure with my


job, there are pressures put on teachers but they are there because


we want the students to do well. I think they should be supporting


places for teachers to ensure that they are able to manage workload and


there are opportunities for development and nurturing talent


because there are so many successful teachers we need to make sure stay


in the profession. I think there is a greater focus now on the


attainment of schools and it's not a bad thing. The first thing we had to


know is how well we were competing with other nations, internationally.


The fact we were found wanting in certain areas is not a bad thing,


you need to know where you are and what needs to be done in order to


improve. I would like to see flexibility in the system for


schools to address the particular needs of learners in its care. As we


move towards ever increasing standards regarding qualifications,


that the curriculum is not restricted so much that


opportunities for children are increasingly narrowed. There has to


be some pressure on us to do well but I think when we are under


pressure we get worried and we don't do as well. Whereas when we are more


relaxed and we know what we are doing and are calm, we tend to


succeed better than when we are nervous.


Views from Ferndale Community School there.


Joining me tonight - from the Labour Party,


From the Conservatives, Angela Burns.


And Eluned Parrott fom the Liberal Democrats.


There are, of course, other parties standing


in the election - you can get all the information on the BBC


Thank you for joining us tonight. Let's start with money because that


is the key, many would argue. Huw Lewis, we know pupils in Wales


receive less money than those in England and have done for years so


why do they deserve less money? None of this is true. There is an old


figure, you said for years... The last figure is 2011. The last figure


is quite a way back in time. Have we caught up? We have overtaken England


in the educational spend, the figures from the Treasury showed


that Wales is 4% ahead of England. We have been investing in our


schools but in England things have been going in a different direction


and that is a matter for them but it is true that we have put ?200


million extra over this semi term investment into our schools, our


front line. -- over this Assembly term. Why have you decreased it?


There is a relative protection in terms of school spent and what we


have seen in terms of everyday spend, ?200 million extra, but also,


let's not forget the eighth ?2 billion programme of capital


investment in school buildings. We are carrying on with investment in


schools, a programme which ground to a halt under the Conservatives in


England. It has carried on in Wales. A lot of you were sniggering. You


don't believe this figure? I'm afraid not. The National union of


teachers were clear not long ago, they put together what they thought


their funding gap was now and it is in the order of the height 700s. And


one of the ways to release funding for schools is to directly fund them


and that way they will be able to get more money to the front line and


empower headteachers and teachers to reflect what their community needs.


Are we talking academies? No, it is horses for courses essentially and


there is no desire to have academies here. We have so much structural


change happening at the moment in education and we need to empower


those headteachers, give them the funds because they know their


communities and they need to be freed up, as your report showed,


teachers are... What is the difference between what you are


proposing and an academy? None whatsoever. Directly funding school


under the scrutiny of the local education authority and empowering


headteachers to spend their money for their school... It sounds like


an Academy. Of course not because there was no private investment,


this is about ensuring that more money, we want to aim for 90%, it


was a Labour goal, another they sadly failed to achieve. We want 90%


to get to the front line. We need schools with money, teachers that


are empowered to deliver what that local community wants all stop would


you increase spending per pupil in Plaid Cymru?


We have the recognised this is a tight spend, delivering money


directly to schools does not help, they just had to buy back the


services provided by the local education authority. If you have a


child with special needs in your school, it can be extremely


expensive for small schools to cope with. At the moment it is dealt with


by the local authorities are giving the funding directly to the school


does not help them. The overall funding alone the -- envelope


includes spending on higher education and we will come onto that


but it is important to say that when the Labour Party says we spend more


on education in Wales, it isn't just schools. If you just take schools


and compare them like for like,... And we are focusing on school at the


moment. We have to get more to the front line, I don't dispute that.


Would you spend more per pupil in Wales? Overall, yes. But we have to


be honest, this is not a huge spending splurge, we don't have the


resources. You -- Ukip, would you increase spending


per pupil in Wales? We want to look at the way the funding is allocated


to the schools and make sure we use the same formula throughout Wales


for each school, taking into account any special needs that school may


have. We have not had the statistics to look at the difference in funding


so whether the figures you are giving us are true or not, I could


not comment. The English figures don't exist because they have been


obscured by the Conservative government. I can give you a Welsh


figures. Would you increase spending on education? Yes, we would. The


Liberal Democrats? Would you increase spending per pupil in


Wales? We would target the spending we have for education. The pupil


deprivation grant was eight key Welsh Lib Dem priority introduced in


partnership with the Welsh Government and it has been the most


successful education policy in terms of social mobility and improving


outcomes come lowering the gap between the poorest and wealthiest


pupils. We have to macro priorities, one of those is to increase and


extend that grant to make sure we can continue to close the gap. As


the pupils said in the film, it should not matter where you came


from and what your start in life is, you should have an equal crack at


the whip. It sounds expensive, where would you cut to fund it? Scrapping


the regional consortia which are a layer of bureaucracy which we do not


think it is helpful or productive for the schools and as part of that


package of funding, that is one thing we would do. Looking at


standards, there is so much to talk about the standards, teacher


training and the standard of teaching in Wales. The annual report


in 2016 talks of a huge contrast in teaching between the best and the


worst schools and the best schools are often in deprived areas so you


cannot blame socioeconomic factors. Why is it? It is all about the


quality of teaching. That is why we have embarked upon the biggest


reform programme since 1944 which has at its heart, and further


community School is one of the Pioneer schools in this regard, --


Ferndale Community School. It is all about raising the skill levels and


aptitude levels of the teachers. Is this a new programme? It has been


embarked upon over the last few months. It's not new. The First


Minister admitted he took his eye off the ball when it came to


education after ten years of drift and decline. I don't disagree with


something 's Huw has said, it is fairly new, looking at teacher


training and standards I don't disagree with that. The key to


improving the system is in that but I disagree that the Labour Party is


capable of doing it because they have inherited and continued with a


decline in standards relative to the rest of the UK -- rest of the UK.


With the best will in the world, with ten years of decline. And four


years with the Liberal Democrats before that. We know who to blame.


We're not just offering a blame game. What would you do to drive


teaching standards? We would look at the successful schools in the


valleys like Ferndale, they have excellent leaders in their schools,


excellent headteachers, excellent departmental heads who are able to


drive standards and motivate and infuse not only the teachers but the


staff around them. We need to invest in those leadership skills for our


schools to make sure they succeed in the future. Your big idea is Grammar


schools. How would you focus on getting the best teachers? What is


your policy for getting the best teachers? Well, grammar schools is


not the only thing, obviously. We'd like to see the reintroduction of


grammar schools. Why? What would the reintroduction of grammar schools


achieve for standards? We don't feel one size fits all, comprehensive


schools don't suit every child. I put two children through


comprehensive schools. So have I and they came out wonderfully. That


isn't because it was a comprehensive School, that is because your


children where able to do it. I went to a grammar school and I saw my


fellow pupils written off at the age of 11 when they couldn't even get a


levels at that stage, they were told they could not go to university,


they were for May bring jobs and nothing else. You are going back 30


years with no clue about the modern world. It's important to realise a


couple of things about the teaching profession, we have over 100 empty


headteacher posts in schools in Wales, more days taken off sick for


stress by teachers, teachers feel under the cosh, overregulated,


underfunded and under supported. What is the idea? A centre for


education? A number of things and they tie in together, one is about


freeing up headteachers and allowing a school to react to its community.


You can tie that in with a more robust initial teacher training


programme, two years to produce teachers that are really, really


top-quality and have all the skills and supports. They are not popped


into a job and expected to learn on the job. And you can tie it in with


a college of teaching that works with the government and with Iestyn


to support teachers, to set standards, to enable continuous


professional development. To do disciplinary matters as well. A


college that can really set the standards. We are leaving education


to the educators, not to a micromanaging government because


that is what has gone horribly wrong in the last 17 years. We just heard


from the front line of Ferndale Community School, where these things


that there are many things that I do not disagree with which are


happening and being controlled by the teaching professionals. You let


standards slip on your watch. Would you acknowledge you let standards


slip on your watch? Standards have risen every year. Professor John


Furlong said there is a broad consensus across Wales that in


relation to current enquire requirements teacher education is


not as strong as it should be. Who commissioned that? This is why we


have a completely new future for initial teacher training. It is


being laid out through the Furlong report, a review I commission, a


Welsh Labour government has acted upon it. And came back and slap you


in the face and said it was not good enough. The reason I asked John


Furlong to undertake the review was we knew full well there were gaps in


the system and we were not performing as well as we could. Can


I say there is one inescapable truth. There is no education system


that can be better than the quality of the teachers that teach it. That


is why teachers are so incredibly important and why the Welsh


Conservatives are absolutely proud of the fact we have put teachers in


the centre of our manifesto. On teachers, Susan Boucher, tell us


your plan, would you change the way teachers operate in Wales or are you


happy with the status quo? I'm very concerned about teachers in Wales.


Number of my friends are in the teaching profession and they are


absolutely old down with paperwork, performance management, lesson


planning. Teachers need a new deal to tackle this. They are working


until nine o'clock at night marking. Tell us what your plan is, how would


you change that? We would want to reduce the teachers' workload, make


sure we put in the right teachers into our schools, that they've got


the right qualifications. It's all very well putting qualified teachers


in with skills in science and mathematics at we're not retaining


them. We have to make sure that we keep these excellent teachers in our


schools to raise standards. Because, let's be honest, the Labour


government has let it slip really badly. Let's look at testing


concerning many pupils and parents, and your proposals. Would pupils be


tested more, less or about the same as they are tested at the moment? We


think the level of testing we have at the moment is very bureaucratic,


it is very burdensome for schools, so we need to make sure that we are


refining that and making it as simple to deliver as possible.


However, we must make sure we are assessing pupils appropriately and


regularly throughout their school life. We certainly do not want to


increase the burden of testing our pupils have at the moment. As they


are tested at the moment, you would stay like that. Simon Thomas, more


or less testing? The long-term aim is to move away from the testing we


have at the moment, that is set out in Donaldson, the new curriculum in


Wales and the way the profession itself will become more


self-regulating and self testing if you like and I want to get to a


position which cannot be done overnight, I will not drop testing


overnight because there is a... That is the goal? No testing and Plaid


Cymru, that's the vision? That's the vision and not just Plaid Cymru,


Donaldson, an independent report says that command all the main


parties have said that's the way forward for education in Wales. Are


some good examples in Wales are in a Plaid Cymru run authority, it has a


good way of tracking individual schools, not with tests but almost


daily knowledge of what they are achieving and that must be rolled


out throughout Wales. Testing, Carwyn Jones said clearly last week


I want testing and I want to know how my children are doing. Would you


continue with the status quo, or do you want more testing? I know you


are leaving but what would a Labour government offer? It is imperative


to stick with testing for this period of time. But as Simon has


said, he is quite right, the future for Wales and Welsh education is


laid out in the Donaldson report and it's about evolution towards where


the best systems in the world actually are, which is about


assessment for learning been driven by the professional in the


classroom. But we're not ready for that yet. There are stages we need


to pass through to get there. You scrapped testing for 14-year-olds,


Sats went. I didn't scrapped testing. Labour government did. You


stopped it. Many people interpret that period as the period you to


your eye off the ball. As a government, not you personally, Huw


Lewis, but the government. Going back to testing, is that returning


to taking your eye off the ball? I would encourage everyone, and I


think there is a consensus almost around the table here, that the


destination for us is to be somewhere where the finished


education system, the Dutch education system -- the Finnish


education system. The stuff being in the hands of the professional and


about my plastic testing individualised to the people.


International comparisons, which bring us onto Pisa, the


International tests for 65 countries, and Wales in maths it


came 43rd, reading 41st, science 36 are not great. Angela for the


Conservatives, Angela Burns, what would be your approach to Pisa?


Would you prioritise it more than the current government? No, I


wouldn't because it goes down a difficult path. It is important to


keep the Pisa testing because it gives as a benchmark and we need


benchmarks because I agree that we were led into the wilderness years


by Labour when they scrapped everything. Let's be clear, there is


a huge amount of change in education, the Donaldson Review,


everything happening with teacher training, and we cannot put yet


another rigorous set of mechanisms in place. When Wales doesn't perform


greatly, may at the end of this year, you will not attack them? You


have just said you would not put more weight on them and you are


happy to park them in a way. I didn't say I would park them, but I


wouldn't change my curriculum just to meet a Pisa test result. How will


performance improved? We must look at a range of benchmarks including


Pisa, Pisa is incredibly important because it tells us where we are on


the global stage and benchmarking is incredibly important. The right way


to use things like Pisa as a benchmark is if we start to fall


back and fail we have to ask ourselves fundamental questions


about why that is the case. The problem with the way testing is


delivered in Wales at the moment is it is aiming for the average, you


are trying to get a cohort to the average performance for their group.


What we are not doing is teaching individuals to achieve to the best


of their individual ability and that unfortunately is a big failing in


the systematic moment. There seems to be a disconnect come and tell me


if I'm wrong, when it comes to Pisa. In that governments and opposition


parties put a great deal of emphasis on them but schools don't because


they are focusing on GCSE and A-level and so forth. Absolutely.


But... Letter talk to Ukip on this, on Pisa testing how would you


improve the results? When you look back on 1997 before the Welsh


Assembly started, we were right up there on the Pisa rankings and where


are we now? I think you are making that up. Wales wasn't assessed


separately under Pisa, it was a UK assessment. Are standing in Wales


was not very high. These are not the facts. But as macro focus on the


future of Pisa testing, how would you approach it? I agree it is good


as a benchmark to see where our standings are. Sorry, I've lost my


train of thought now. Would you make it a priority for schools to teach


to that method of testing? No, I wouldn't make it a priority for


schools at all. Huw Lewis, let's end on this. Do you expect the Pisa


results to go up? I'm very hopeful and optimistic that they will, yes.


This is what he said last time! What matters here is it is not about


teaching to Pisa, that would be a disastrous strategy for any


government to undertake. We're not preparing our pupils for them, is


that fair? You succeed in Pisa when you have excellence in teaching and


learning in the classroom. It is a test of the whole education system.


That is the test. On Pisa, what is Plaid Cymru's approach? We have a


target to improve over ten years. Thank you for now. Let's graduate to


universities, an area of equal, if not more, controversy than the


schools. Tuition fees have been


at the centre of the argument. Unlike Westminster,


the Welsh Government awards grants for tuition of up to ?5,000


whether you study inside or outside Universities across Wales


feel their funding And their performance in league


tables has been less We've been to Glyndwr


University in Wrexham to get Funding, funding, funding. I think


as far as being a student is concerned it is something that comes


up all the time. In conversations at University, no matter what


background you are from. Funding is always at the forefront of your mind


when you want to go and study. Student tuition fees at the


forefront of the debate. The tuition fee grants support going to


individual students goes wherever they study, of course. That means


that a large English university like the University of the West of


England in Bristol is getting more money on grant support out of Wales


than Glyndwr is to support infrastructure which means Welsh


universities are struggling to get the resources to put together a


quality higher education system and that has to change. It is really


important that universities forge strong links with the communities we


are in hand with businesses because our students need to get relevant


work experience. We need to find good volunteering opportunities for


them seven they can learn and grow. Our students make a difference


globally, so if we want to make a difference to the Welsh economy,


investment in universities really is crucial. The big challenge facing


higher education in Wales really is resources. It's about how we put in


place a really high class education system that students want, that


delivers for employers, and that provides a basis for


With just over two weeks until polling day, Bethan Rhys Roberts is joined by a panel of politicians from the five main parties in Wales to discuss their plans for the education system.

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