ABC August 2012 - Click on Wales

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ABC August 2012 - Click on Wales

Assembly

Bwletin

Cynulliad

ong>Augustong> ong>2012ong>

On the agenda this

month:

Assembly Bwletin Cynulliad is a joint initiative between Grayling and the Institute of Welsh Affairs.

Every month we aim to bring you the ong>ABCong> of Welsh politics. For information on ong>ABCong>, please contact:

bobbie.davies@grayling.com or kirstydavies@iwa.org.uk

David Jones takes up the reins at Gwydyr House

Articles

David Jones takes up the

reins at Gwydyr House

Results down, appeals up;

the GCSE fall out

Doubts over Lords reform

place Assembly electoral

changes in question

Sport as important as

reading and writing

Events

IWA 25th Anniversary

Exhibition and Dinner

Join us for Breakfast

Clwyd West MP David Jones has replaced Cheryl Gillan MP as

Secretary of State for Wales as David Cameron MP reshuffled

his cabinet team mid-way through the Parliamentary term. Mrs

Gillan’s exit from Government came as little surprise to many,

after her vocal opposition to the route of the High Speed 2 rail

line which will pass through her Buckinghamshire constituency.

Mr Jones’ appointment comes after a number of Welsh

Conservatives successfully lobbied for an MP representing a

Welsh constituency to take over at the Wales Office, with Mr

Jones becoming the first Welsh Conservative MP to do so

since Nicholas Edwards in 1987.

Mr Jones inherits a Cabinet portfolio where the electoral

arrangements of the National Assembly for Wales and the

deliberations of the Silk Commission dominate the constitutional

agenda. However, with two years’ junior ministerial experience

in the Wales Office under his belt in addition to a brief spell as Assembly Member for

North Wales between 2002 and 2003, Mr Jones may find the transition to his new

portfolio easier than many of his new Cabinet colleagues.

As for his reception in Wales, opinion amongst Welsh Conservative AMs appears to be

divided. BBC Wales political editor Betsan Powys has reported concerns amongst some

that relations between Westminster and Cardiff Bay will deteriorate, with one source

claiming Mr Jones has shown “contempt for the Assembly”. Yet in a statement issued by

the Wales Office following his appointment, Mr Jones stressed the need to work

constructively with politicians in Cardiff: “I intend to offer to the Welsh Government my

Department’s fullest co-operation in working to improve the lives of people in Wales”.

David Jones MP was quick to outline that his priority will be boosting Wales’ economy

during “probably the most difficult economic time that we've ever faced.”

Shadow Secretary of State for Wales Owen Smith MP wished Mr Jones well in his new

position, but challenged him to be a voice for Wales around the Cabinet table which

would tell David Cameron that “enough is enough.” The Pontypridd MP added, that whilst

David Jones is a Welshman he is “one from the right-wing of the Conservative Party”

who is “likely to support George Osborne and those whose failing policies are at the root

of our current crisis.”


Results down, appeals up; the GCSE fall out

There has been an unexpected decline in GCSE grades across Wales, as results were published this month. Whilst nervous pupils opened

the dreaded envelope, a political fall out was emerging which has resulted in mass objection to GCSE results this year, particularly in GCSE

English. In addition to grades falling for the first time since the introduction of the examinations in the late 1980s, the gap between the proportion

of Welsh candidates achieving five A* to C grades compared with England and Northern Ireland widened to four per cent.

Minister for Education and Skills Leighton Andrews AM has accused UK Education Secretary Michael Gove MP of pressurising exam boards

to mark exams harshly, commenting that “when Michael Gove says jump, the head of Ofqual says 'how high'“. Professor of Education at

Southampton University, and Welsh Government adviser David Reynolds added: "It's difficult to avoid the assumption that there's an orchestrated

campaign going on somewhere, and the issue is where is that being orchestrated from. Is it public opinion, is it the right-wing press or

a Tory minister of education? We don't know, but there's clearly something going on.” Mr Gove immediately refuted any allegations of outside

influence, insisting that “the decision about where to set grade boundaries is made by exam boards [...] that is the result of the independent

judgements made by exam boards entirely free from any political pressure."

Since the results were published, Welsh qualifications provider WJEC had received over 1,500 complaints over the results, with 1,000 appeals

specifically made in regards to GCSE English. The Welsh Government has already confirmed it will review GCSE English results after

the particularly poor showing in this subject. The complaints follow a report by UK qualifications regulator Ofqual that acknowledged grade

boundaries had changed part way through the year. Ofqual’s chief regulator, Glenys Stacey, said that students who sat exams in the summer

would be offered the opportunity to re-sit in November. The potential of many thousands of Welsh pupils re-sitting GCSE English has led

to an angry reactions from Unions, with the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) threatening legal action. Brian Lightman,

ASCL general secretary and a former head teacher in Wales, said it was not “acceptable or practicable” for students to re-sit the exam. The

ASCL also added fuel to the fire by revealing that they have been contacted by more than 100 secondary school heads since the results who

were so concerned that they are now demanding re-marks of all English papers.

The results come in the midst of a wider political wrangle over the future of qualifications and pupils’ education across the UK. Leighton Andrews

AM, Minister for Education and Skills, and John O’Dowd MLA, Northern Ireland’s Minister for Education, joined forces earlier in the

month to publicly criticise the UK Secretary of State for Education’s decision to announce his plans for GCSE and A-Level reform without

consulting their respective nations. Although Mr Gove’s announcements were England-specific, their open letter to him highlighted the need

for earlier involvement of, and better communication and consultation with, devolved administrations over policy changes at W estminster. Mr

Andrews added: "It is clear that we now need to consider whether our own system can be in hock to “Gove-it-alone” policies. These issues

will be considered in relation to our current review of qualifications.”

Doubts over Lords reform place Assembly electoral changes in question

Uncertainty in the UK Government that has led to the shelving of the House of Lords Reform Bill

threatens to derail previously announced plans to change electoral arrangements in Cardiff Bay. The

Lords Reform Bill, which would cut the number of peers by almost half, struggled to gain the support

from many backbench Conservative MPs. The decision by the Coalition Government to abandon the

reforms has escalated tensions within the Cabinet, with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg MP withdrawing

his party’s support for proposed boundary changes which were likely to reform Westminster

constituencies in what some have claimed would be in the Conservatives’ favour.

With the constituency boundaries for the National Assembly for Wales currently tied to those of the

House of Commons, disruption to boundary reform at Westminster threatens to undermine parallel

reforms to the Assembly’s electoral system published in May by former Secretary of State for Wales,

Cheryl Gillan MP. The Green Paper proposes either 30 AMs occupying the same constituencies as

Wales' new UK Parliamentary seats, or redrawing the 40 existing constituencies so they are of equal

size. In either of these proposals, the remaining seats would be filled by Additional Members, maintaining

the Assembly’s partly proportional composition. The proposed Westminster boundary changes

would see a 25 per cent reduction in Welsh representation in the House of Commons, with Wales

losing 10 of its 40 seats. Furthermore, the proposed reforms to the Assembly’s composition under

which there would be an increase in Additional Members threaten to undermine Welsh Labour’s

dominance of devolved elections, having the potential to drastically reshape the dynamics of devolved

government in Wales.

Commenting on the proposals, Shadow Secretary of State for Wales ,Owen Smith MP, said that the Green Paper “was Cheryl Gillan’s attempt

at rigging Wales’ electoral map in the same way that her Cabinet colleagues were trying to gerrymander the results of the next general election”,

adding that “Cheryl Gillan should waste no time in dropping her own proposals to change the arrangements of Assembly constituencies,

changes for which she has no mandate.” With the UK Coalition seeking to revive its standing with a wide-ranging reshuffle, in which Cheryl

Gillan MP has been replaced as Secretary of State for Wales, it remains to be seen how the delicate balancing act of governing in coalition

will be refracted within devolved Welsh politics. With the Prime Minister vowing to press ahead with boundary changes despite opposition

from his Liberal Democrat coalition partners, however, the debate over electoral politics in both Wales and Westminster is, it seems, far from

over.


Sport as important as reading and writing

Laura McAllister says Welsh Government and schools must work together to ensure Olympic Games have a lasting legacy

We want the lasting legacy of the Olympic Games to be a generation of children and young people with the competence, confidence

and motivation to participate in sport. This will not happen overnight, but through working together with our partners we believe that all

children can reap the benefits that participating in sport brings.

Education is absolutely crucial if Wales is to witness a significant increase in the numbers of young people playing sport. Schools play

a fundamental role in developing and sustaining a child’s love of sport. I have spoken regularly with Welsh Government Ministers with

responsibility for sport and education, and I am very encouraged by their views towards sport in school.

Education Minister Leighton Andrews has even gone on record to talk about his commitment for physical literacy to be as important a

developmental skill as reading and writing. This is reflected in the Programme for Government and a new task group has been set up

to look at the continued development of this work.

It is important that young people can develop the skills to take part in sport from a very young age and we see our role as supporting

this alongside schools, clubs and community leisure venues. We have developed vital resources such as Play to Learn, designed to

improve physical development and creative movement skills for 3-7 year olds. In September, we will be launching a new variation of

our Primary School-aged Dragon Sport programme (to Dragon Multi-Skills and Sport) to focus on embedding basic skills – such as

agility, balance and co-ordination – that give the essential building blocks, before moving on to playing a specific sport. In secondary

school, the 5×60 project is in place to complement curricular sport and PE.

Looking specifically at schools, we see some excellent work being carried out in gyms and on playing fields across the country. But this

is often happening in pockets and we must be sure that high quality is the norm and that good practice is shared across the board.

We need to see every child accessing two hours of high quality PE every week. This needs to be supported by at least three hours of

extracurricular or community sport. I believe the most important factor in all of this is that of the headteacher. Those that embrace the

importance of vibrant school sport and are passionate about it place sport high on the agenda. They ensure that opportunities, designed

by the pupils that meet their needs, are provided and that they link with the community and local clubs.

This must be coupled with teachers who are trained and supported to provide engaging PE sessions within our schools. Sport Wales is

a firm believer that greater priority should be given to the training of teachers in this area so that they are up-skilled and confident in the

delivery of physical education.

We need to be ensuring that pupils are engaged with their sporting experience at schools, utilising Young Ambassadors to inspire and

support their peers. Young Ambassadors can be at the top of a whole school workforce. Sports leaders and young people delivering

activity really motivates their peers, giving them this responsibility is a win-win for us all. They benefit from development in employment

skills and we benefit from having motivating volunteers.

Last year we undertook the largest survey of school children in Wales. There were some pleasing results, including the sheer number

of primary school pupils involved in school sport. But there are challenges as well, including addressing a drop-off by girls when they

get into their teens and ensuring that pupils have a voice in their provision.

How we package sport will be important because we know that many young people love the competitive nature, where some are motivated

by more participatory activities. We need to be able to cater for the demand. There are also the opportunities through technology,

which some schools have been leading the way in using, and the increasing popularity of different versions of sports and new emerging

activities – like futsal – that we must all take advantage of.


Forthcoming IWA Events

Bobbie Davies

Grayling

2 Caspian Point

Caspian Way

Cardiff

CF10 4DQ

029 2046 2507

bobbie.davies@grayling

.com

IWA 25th Anniversary Exhibition and Dinner

Professor Dai Smith and Geraint Talfan Davies

25/25 Vision: Welsh horizons across 50 years

27th September ong>2012ong>

6.00pm Exhibition, The Old Library, The Hayes, Cardiff

7.30pm Dinner, St. David's Hall, Cardiff

For further information and bookings, visit www.iwa.org.uk,

Email wales@iwa.org.uk or call 029 2066 0820

Forthcoming Grayling Events

Join us for Breakfast

Friday 21 September, 8.30am - 9.30am

Clarks Legal, 1 Caspian Point, Caspian Way, Cardiff Bay,

CF10 4DQ

Kirsty Davies

IWA

4 Cathedral Road

Cardiff

CF11 9IJ

029 2069 2898

RSVP to Matt Francis - 029 2046 2507, matthew.francis@grayling.com

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