On the agenda this
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David Jones takes up the reins at Gwydyr House
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
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
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
2 Caspian Point
029 2046 2507
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 email@example.com 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,
4 Cathedral Road
029 2069 2898
RSVP to Matt Francis - 029 2046 2507, firstname.lastname@example.org
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Assembly Bwletin Cynulliad is a joint initiative between
Grayling and the Institute of Welsh Affairs, bringing you
the ong>ABCong> of Welsh politics every month.