Celebrate the future and honour the past

David Budge

So here it is. Ninety years late in one respect, but futuristic in another. This special publication is the first Welsh supplement that The TES has produced since its launch in 1910. But as it is a preview of next week's First National Education Conference and Exhibition in Cardiff's International Arena we can also justifiably claim that it is forward-looking.

Rhiannon Lloyd's article on bilingualism (page 4) also represents an important first for us: it is thought to be the only Welsh-language contribution that The TES has ever published. Neither this article nor the supplement itself is a tokenistic gesture, however. They are a demonstration that this paper intends to provide an even better service for its Welsh readers than hitherto.

At one time it may have been true that The TES - like many other London-based education institutions - had what Stephen Gorard of the University of Wales, Cardiff, has described as a "For Wales, See England" mentality. But today such blinkered attitudes are not only offensive but totally unsupportable.

Teachers may disagree about the impact that the Assembly has had on education (back page) but there is no doub that the Welsh schools system is becoming increasingly distinct from the English. A cursory look at the list of differences (page 3) makes that clear.

Whether that is a good or bad thing is sometimes questionable. Many of the Welsh teachers we have spoken to in recent weeks value their independence from England but seethe about inequities such as the denial of Government laptop grants that were offered to their English colleagues.

As Biddy Passmore points out in her warts-and-all account of the present state of Welsh schooling (see right) several educational issues, such as adult illiteracy and secondary school truancy rates, are also causing concern. But this supplement does not dwell on such problems because, like the conference it previews, it also aims to celebrate the best that Welsh education, and its commercial suppliers, have to offer.

It may be too early to say that the English should start to worry about "keeping up with the Joneses" (Welsh GCSE performance has only just crept ahead of England's). But English readers will certainly find much that is worth emulating in these pages.

DAVID BUDGE Welsh supplement editor

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David Budge

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