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A close relative born in Wales

Susan Young finds the Welsh White Paper less prescriptive than the English version, outlined below.

The English and Welsh versions of the education White Paper are not identical twins, but they are certainly close siblings.

Much of the language and phraseology is the same. The underlying vision is clearly that expressed in Labour's election manifesto. The difference is in emphasis and detail. Where the English version lays great stress on literacy and numeracy hours, stopping just short of making them a compulsory part of the primary timetable, the Welsh version is less prescriptive.

"Many teachers find that a successful approach includes dedicated time given daily to aspects of literacy and numeracy in which a balance of whole-class, group and individual teaching is used under firm and vigorous teacher direction to enthuse and engage children," it says.

Phonics and mental arithmetic are treated in the same cautious way, with the emphasis on low-key advice.

The Welsh paper, Build-ing Excellent Schools To-gether, also has a final chapter on the preparation of pupils for working life. This expands much of what the English version has to say on the subject, with a greater emphasis on work-based placements and vocational qualifications. Nearly a third of Welsh workers are in manufacturing compared with only a quarter of the English workforce.

Welsh education minister Peter Hain said the Welsh White Paper, "reflects our commitment to building a distinctive education policy for Wales, even in advance of a Welsh assembly".

Northern Ireland's education system will follow much the same path as that outlined in the English White Paper. Tony Worthington, the minister responsible for edu-cation in the province, said he intended to revise its strategic plan in line with Government priorities.

In Scotland, too, the Government has announced its new stress on standards.

Brian Wilson, the Scottish Minister for Education, this week said he was establishing an action group on standards. It will advise on national targets for school education, monitor their implementation and report annually on the progress of Scottish schools.

Mr Wilson will lead the group, with members announced so far including John MacBeath, the Strathclyde University professor who is also prominent on the English standards task force.

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