Be more English, Tory tells the Welsh

24th January 2003 at 00:00
Wales, David Davies believes, should be a little more like England.

"I don't like our tendency to do things differently from England, just because we have a Welsh Assembly. It doesn't strike me as particularly logical."

It is an opinion unlikely to please his compatriots. But as the sole Conservative in the Welsh Assembly Mr Davies is used to expressing unpopular views.

While Welsh educationists rejoiced over the Assembly's abandonment of national tests at key stage 1, the 32-year-old Mr Davies praises the virtues of testing. Similarly, he has criticised the Welsh abolition of school league tables.

He also questions the usefulness of the new Welsh Baccalaureate qualification, to be piloted from September: "Wales is a nation of three million people. If every area of Britain with three million people had its own system, it would create a great deal of confusion."

He would like to see the Assembly pursue Westminster-inspired policies, such as faith and selective schools.

Geraint Davies, Welsh secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: "We may not necessarily agree with his views, but he has generated debate, and debate is healthy."

Among the issues he has contested is the requirement to study Welsh until the age of 16: "Language should not be forced down people's throats. A minority genuinely want to learn Welsh, but they're held back because the majority treat it like a general-studies lesson."

Mr Davies was born in England, and raised in the English-speaking areas of Caldicot and Newport. He represents the anglicised constituency of Monmouthshire but has been learning Welsh (he has also been studying Hungarian, to speak to his Hungarian fiancee: a task, that puts the difficulties of Welsh into perspective). He is not a knee-jerk Anglophile; but equally resents knee-jerk Anglophobia.

But as a fan of the English way in an Assembly that wants to forge a distinctive Welsh path in education, he looks set to be putting forward an unpopular case for many years to come.

Adi Bloom

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