Enter the 'failed' minister

27th July 2007 at 01:00
New education supremo Jane Hutt faces uphill struggle to win over hearts and minds

the appointment of a "failed" former health minister to one of the most important Cabinet posts in the new coalition-led Assembly government has been greeted with concern.

Meanwhile, leading Wales-based academic, Professor David Reynolds, has condemned key education plans in the policy document One Wales as "like something out of the Stone Age".

Just after TES Cymru went to press last week, Jane Hutt was appointed as the new minister for education, children and young people, ousting Carwyn Jones, who had held the post of education, culture and the Welsh language for just seven weeks.

The former business and budget minister in the previous minority Labour administration was given the surprising promotion after a momentous coalition deal was signed between Labour and Plaid Cymru.

It signals a major comeback for Ms Hutt, who was sacked as health minister in 2005 after failing to have sufficient impact on hospital waiting lists. She had faced widespread criticism for her reorganisation of the NHS.

She served as equalities and children's minister before the May elections. But she now faces an uphill struggle to convince Welsh educationists that she is the right person after the swift departure of Mr Jones, who was seen as hard- hitting, open and decisive.

Professor Reynolds, from Plymouth university, said Ms Hutt had to move quickly. "Wales is still light-years behind England in policies dealing with children, and to be talking about reducing class sizes in policy documents at this stage is worrying and like something out of the Stone Age," he said.

However, education unions, which are eager to build a rapport with Wales's new minister, steered clear of criticising her poor record on health this week.

But it was evident elsewhere that there is deep concern over Ms Hutt's appointment especially as key education initiatives, such as the 14-19 learning pathways, reach a critical point of development.

Heads and senior teachers who spoke to TES Cymru anonymously said they were far from happy that Wales had seen education ministers come and go in the space of just seven weeks.

One senior teacher said: "Jane Hutt has failed in health and now she has been appointed to another major post of high importance. Will this mean that education is going to go the same way?"

Another well-respected head said: "This is ridiculous a second education minister in a matter of weeks. The timing is so wrong.

"With so many important things happening in education, Carwyn Jones appeared to be the right person to do the job after Jane Davidson's departure."

Philip Dixon, director of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers in Wales, also said he was sorry to see Mr Jones go. "In his short time as minister he was willing to listen and knew the problems that teachers faced," he said.

"I hope Jane Hutt will show the same openness with the profession and be prepared to listen."

News, 3, Leader 22

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