Everyone needs to join in the debate

9th July 2004 at 01:00
Rarely do government reports on education in Wales make as much of a stir as has the Welsh Assembly government's The Learning Country. But has it been getting the right kind of attention?

People in the Department for Education and Skills in London must be getting fed up with having Wales's contrasting education innovations - from league tables and national testing to the post-16 and foundation stage curriculum - gleefully pointed to.

For those in England seeking a serious shift away from the most centralised system of state education in the developed world, this attention is entirely understandable. For those in Wales wanting to see the vision set out in The Learning Country become a real revolution in the life chances of its young people, this distraction about the state of education in England cannot continue. What we need is open debate about the true state of the learning country.

An opportunity has come with the recent exchange between David Reynolds and David Egan in TES Cymru. Professor Reynolds (June 4) claims Wales has shown a lack of innovation. Professor Egan (June 18) substantially answers this indictment.

But is there substance in Professor Reynold's other concern that we are "too cosy for comfort"?

There are many issues here. Are we content to continue with the preference for standards over structure, when we are beset with unsatisfactory local government, advisory and inspection arrangements foisted on us a decade ago by John Major's government?

Those who admire the educational record of the Welsh Assembly should ask how a quango like Education and Learning Wales could ever have been allowed to acquire its insidious dominance in post-16 education.

We need new structures to facilitate debate, research and innovation. A start could be made by establishing a standing conference for education open to a very wide range of interests.

We need a talented, valued teaching force at the heart of a buoyant education system and passionate about the life chances of young people.

What a genuine alternative that would be to the English centralist model of the Baker-to-Blunkett era.

Paul Jeremy is former secretary of the association of history teachers in Wales

* Readers wishing to contribute to this debate should send letters or articles (up to 750 words) to karen.thornton@tes.co.uk

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