Jingle all the way to new chair post

1st October 2004 at 01:00
ACCAC's Wil Edmunds has a musical career, too. Nic Barnard reports

Teachers may not know Wil Edmunds, the new chair of ACCAC, the Welsh qualifications, curriculum and assessment body, but they should know his work.

Not his work on the credit and qualifications framework for Wales, which earned him an OBE, nor his success at Deeside college in Connah's Quay. No, they will recognise his jingles.

The 56-year-old, who takes the chair today, enjoys a fruitful sideline as a musician and composer of melodies for S4C and local radio stations.

Edmunds's degree was in piano and composition at the Royal College of Music and he still turns to music to be uplifted.

He may not have much time in future. The ACCAC post is nominally two days a week - at pound;300 a day - but Edmunds faces a tottering in-tray as Welsh education undergoes its steady but unmistakeable revolution.

There is the on-going curriculum review, a new foundation phase for three to seven-year-olds, new skills tests at age 10 and teacher assessments at 13 to replace Sats, an overhaul of qualifications, and the development of alternative routes at 14 to 19.

Mr Edmunds is relatively unknown in the schools sector but has a strong reputation in further education, which is his particular passion. His approach to the job is emphatically about preparing Wales's young people for work.

He sees three priorities, he says. "The first is shaping a school curriculum to ensure all pupils have the knowledge, skills and understanding - and the values and attitudes - for living in a modern Wales," he says.

The second is ensuring qualifications are not a proxy for skills. Mr Edmunds is a leading proponent of credit-based qualifications. He introduced them at Deeside and chaired the committee for ELWa, the post-16 funding agency, that drew up the new framework. He says his third challenge is to strongly support Welsh-medium and Welsh-language education.

Mr Edmunds's predecessor, Brian Connolly, arrived from steelworkers' union ISTC, to the nervousness of some teachers' leaders who wondered how much he understood schools. He soon won them over.

Mr Edmunds is regarded as having forged good links with schools in Deeside.

John Graystone, chief executive of fforwm, the Association of Welsh Colleges, where Edmunds is a former vice-chair, calls him a quick learner, and well-connected with Welsh Assembly decision-makers.

"He's a good, strategic thinker. He's very committed and has boundless energy," says Mr Graystone.

Mr Edmunds acknowledges his lack of direct experience in the schools sector, but says: "My wife, Anne, is head of an infants school. The house is full of educational discussion. It falls out like cornflakes from a packet."

He has taken early retirement from Deeside college to join ACCAC but remains a member of the Learning and Skills Development Agency and chair of Dysg, its Welsh operating arm.

Meanwhile, there is the future of ACCAC itself. With ELWa moving to the direct control of the Welsh Assembly in 2006, will it follow?

Edmunds is saving his own "strong" views for ministers. But he says: "I think ACCAC has done an exceptional job over the past 10 years and it must carry on doing that job."

That, at least, should be music to his new colleagues' ears.

* Councillor Tony Hampton, from the Vale of Glamorgan, has been elected chair of the Welsh Joint Education Committee.

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