Minister with a flower in his lapel

20th May 2005 at 01:00
He is a former school governor, magistrate, father-of-three, keen gardener and a traditionalist who insists on wearing a flower - preferably an orchid - in his lapel.

William Graham is the new Conservative education spokesman in the Welsh Assembly, replacing Westminster-bound colleague David Davies.

He has traditional values and favours old-fashioned respect, but he also waxes lyrical over the appointment of the children's commissioner for Wales and Peter Clarke's establishment-challenging Clywch report.

He is passionate about finding more money to tackle binge drinking and drug abuse among the school-aged, but he does not prescribe to the views of outgoing Tory leader Michael Howard on the hot election issue of school discipline. He also prefers to be a "gentleman" in his dealings with rival Assembly politicians.

Mr Graham, former Conservative social justice spokesman and Assembly Member for south-east Wales, insisted: "We do not have a huge discipline problem in Welsh classrooms."

But Mr Graham believes education has become a "social experiment" and fears it has gone too far. He also wants to end the uncertainty school heads face when determining their own budgets. The funding fog has got out of hand, and he believes shutting down rural schools will not result in cost savings.

The Welsh baccalaureate is one of his greatest concerns and he would be happy to scrap it. He said: "Students want to offer universities and future employers the best. I don't think they get that with the baccalaureate because it is already thought of as second rate to A-levels."

In other areas Mr Graham, a surveyor, is willing to keep an open mind. On plans for the foundation phase for three to seven-year-olds, he said: "The jury is out on this one but we need more research. I'm not so sure Welsh education should be one big social experiment."

Then there is his belief that we need more male primary school teachers to be positive role models to boys. And he thinks classroom assistants should not have more power in the classroom. Teachers, he says, are the victims of a system which rates paperwork and bureaucracy higher than quality teaching time.

When he's not at Cardiff Bay he is in his garden. His wife Elizabeth is an expert in growing orchids, and he picks a flower most days for his lapel.

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