Mr Jones rides in without initiatives

8th June 2007 at 01:00
The new education, culture and Welsh language minister speaks out

Wales's new minister for education, culture and Welsh language this week vowed to give teachers a break from the relentless initiatives of his predecessor Jane Davidson.

Speaking in his first interview in the post, former lawyer Carwyn Jones, 40, told TES Cymru that he aimed to leave teachers feeling more contented and valued.

He said: "I will take my lead from you. The first thing is to talk to everyone in education before making any big pronouncements."

He admitted Ms Davidson, who is now sustainability and rural affairs minister, would be a tough act to follow. However, he claimed politics in the present minority Labour government made change necessary.

Mr Jones, the former agriculture minister, said: "I don't intend to bring out a load of new initiatives - we need to develop the ones we've got."

But he said Welsh education needed a new transparent funding formula and modern foreign languages should be made compulsory in all primary schools.

He also intends to work towards removing "a culture of fear" that exists over false pupil abuse allegations.

"I would like to discuss with unions how we do this, while keeping children's safeguards in place. I have heard stories of teachers going through hell over false accusations."

But Mr Jones risks early upset after rejecting a review of the Barnett formula, which determines public spending in Wales, after it received cross-union support recently. He said there was no proof that more money was spent per pupil in England than in Wales, something that has long frustrated leaders at the chalkface.

The teaching profession, he said, needed to believe that it could do better than England academically.

The minister attacked local authorities for not spending cash passed to them for capital building projects, blaming them for failing to meet the fit-for-purpose target for school buildings set out in 2001's Learning Country.

But he agreed with unions that only teachers should become school leaders.

Critics say the minister's new portfolio is too big and he lacks classroom experience.

In his defence, Mr Jones said: "They all said that about farming because I wasn't a farmer."

He also said small schools had to face the challenge of joining with communities, adding that his first announcement next week would be on community focused schools.

CARWYN JONES FACTFILE

Born March 21, 1967.

Former student of Brynteg comprehensive school, Bridgend, and the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, before training as a barrister in London.

First-language Welsh speaker.

Before being elected to the National Assembly of Wales in July 2000, Carwyn Jones was a practising barrister, specialising in family, criminal and personal injury for 10 years from his base in Swansea.

First post as deputy secretary in March 2001; minister for agriculture and rural development from July 2001; additional role of minister for open government given in June 2002.

Former county borough councillor for Bridgend.

Practical experience in education almost non-existent, but his father was a union representative for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.

Handled the foot and mouth crisis that hit Wales in 2001 in his capacity as agriculture and rural development minister.

Leader, page 26

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