Newcomer is slow off the mark

27th July 2007 at 01:00
The appointment of Jane Hutt as Wales's education minister has clearly cast an end-of-school-year shadow over the teaching profession, although many will not openly admit it. Instead, groans are secretly being made behind closed doors, and the new minister is aleady being judged on past form.

Just as overworked headteachers thought they had found in Carwyn Jones a minister keen to support and listen to them, they now have the shock arrival of Ms Hutt, who paid with her job for increasing bureaucracy and lengthening waiting lists in the NHS. Who can blame school leaders buried under a mountain of paperwork for fearing the worst?

Ms Hutt now has the unenviable task of proving sceptics wrong. There is no denying that she has a good record in other areas apart from health. But this week there was only a squeak from Ms Hutt on how she intends to drive forward this major porfolio. Unlike Carwyn Jones, who immediately impressed education unions and school leaders with his well-publicised promise to listen and support the teaching profession, Ms Hutt has issued one tiny press release. It cites community-focused schools and learner-oriented education as her biggest and most pressing priorities.

But what about school closures, the 14-19 learning pathways, the Welsh bac and so much more that Jane Davidson drove forward full throttle and which have taken a back seat since April?

The new minister declined to be interviewed by TES Cymru this week, saying she would give a more in-depth interview after the exam results were released in August. But as Ms Hutt gets up to speed on her new workload and continues learning Welsh over the summer, a leading academic says the education policy direction under the newly formed coalition government is "Stone Age".

That damning verdict, made by Professor David Reynolds, does not auger well for Ms Hutt or the educational future of Wales after Jane Davidson. In this climate, what is required from Ms Hutt is some positive and dynamic leadership to get the education agenda moving again. Yet just days into her new post she has been slow to get off the mark and has a long way to go to prove her worth. Watch this space.

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