Woodland walk a fine foundation

28th May 2004 at 01:00
Jane Davidson may smart a little when she learns that only one in eight Welsh parents knows who the minister for education and lifelong learning is. This lack of awareness is galling, given Ms Davidson's hyperactive workrate over the past three years. Monday in Anglesey, Tuesday in Abergavenny, Wednesday in Aberystwyth - there have been many such weeks since she took over the schools portfolio from the even less well-recognised Rosemary Butler.

It may be of some comfort to know that another TES survey at the end of last year showed that 60 per cent of teachers in Wales could name their education minister while only 47 per cent of their English counterparts knew who Charles Clarke was. The greater comfort, of course, is that most parents are satisfied with Wales's education policies and do not think that standards are falling even though almost half of them suspect that pupil indiscipline is increasing.

But Welsh Assembly spokespeople should not brush aside the finding that 46 per cent of parents believe that behaviour has deteriorated in their child's school over the past five years (only 24 per cent felt it had got better). These are worrying statistics and although Wales's politicians cannot be held solely responsible, they will be expected to produce more counter-measures.

Our survey also confirms that the Assembly has not persuaded parents that school funding is adequate - 34 per cent think Welsh schools get less money than those in England while only 9 per cent believe they are better off.

But, more surprisingly, it seems there is little support for a new foundation phase for three to seven-year-olds based on well-structured play. TES Cymru supports this initiative, particularly after learning that some Welsh schoolchildren cannot cope with uneven ground when they are first taken on woodland excursions because they have only ever walked on floors and pavements (see last week's Wales 2004 supplement). But parents remain unconvinced. Maybe they need to rediscover the value of a walk in the woods too.

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