The latest news, debates and reports from the Senedd. (Fourth Assembly stories are under 'Archive').
Detailed scrutiny of how Wales is being run. (Fourth Assembly inquiries are under 'Archive').
Thursday, 15 December 2016
Wednesday, 14 December 2016
By OwenWednesday, December 14, 2016Bills, Care, Civil Liberties, Colleges, Courts, Disability, Estyn, Labour, Local Gov, Schools, Welsh Law, WGEd, YPeopView Comments
|(Pic : Northampton College)|
Tuesday, 13 December 2016
Monday, 12 December 2016
By OwenMonday, December 12, 2016Assembly, Commission, France, Iaith Gymraeg, Powers, Satire, Scotland, UK Parliament, White PapersView Comments
We really, really could be calling our AMs "Ass-sucks" in the future - not joking. Read on.
As suggested yesterday, it's becoming harder to tell where reality ends and satire starts.
Sunday, 11 December 2016
By OwenSunday, December 11, 2016Assembly, Brexit, Cons, Election 2016, England, Football, InOutRef, Internet, Labour, Lib Dems, Northern Ireland, Plaid, Plenary, Satire, UK Parliament, UKIP, USAView Comments
2016 has marked some notable deaths, but the biggest celebrity death of the year was Satire, who passed away peacefully having suffered a long illness called humanity.
Satire spent time in a coma, but briefly regained consciousness before expiring, surrounded by friends Irony and Slapstick – who graciously provided an outline of Satire's final moments.
After coming around, and a nurse fluffing their pillows, Satire was upbeat, "Fill me in on everything that's happened, so I can get back to work as soon as I'm out of here."
The blood drained from Irony and Slapstick's face, "We'll start softly. How about football?"
"Tell me some things are still sacred in this world. Tell me Jose Mourinho is still a wanker."
"Yes, nothing's changed," Slapstick replied. "Irony, why don't you fill Satire in on Euro 2016?"
"It's a good place to start. Wales reached the semi-finals, while England were knocked out by a desolate volcanic rock, whose pool of professional players is shorter than a Post Office queue. They didn't even need penalties."
"What!?" Satire's blood pressure rises and the machines surrounding him start making unsettling noises, but they manage to calm themselves down before drawing the attention of the medical staff.
Slapstick takes over, "Then they replaced Woy Wodgeson with Sam Allardyce – who got sacked after a few weeks because nobody looked at his track record at club level and thought, 'Hmm, he might be a bit dodgy.' England were paying him £3million a year yet he was still looking for an extra 400 grand."
"The jokes write themselves, I suppose," Satire said. "I guess things in domestic football calmed down by the end of the year."
The two friends shake their heads. "Remember Jimmy Savile?" Irony adds. "Times that by three."
"What else?" Slapstick thinks. "Oh, there was that thing where people were going around dressed as clowns, standing in creepy poses on doorsteps and in the streets, or trying to catch monsters on their smart phones."
"You mean the Welsh Assembly election?"
"It produced one of the biggest shocks in modern political history," Slapstick says, piquing Satire's interest.
"No, Labour won."
"What about the legendary Elwyn Davies?"
"Elwyn remains the politician Wales deserves."
"What really happened?"
"The thing is," Irony says, "you know how I said Labour won. Well they still didn't have a majority, so with Plaid Cymru gaining a massive one seat and taking their total number to 12, they decided Leanne Wood should be First Minister instead so put it to the vote."
"That's a reasonable tactic to send Labour a message and give them a bloody nose, maybe even force them to the negotiating table, even if it was a certain loss," Satire concludes.
"The vote was tied; Labour threw their toys out of the pram because they didn't get their own way while Leanne Wood was very nearly made First Minister with Tory support."
Satire rolls over in pain; his sides are splitting and not in a good way.
"It get's better", Slapstick adds. "The only Lib Dem joined the cabinet, but everyone's still trying to convince themselves there's no formal coalition."
"Just to prove how topsy-turvy everything is," Irony says, "one of the most senior and experienced AMs left the main opposition party because the party were opposing too much. Plus, the privately-educated landowner, Andrew RT Davies, is half-successfully setting out his stall as the voice of the anti-establishment common man."
"How can anyone write jokes when this is what actually happens?" Satire laments. "Please tell me there's no more. I don't know how much I can take."
"UKIP," Slaptick gulps, "won seven seats."
Satire groans as a nurse sticks their head around the door.
Irony explains further, "They ousted the guy who was the face of their successful campaign within days of taking office, and replaced him with a disgraced former MP who doesn't even live in Wales and who once wrote a song in support of the English football team."
Slapstick finishes, "At one of the first plenary meetings he equated the female opposition leaders with prostitutes."
Satire groans again, but Slapstick presses on, "At UK level they held two leadership elections in as many months as the first winner quit within 18 days, and one of the previous front runners was twatted in Brussels then left the party in a huff."
"Seven AMs. SEVEN." Irony reiterates. "They also want to build a motorway in Wales and make the Irish pay for it."
"It's not over yet," Slapstick warns. "We still need to talk about Brexit."
"The British are a sensible group of people," Satire replies half-reluctantly. "I'm sure the debate was a reasoned one, based on the pros and cons of membership of a globally significant trading bloc, the possibility of reform from within in areas such as immigration and the fiscal union, as well as a detailed analysis of the options - and workable plan – should the UK leave the EU."
"Well...." the pair don't quite know how to break the news, "....it came down to spending a phantom £350million a week on the NHS; 'kick 'em out'; both sides accusing each other of scaremongering and German car-makers needing us more than we need them."
"No...." Satire becomes short of breath, "how bad....is the damage?"
Slapstick runs off a list with his fingers, "The pound is about as valuable as Monopoly money, while there was a brief run on Marmite and Pot Noodle; even Toblerones and packets of Maltesers have shrunk. After seeing what's happening here, support for the EU has risen in the EU itself too, while it's expected to leave a £122billion black hole in public finances over the next four years.
"Also, people who were once arguing that Brexit would result in power being wielded by a sovereign UK Parliament, are now complaining because a court have decided that power should be wielded by a sovereign UK Parliament. So now they're appealing it."
"It looks like the UK can't afford 'independence',"Irony added. "You know something's not quite right when the son of Ian Paisley is touting Irish passports, and the grand plan for post-Brexit trade is flogging jam, tea and biscuits to the Japanese."
"Why didn't anyone warn them?!"
"The people 'had enough of listening to experts', so they listened to Michael Gove and Jacob Rees-Mogg instead. Gove writes for The Times, don't you know."
"Well you can't write this stuff....Who was the voice of opposition in all this?"
"Nicola Sturgeon still has her head screwed on," Slaptick explains, "but at a UK level it was Jeremy Corbyn."
"Corbyn?" Satire recollects. "Oh, I remember him from before I went into a coma; the unelectable Trot. I take it amidst the chaos over Brexit there was a leadership contest, and one of these great, multi-talented rising stars I kept hearing so much about stuck their neck out and took over in case there was a snap general election – Dan Jarvis, Chukka Umuna, Caroline Flint...."
"Exactly." Irony is tempted to laugh it off but realises Satire's in no condition for jokes, "Jeremy Corbyn now has an even stronger mandate. He's almost certain - as a pound shop Michael Foot - to lead Labour into the next general election against a pound shop Margaret Thatcher who's getting better polling figures than Tony Blair in 1997."
"The corpse of the 'progressive alliance' is being propped up on a stick again," Slapstick continues, "meaning Greens could be asked to vote for Trident-supporting, pro-nuclear Labour candidates to keep out Trident-supporting, pro-nuclear baby-eating Tories. You and I both know the left only raise the idea of a 'progressive alliance' when they know they're fucked and have run out of ideas."
Satire lets out another howl of pain. Outside, a nurse points towards the room whilst talking things over with a doctor, "It can't get much worse, can it?" Satire just about has enough strength to go on. "The world still needs to keep the powers that be in check and that's my job. I'm still relevant damn it! It's too soon for me to die!"
"There is one more thing," Slapstick adds, unsure how Satire will take it. "You know how the Americans don't like being upstaged in anything...."
"....including playing yourself...."
"....give it to me."
"The Republican presidential candidate was a former reality TV star-cum-billionaire property tycoon who, whilst being as privileged as humanly possible, positioned himself as leading the fight against 'The Man'. He ran a campaign on mass deportations, white nationalism, boasting of sexual conquests and a casual attitude to nuclear weapons."
Irony cuts in, "He was so controversial he was 'inexplicably' getting blanket 24/7 coverage in newspapers, on TV news stations and on social media. Following the election of the first black president, Americans had a mainstream candidate endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan.
"The Democrats picked the only candidate as untrustworthy and unlikable as him because it 'was her turn'. Plus, people take Facebook and Twitter so seriously nowadays they actually believe the fronts people put up to show they're living fulfilling lives instead of being deeply miserable like everyone else....and that Hillary Clinton is a reptilian with Alzheimer's."
Satire can't speak anymore, but their brow furrows as they muster the strength to rise from the bed and point as if about to say something.
"Yes, he won."
Friday, 9 December 2016
By OwenFriday, December 09, 2016Ambulance, Assembly, BudgetWG, Business, Care, Commission, EIS, FIN, HEASOC, Hospitals, INQ, INQBrief, Medicine, PrimaryC, PUBH, TaxView Comments
Thursday, 8 December 2016
By OwenThursday, December 08, 2016ActTrav, Cons, Flint, Hungary, IMD, Labour, Leisure, Mexico, Plaid, Poverty, PUBH, Schools, UKIP, WGHealth, WIss, YPeopView Comments
|(Pic : oeko-travel.org)|
We're all living longer, but that doesn't necessarily mean we're any healthier. We also all know that obesity and lack of regular exercise are two of the most significant public health crises facing Wales.
There's no single root cause and no single solution. The one thing that can be said is that – like many public health issues – it comes down to changing behaviour.
There was a members debate in October on the benefits of walking and cycling (Senedd rallies to get Wales moving). This is a sequel, but with greater emphasis on the public health impacts of sedentary lifestyles.
The motion called for the Assembly to note that:
- Obesity continue to rise and is more prevalent amongst poorer communities.
- Changing eating habits is difficult and down to the availability and affordability of good food as well as general cooking skills.
- The Active Travel Act 2013 is yet to make an impact on levels of walking and cycling.
- Declines in smoking have come about through education and government action. A combination of education, legislation and public procurement changes are needed to address the growing public health problem.
Jenny Rathbone AM (Lab, Cardiff Central) started off with the stark statistic that one quarter of Welsh adults are obese and 60% overweight (clip). The consequences are serious, like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancers. Also, the difference in life expectancy between rich and poor is 9-to-11 years, most of which is "completely avoidable".
Less than a third of adults eat five or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day, while just 1% of food advertising promotes vegetables. Despite schemes like Appetite for Life, Wales has amongst the worst child obesity rates in the UK. Three measures Jenny highlighted that could bring about change include: restrictions on marketing (which is non-devolved), promoting healthy eating in schools and using taxes to change behaviour.
Jenny cited a scheme in Flintshire where children order school meals at registration. This eliminates waste by letting caterers know exactly how much to prepare, with seasonal products promoted – no other local authority has followed Flintshire's lead.
Around the world, France has introduced a tax on sugary drinks, Finland and Mexico have put taxes on sweets, sugary drinks and similar things like ice cream. In Hungary, they apply a public health tax to certain products, with consumers subsequently choosing cheaper or healthier alternatives and food manufactures reformulating their products to avoid taxation.
Plaid Cymru health spokesperson, Rhun ap Iorwerth AM (Plaid, Ynys Môn), said it was no overstatement that obesity is one of greatest health challenges of our age, but the tide isn't turning in the same way as smoking and alcohol where young people are now less likely to take them up (clip). Childhood obesity is worse now than it was a few years ago, and Rhun was saddened Anglesey has one of worst levels of childhood obesity, with a third of 5 year olds overweight or obese.
Tackling obesity needs the same commitment and resources as tackling smoking. Heavy taxation and advertising bans cut smoking rates, but tackling obesity makes that look easy. That's because the health impacts of obesity are not automatically understood as there's no single source, and foods only become harmful when over-consumed. There's no level of support to the obese similar to that provided for smokers, while governments still make decisions that contribute to unhealthy lifestyles like car-centric town and city planning.
Vikki Howells AM (Lab, Cynon Valley) highlighted issues in disadvantaged areas. 63% of adults in Rhondda Cynon Taf were either overweight or obese, and obesity is expected to cost the Welsh NHS £465million and the wider economy £2.4billion by 2050 (clip). Also, only 1 in 3 children meet physical activity guidelines (see also - Fat of the Land : More work needed on childhood obesity). Policies like free swimming promote exercise, while Change4Life promotes health eating in schools. Cwm Taf health board are also providing obese pregnant women with specialist ante-natal services to prevent weight gain during and after pregnancy.
Vikki was disappointed the UK Government watered down proposals on sugar and unhealthy food advertising, particularly as unhealthy food remains cheap and accessible. Welsh children also suffer from a "nature deficit disorder" where they have weaker attachment to the outdoors than children elsewhere in the UK; dealing with this can encourage them to take more exercise.
Dai Lloyd AM (Plaid, South Wales West) believed it was important not to just talk about this but get to grips with it (clip). As a doctor he's dealt with problems stemming from obesity, seeing the solution as combination of healthy eating, stricter portion sizes and increasing breast-feeding (see also: Life, Ethics & Independence XI : Breastfeeding) to give babies a good start in life - research shows it decreases obesity.
Nobody has to go to extremes on personal fitness, it's as simple as walking as much as possible; this "natural fitness" can't be replicated by prescription medicines. Dai talked up legislative measures, which have successfully reduced smoking and can change the way society thinks about an issue.
John Griffiths AM (Lab, Newport East) said it's also important to have strong local examples in what can be done to meet the challenges so good practice is spread out (clip). Newport holds "physical activity summits" with key partners. He also praised a local Park Run scheme, where hundreds of people take part every week, with agreement to hold a second meeting. John hoped physical literacy will be driven forward in schools to embed good habits in young people that stay with them for life (see also: Should PE be a compulsory subject?).
Gareth Bennett AM (UKIP, South Wales Central) said levels of walking and cycling haven't shown much improvement since the Active Travel Act, with an actual decline in walking to school (clip). He asked whether the Welsh Government could offer financial incentives to encourage walking to school and outdoor activities? They could also support leisure centres, who through outsourcing may increase prices and entrance fees. He criticised the lack of targets to boost active travel in the Future Generations Act, and questioned how cyclists and walking will be integrated into the South Wales Metro.
|Long distance cycle paths - welcome though they are - do little|
to encourage "everyday" physical activity.
(Pic : Visit Wales)
Julie Morgan AM (Lab, Cardiff North) was proud of the Active Travel Act, but it has to be used at every opportunity (clip). A message needs to go out that people can help develop safe walking and cycling routes that are useful to them. However, health habits need to start young – whether breast-feeding or ante-natal support – and Sustrans are targeting young mothers and mothers-to-be, as there's evidence that if parents walk or cycle, their children will too.
Julie also focused on poverty. For both boys and girls aged 2-15, there's a greater prevalence of obesity in lower-income groups. Nutrient-dense foods are more expensive and lower-income consumers have lower protein, iron, oily fish and vitamin intake.
Lee Waters AM (Lab, Llanelli) endorsed John Griffith's praise for Park Run, being enthused by the support of volunteers – many of whom wouldn't do any exercise if the scheme didn't exist, making the £6,000 investment in getting Park Runs off the ground a "no-brainer" (clip).
The Active Travel Act "shouldn't be a tick-box exercise", but is a huge opportunity to get people who take little or no exercise to do some as part of their everyday routine; leisure centres and gyms are ineffective with such groups. Most car journeys are under 1 mile and these journeys need to be done by foot or by bike.
He said AMs had a cognitive dissonance in saying they want to do something on public health, but being inconsistent in how they apply it. He cited support for free parking in town centres as, despite AMs wanting to increase active travel, the policy encourages car travel. He also had guarded criticism for Carmarthenshire Council for focusing development of long-distance cycling/walking routes for tourists at the expense of utilitarian point-to-point urban routes in Llanelli.
Minister for Public Health & Social Services, Rebecca Evans (Lab, Gower), said that while the Welsh Government were doing more to create the circumstances for people to make healthy choices they can't do it alone (clip).
The Change4Life programme will be complemented by Public Health Wales training health staff to offer brief, helpful advice on lifestyle changes. At a UK level, we need restrictions on advertising of high fat, sugar and salt foods – particularly to children. She supports the UK's sugary drinks levy but would like to see progress, citing the voluntary salt reduction with food producers scheme, which has resulted in salt levels falling by 50% since 2012. Procurement criteria will factor in nutrition – something already being done in the NHS and set to expand across the public sector.
In terms of active travel, there's a commitment to work with schools to develop walk-to-school schemes and fund cycling and walking training. Local authorities are also currently working on their integrated active travel maps under the Act.
Over 80% of the adults are non-smokers for the first time since records began, and this has been achieved through preventing uptake amongst the young and helping people quit. The recently-introduced Public Health Bill includes "strong" measures on smoking, while there's a target to reduce the percentage of the population who smoke population to 16% by 2020.
In summing up, Conservative health spokesperson, Angela Burns AM (Con, Carms. W. & S. Pembs.), said the Minister could do one thing today without a grand strategy (clip): increase the amount of time dedicated to sport in schools (which has consistently declined over the decade) and be more creative in defining "physical activity" – girls may be more body conscious and dislike team sports, for example.
It was also all well and good taking part in Park Runs or going to a gym surrounded by "Lycra-clad bunnies" – but the large group of people who are overweight need to feel less embarrassed and out of place when attempts are made to "bring them in", as their body image may put them off exercise in the first place.
The motion was unanimously approved.
|It was always going to be difficult to cover so many points in a limited amount|
of time, but cooking lessons were broadly overlooked in the debate.
(Pic : Barry Comprehensive School)
I'm not going to spend too much time on commentary as I've written a lot about this in the past and I intend to look at junk food (with a view towards independence) in January, so I'll be coming back to some of the issues raised yesterday, particularly tax.
The only area in the motion that AMs didn't really address was cooking lessons. There's always a risk that, by trying to create a "literacy" for what are basic life skills, school timetables will be full to bursting - but I'd expect the argument for "food literacy" to rumble on ahead of the new curriculum.
Points made by Lee Waters and Angela Burns are worth picking up on. Firstly, there really is too much emphasis on long-distance walking and cycling routes aimed at tourists than those within and between urban areas (though hopefully the integrated travel maps will help there). Having a nice, scenic bike ride, walk or run along an old railway line is fine, but people need to walk from school, shops and work – not just in their leisure time - or the whole thing's pointless.
It's often the easiest option for local authorities because longer-distance routes are often much easier to engineer; for example, they won't interfere with road traffic as much and don't require large number of drop kerbs or other safety features. So you might end up with a high quality route between, for argument's sake, Pontypridd and Cardiff - but as soon as you get to Cardiff and stray too far from the Taff Trail things get more difficult to engineer and this in turn will put casual cyclists and walkers off, maintaining the cycle of car dependence.
Secondly, Angela Burns was right to say that as the majority of the adult population are now overweight or obese, the hectoring we've seen with smoking probably isn't going to work. The approach need to be subtle and needs to match what individuals want or would feel comfortable with. For example, women-only gyms staffed by women personal trainers, a wider variety of sports offered in schools (as said) and harder-nosed measures like banning secondary school pupils from leaving premises at lunchtime (whilst simultaneously offering nutritonally balanced options for them; ideally with their input).
Wednesday, 7 December 2016
By OwenWednesday, December 07, 2016Canada, China, Curriculum, England, Japan, Labour, Lib Dems, Northern Ireland, Schools, Science, Scotland, USA, WGEdView Comments
|(Pic : E)|
Climb into your bath, track your arteries with a razor blade and bring on The Smiths.
It's PISA time and there's nothing the Welsh enjoy more than a good moan, revelling in the doom as we all – once again - rubber neck the slow motion car crash that is the Welsh education syst....
....like Glyn over at National Left I'm getting a strange sense of deja vu.
As you all know, the OECD's PISA tests in reading, mathematics and science are used to draw comparisons between the performance of 15-year-olds in the world's major economies.
PISA tests – which have an heavy emphasis on problem-solving and application of theories learned in the classroom – are taken every three years with the latest results released yesterday (6th December). There's a more detailed background on PISA's importance from the Assembly Research Service here.
Labour rolled back on promises that we would see improved PISA scores, while current Education Secretary, Kirsty Williams (Lib Dem, Brecon & Radnor), re-emphasised the long-standing need for XYZ (usually a mix of collaboration, curriculum changes and more spending on disadvantaged pupils) to improve matters.
In the end, the managing of expectations was justified....but it's not quite as bad as it seems.
|PISA & Wales 2006-2015|
The general report is available here (pdf), and the summary relevant to Wales and the UK is available here (pdf).
I'll get the good news out of the way first.
Welsh performances in mathematics has jumped significantly - up 10 points from 468 in 2012 to 478 in 2015. Although Wales is still ranked bottom of the Home Nations and below the OECD average, the gap has closed with England (493), Northern Ireland (493) and Scotland (491). It's actually our second-best result since Welsh students started taking the tests.
Now the bad news.
In reading, the Welsh score fell by 3 points compared to 2012 from 480 to 477 and remains below the OECD average. This still lags behind England (500), Scotland (493) and Northern Ireland (497) but because the other Home Nations have done worse than expected, the performance gap has closed slightly.
Finally, science – which has traditionally been Wales' strongest area. Welsh scores have fallen by 6 points from 491 to 485, with England (512), Northern Ireland (500) and Scotland (497) all out-performing Wales yet again. The 20-25 point gap hasn't changed much.
Overall, this is another set of disappointing results with one big bright spot on maths; but for once it's the other nations in the UK who have more to worry about – in particular Scotland and, considering the amount of effort that's gone into making their curriculum "more rigerous", England too.
Other key findings:
- There's no significant difference in performance between boys and girls in science. While girls out-perform boys in reading and boys out-perform girls in maths, the gender gap is narrower in Wales in both cases than the other Home Nations. Boys are marginally more likely to be "top performers" (proficient at the highest levels 5 & 6 in the tests) than girls.
- Only 4-5% of pupils in Wales are considered "top performers" in reading, maths and science, compared to the UK average of 10-12%.
- 28% of Welsh pupils expect to have a career where scientific knowledge is a prerequisite, near enough the same as the UK average but higher than the OECD average (24%). However, in Wales more top performers in science (55%) expect to have a career in science than the lowest performers (17%) when compared to the rest of the UK.
- Headteachers in Wales are significantly less likely (20%) to say shortages in teachers with a science degree impacts delivery of lessons than the rest of the UK (43%).
- 35% of Welsh pupils said they skipped at least one day of school in the two weeks prior to the PISA tests - the highest percentage in the UK and significantly higher than the OECD average (20%). This is more common in disadvantaged schools than advantaged schools.
- In mathematics, the Welsh score (478) places us roughly mid-table alongside Malta (479), Hungary (477), but ahead of the United States (470), Israel (470) and most of eastern Europe.
- In reading, the Welsh score (477) again places us somewhere in the middle to lower-half alongside Argentina (475), Luxembourg (481) and Lithuania (472).
- When it comes to science, Wales (485) is just about in the top half of the table in between Russia (487) and Luxembourg (482), but out-performing Italy (481), Iceland (473) and Israel (467).
- Overall, the tables are dominated by Singapore, Japan, Estonia, Taiwan, Finland and Canada. Wales is about 10-15 points behind the scores attained by most EU member states.
Five Stages of Grief
Here's what previous education ministers have had to say following the release of PISA results.
Denial - Jane Hutt (2007):
"The real benefits of the PISA assessments will come not from the headline figures and league table rankings, but from the detailed analysis of strengths and weaknesses and what more we can learn from the best and most effective practice internationally."
Anger - Leighton Andrews (2010):
"These results are disappointing. They show an unacceptable fall in our overall performance - everyone involved in the education sector in Wales should be alarmed. There can be no alibis and no excuses. Countries with less money spent on education than Wales have done better than Wales. Schools, local authorities, and ourselves as government need to look honestly at these results and accept responsibility for them."
Bargaining - Huw Lewis (2013):
"Everybody working in and around the Welsh education sector needs to take a long hard look in the mirror this week. The PISA results are stark and the message is very clear, we must improve educational attainment and standards right across the board. I expect to see the impact of our reforms reflected in the next set of results. They're ambitious and I believe they will have a lasting, sustainable and positive effect on education in Wales."
Depression - Kirsty Williams (2016):
"We can all agree we are not yet where we want to be. While we have seen a 10 point lift in our maths score, the results for science are disappointing. Last month I invited the OECD to look at how we are doing in Wales; their advice to me was unambiguous: Stay the course, be brave, you are doing the right things. The easy thing to do would be rip up the plan and start again. But we owe it to our pupils, parents and the profession to do what is right."
Maybe in 2019 Wales will finally reach Acceptance.
PISA – useful tool as it is – isn't the be all and end all when it comes to measuring educational attainment, and its wider economic impact is negligible with very little correlation between good PISA scores and a strong economy.
For example, a large part of South Korea – which consistently ranks near the top in PISA – has a GVA per capita very similar to Wales, while Welsh workers are about 25% more productive than those in Shanghai. PISA isn't a qualification either so has no bearing on employment prospects or a factor in determining that pupils are being "abandoned".
That said, there are no more excuses and Wales should be doing better than we are.
Despite the marked improvement in maths, the portents of doom from our media – even Wales Online graciously managed to drop advertising-masquerading-as-news about a bar in Cardiff to cover this – are as pronounced as previous years.
We can't see beyond the British Bubble and realise this is about 70+ nations and stateless nations. Everything comes down to England, when Wales is decidedly mid to upper-mid table both globally and at a European level, not at "the bottom" of anything. We really need to be looking at the likes of Estonia, Finland and the Republic of Ireland for a fair benchmark.
Government AMs have gone through the usual platitudes of saying how disappointed they are and that things will improve, while opposition AMs are screaming for "something to be done" without actually saying what.
Based on Kirsty Williams' reaction, there's a realisation that it's perhaps better to let reforms filter through than take knee-jerk action, but I'm fully expecting the Education Secretary to still come under pressure from certain quarters. There's no such thing as long-term thinking in Wales, particularly when we feel "embarrassed" in front of the English, when they're more concerned about being embarrassed in front of the Chinese.
Some of those reforms – the introduction of numeracy tests and the start of separate numeracy and mathematics GCSEs - may well have contributed in part to the improvement we've seen in maths. Our reading and maths scores have remained relatively stable since 2006; it's our science scores that are dragging us down - as you can see from the graph earlier. Science rarely gets a look in when it comes to discussions on Welsh education, it's all about literacy and numeracy.
However, one of the key lessons which the OECD themselves say nations should take on board, is that the best performing nations value and respect teachers. It's not about class sizes. It's not about selective schools. It's not about bilingualism. It's not about how much money you spend per pupil.
As much as I don't want to let Labour off the hook for their failure, for the next PISA cycle - and ahead of the eventual introduction of the new National Curriculum - let's try something really radical: do nothing.
Tuesday, 6 December 2016
By OwenTuesday, December 06, 2016Ambulance, Banks, Brexit, Buses, Cons, Farming, FMQs, Labour, Plaid, PrimaryC, Racism, Schools, SupCo, UKIP, WGEcon, WGHealth, WrexhamView Comments
Obviously the big story today is the OECD's PISA 2015 results – I'm pushing to get something done for tomorrow but I'm currently unwell 😰. In the meantime, there's the penultimate FMQs of 2016 with PISA featuring heavily as you might expect.
Monday, 5 December 2016
By OwenMonday, December 05, 2016Cardiff, Crime, Drugs, Gwynedd, Labour, Medicine, Plaid, Policing, PUBH, ScienceView Comments
|(Pic : Daily Post)|
Gwynedd county councillor, Cllr. Sion Jones (Lab, Bethel), has called for the resignation of PCC Arfon Jones (Plaid, North Wales Police) - who recently called for drugs to be "legalised", and offered his support to the idea of clean "fix rooms" for drug addicts who use injectable drugs after a man was filmed injecting in a Caernarfon Bus Station toilet.
Saturday, 3 December 2016
By OwenSaturday, December 03, 2016DCMS, EUCOM, Independence, Independence Minutiae, Ireland, Leisure, Libraries, Literature, Society, UK LawView Comments
|(Pic : The Guardian)|
If you've ever borrowed books from a public library, you've taken advantage of this little known scheme. It's also one of the plethora of policy areas that are non-devolved and unlikely to be the responsibility of Wales unless we choose independence one day.
Friday, 2 December 2016
By OwenFriday, December 02, 2016Assembly, Commission, Constitution, ElectR, Gorwel, Powers, UK Parliament, Universities, WGCView Comments
|(Pic : viewpictures.co.uk)|
There's been a fair bit of discussion for several years on how many Assembly Members we need. The general consensus within the "Bay Bubble" is that 60 AMs is too few to meet the growing demands of the legislature – which will have tax-varying powers from 2018 and, at some indeterminate post-Brexit point in the future, some of the responsibilities of the EU.
Thursday, 1 December 2016
By OwenThursday, December 01, 2016Bills, Business, Crime, Local Gov, NRW, Tax, Waste, Welsh Law, WGFinLG, WRAView Comments
|(Pic : South Wales Argus)|
Earlier this week, Finance & Local Government Secretary, Mark Drakeford (Lab, Cardiff West), introduced the second Bill to establishes a new Welsh tax. It followed hot on the heels from the law to replace stamp duty – which was introduced in September.
Wednesday, 30 November 2016
the UK High Court ruled the UK Parliament must vote to trigger
Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to start the Brexit process, and the
powers are not held under royal prerogative by the Prime Minister.
The UK Government appealed to the Supreme Court.
Tuesday, 29 November 2016
By OwenTuesday, November 29, 2016Brexit, Cons, CounGen, FirstMin, FMQs, Hospitals, Housing, Labour, Medicine, Nursing, Plaid, Rail, Roads, S4C, SportW, SupCo, UKIP, WGEcon, WGHealthView Comments
Sometimes AMs discuss stuff that only matters to themselves or those who lobby them. Sometimes they concentrate on things that have more topical relevance – as they did today.
Saturday, 26 November 2016
By OwenSaturday, November 26, 2016BCBC, Bridgend, BridgT, Civil Defence, Labour, Libraries, MaesT, NRW, PlanBCBC, Rail, Roads, WasteView Comments
|© Copyright Jaggery and licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence.|
Bridgend Council's (BCBC) Cabinet meet next week to discuss a new round of reports, including a significant move towards opening Bridgend town centre to traffic, flood management, praise for libraries and proposals for a "Bin Police" to enforce the two black bag limit from next April. There's also a separate update on Brackla station.
Thursday, 24 November 2016
By OwenThursday, November 24, 2016Chile, Cons, Farming, IMD, Internet, Labour, Netherlands, NZ, Plaid, Science, UN, Universities, Vets, WGEnvView Comments
Tuesday, 22 November 2016
By OwenTuesday, November 22, 2016BlaenauG, Bridgend, Cons, Energy, Flint, FMQs, Internet, Labour, Medicine, Metro, NPT, Plaid, Roads, SArabia, SteelSOS, UKIP, Water, WGEcon, WrexhamView Comments
The big story this afternoon is the emergence of a potential "cash for access" scandal. I stress "potential".
Saturday, 19 November 2016
By OwenSaturday, November 19, 2016BCBC, Bridgend, BridgT, Courts, Crime, Fire, Garw, Independents, Labour, MaesT, NRW, PlanBCBC, Sarn, TCCsView Comments
Friday, 18 November 2016
By OwenFriday, November 18, 2016Cons, Crown, Elderly, Energy, England, HMT, Housing, Republicanism, Satire, Torfaen, UK Parliament, WelfareView Comments
|(Pic : Visit London)|
There were red faces all around when it was revealed a 90-year-old woman was sent a £369million home improvement grant by accident. The grant - issued on behalf of the UK Treasury - was still awaiting approval, but the letter-of-intent was delivered to the wrong address.
Thursday, 17 November 2016
By OwenThursday, November 17, 2016Borders, Brexit, Business, EmpSk, EU, Foreign Affairs, Industry, Pirate, Poverty, Racism, SNP, UK Press, UKIP, USA, WIssView Comments
|Is the idea of a single monolithic Establishment a myth?|
(Pic : The Spectator)
2016 will be marked by a revolt against the status quo in liberal democracies. In Wales we've seen the election of UKIP AMs for the first time, followed by Brexit. Earlier this year there was an inconclusive Irish general election. There's also the re-election of Jeremy Corbyn in the face of opposition from Labour's aristocracy and finally Donald Trump's victory last week.
Tuesday, 15 November 2016
By OwenTuesday, November 15, 2016Caerphilly, Cons, Disability, Drugs, FirstMin, FMQs, Labour, Plaid, PrimaryC, Torfaen, Trade, UKIP, USA, WIssView Comments
There were a number of exchanges relating to the new President-Elect of the US this afternoon ( as you might expect) but the staple topic of health dominated discussion overall.
Saturday, 12 November 2016
By OwenSaturday, November 12, 2016Assembly, Blogosphere, Cabinet, Carms, Courts, Independents, Labour, Pembs, Plaid, Regs, WAO, WWSCView Comments
This weekend, people will gather near monuments which, in some cases, will list the names of those who willingly and unwillingly sacrificed their lives in conflict.
Thursday, 10 November 2016
By OwenThursday, November 10, 2016Anglesey, Cardiff, Ceredigion, Climate, Cons, Conserv, Farming, IMD, Labour, Marine, NRW, Plaid, Science, Sea, Third Sector, UKIP, Vets, Water, Welsh Law, WGEnvView Comments
|(Pic : Centre for Ecology & Hydrology)|
Wednesday, 9 November 2016
By OwenWednesday, November 09, 2016Assembly, Bills, Crime, Disability, Drugs, Elderly, Labour, Local Gov, PrimaryC, PUBH, Retail, Welsh Law, WGHealth, YPeopView Comments
Tuesday, 8 November 2016
By OwenTuesday, November 08, 2016Brexit, Business, Climate, Cons, CounGen, Courts, FirstMin, FMQs, Football, History, Independents, Labour, MHealth, Military, MoD, Plaid, PM, Tax, USA, WGComView Comments
It's a long one this week as I've decided to tack on the Assembly's response to the Article 50 judgement. There's also a sense of deja vu from recent FMQs as you'll probably see for yourselves.
Saturday, 5 November 2016
By OwenSaturday, November 05, 2016Business, China, Crime, Fire, Football, Independence, Local Gov, Netherlands, Powers, PUBH, Regs, Society, UK Law, VisArt, VNatView Comments
|(Pic : heavy.com)|
It was only fit to pick today to address another issue regarding public policy and independence – pyrotechnics.
Thursday, 3 November 2016
By OwenThursday, November 03, 2016Caerphilly, Cardiff, Cons, Election 2016, Labour, Lib Dems, Newport, Plaid, RCT, Satire, UniversitiesView Comments
Wednesday, 2 November 2016
By OwenWednesday, November 02, 2016Air, Assembly, Business, Cons, England, HomeOff, Hospitals, Labour, Medicine, Pembs, Plaid, Plenary, Policing, Tax, UKIP, Unions, WGCom, WGEcon, WGHealth, YPeopView Comments
|First Minister's Questions....without the First Minister.|
(Pic : Wales Online)
As promised, I'm going to return to yesterday's plenary session and cover the four urgent questions asked following FMQs.
Tuesday, 1 November 2016
Monday, 31 October 2016
Prime Minister, Theresa May, announced a “Great Repeal Bill”
would be introduced to repeal the European Communities Act 1973 and
end the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. She also
confirmed Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty will be triggered by the
end of March 2017, starting a two-year EU withdrawal process.
Friday, 28 October 2016
By OwenFriday, October 28, 2016BCBC, Bridgend, BridgT, Football, Housing, Independents, Labour, LFAS, Lib Dems, PlanBCBC, Roads, SchoolsView Comments
|Penybont FC's plans to improve facilities in Bryntirion have suffered a setback.|
(Pic : Ton Pentre FC)
The monthly meeting of Bridgend Council's Development Control Committee was held yesterday afternoon. As usual, the webcast is available here.
Wednesday, 26 October 2016
By OwenWednesday, October 26, 2016Banks, Borders, Brexit, Business, Canada, EU, Farming, Foreign Affairs, FreeMove, Industry, IntLaw, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, Tax, Trade, Turkey, Unionism, WhitehallView Comments
|Soft Brexit vs Hard Brexit - the same process but different end results.|
(Pic : buzzfeed.com)
I said I wouldn't return to Brexit until something concrete happens. Now that we have a timetable for the activation of Article 50 , a recent ministerial meeting involving the devolved administrations and hints at what sort of Brexit the UK Government will pursue, it's worth coming back to it again.
Sunday, 23 October 2016
By OwenSunday, October 23, 2016BIS, Fiscal Policy, HMT, Housing, Independence, Independence Minutiae, Planning, PubServ, Swansea, UnionsView Comments
|(Pic : Land Registry)|
The latest in my series of indescribably boring and technical posts looking at overlooked and minor issues of Welsh independence considers registration of land ownership (titles, deeds etc.). At the moment it's the responsibility of the Land Registry.
Wednesday, 19 October 2016
By OwenWednesday, October 19, 2016ArtsC, BudgetWG, Farming, Hospitals, Housing, Labour, Lib Dems, Local Gov, Medicine, Museums, Plaid, Regeneration, Schools, Universities, WGFinLGView Comments
|(Pic : BBC Wales)|
The Welsh Government's spending plans for the next financial year were tabled in the Senedd on Tuesday by Local Government & Finance Secretary, Mark Drakeford (Lab, Cardiff West).
Tuesday, 18 October 2016
By OwenTuesday, October 18, 2016Assembly, Cons, DfT, FirstMin, FMQs, Internet, Labour, Lib Dems, Medicine, Metro, NPT, Plaid, PrimaryC, Rail, RCT, Theatre, UKIP, Universities, WGEcon, WGEdView Comments
AMs donned windbreakers and proverbially hung around platforms as the future of rail services dominated proceedings this week. It's also a week that marks the 50th anniversary of the Aberfan disaster on Friday – with commemorations due at the Senedd tomorrow. It's budget week too and I hope to have something on that for tomorrow (Thursday at the latest).
Sunday, 16 October 2016
|"Remember kids, don't do this ridiculously cool thing."|
Our crippling, and deeply unhelpful, obsession with nostalgia and relics of the past could soon see over-powered production cars using Wales' narrow and poorly maintained forestry roads at 70mph.
Saturday, 15 October 2016
|Traitor? Following his conscience? Legitimately disgruntled?|
(Pic : Wales Online)
The timing's a bit of a shock, but the news isn't. This was going to be a more jocular post, but that's been shunted as there's only one story today and that's Dafydd Elis-Thomas' announcement last night that he's left Plaid Cymru and will sit out the rest of the term as an Independent AM.
Thursday, 13 October 2016
By OwenThursday, October 13, 2016ActTrav, Assembly, Cons, Curriculum, England, IMD, Labour, Local Gov, Netherlands, Plaid, PUBH, Roads, Schools, Society, UKIP, Welsh Law, WGHealth, YPeopView Comments
|Only a third of Welsh schoolchildren get their recommended hour of physical activity a day.|
Pic : Road Safety GB)
The latest backbench members debate was on the subject of physical activity, in particular walking and cycling.
Tuesday, 11 October 2016
By OwenTuesday, October 11, 2016Anglesey, BBC, Cons, FirstMin, FMQs, Hospitals, Ireland, Labour, M4Newport, Newport, Northern Ireland, Plaid, Planning, Refugees, Torfaen, UKIP, WGFinLG, WIssView Comments
There was a varied FMQs today, with questions ranging from the M4, average earnings, the planning system and also a polite warning from the Llywydd.
Monday, 10 October 2016
By OwenMonday, October 10, 2016Assembly, Cabinet, CLAC, Commission, Constitution, FirstMin, INQ, Powers, UK Law, UK Parliament, Wales Bill, WAOFF, Welsh Law, WhitehallView Comments
Saturday, 8 October 2016
By OwenSaturday, October 08, 2016Assembly, Business, Energy, England, Fiscal Policy, Housing, Labour, Plaid, Planning, Rail, Regeneration, Roads, Scotland, White PapersView Comments
|(Pic : Plaid Cymru)|
On Monday, the Shadow Ministers for the Economy & Infrastructure – Adam Price AM (Plaid, Carms. E & Dinefwr) and Dai Lloyd AM (Plaid, South Wales West) respectively – launched a policy paper outlining their proposal to create a National Infrastructure Commission (pdf).
Thursday, 6 October 2016
By OwenThursday, October 06, 2016Assembly, BCBC, Bridgend, Business, Cons, Crime, Fire, KPC, Labour, LFAS, Libraries, MaesT, NRW, PCoed, Plenary, Third Sector, UKIP, Waste, WGEnvView Comments
Wednesday, 5 October 2016
By OwenWednesday, October 05, 2016Assembly, Cons, England, Labour, Local Gov, Plaid, Plenary, UKIP, WGFinLG, Williams, WLGAView Comments
|In case you were wondering, it's in reference to this.|
Tuesday, 4 October 2016
By OwenTuesday, October 04, 2016Borders, Brexit, Cadw, Cardiff, Cons, Farming, FirstMin, FMQs, Gwynedd, Hospitals, Housing, Labour, Plaid, PM, PrimaryC, Roads, Swansea, UKIP, WGEcon, WhitehallView Comments
Sunday, 2 October 2016
By OwenSunday, October 02, 2016BudgetWG, Colleges, England, Fiscal Policy, Housing, Iaith Gymraeg, Labour, Lib Dems, Poverty, Universities, WGEd, White Papers, YPeopView Comments