The Welsh Conservatives have called for a delay in the introduction of Wales-only GCSEs after some schools reported unexpectedly poor results from the January English GCSE exams.
The Leader of the Opposition, Andrew RT Davies, accused the First Minister of ignoring educational expertise and failing to trust teachers. He said the Welsh Government has ignored calls from the WJEC exam board to delay the introduction of new GCSE courses, currently scheduled for September.
Labour is ploughing on with plans for new Wales-only qualifications in the face of opposition from educational experts and organisations playing a critical role in the implementation of the new GCSEs. The massive decline in GCSE performance in the January 2014 results raises many concerns about new Wales-only qualifications and whether the Welsh Government needs to separate the roles of regulator and awarding body. A child only has one shot at their education and the grades achieved in exams will remain on someone’s CV for life.
Earlier the Education Minister, Huw Lewis, said that of the 102 schools that entered more than 20 pupils in January, only 36 had reported an unexpectedly poor performance. But his Conservative shadow rejected his claim that she was opposing the policy of introducing more rigour into exams.
It is critical that qualifications are robust and internationally-recognised as high calibre. Rushing in new GCSEs without sufficient forethought risks dumbing down our education system. The Welsh Government should not be so arrogant as to ignore the advice of educational experts and plough on with such a major departure from previous qualifications. It’s disappointing that Labour Ministers have been so reluctant to make information about the GCSE English Language qualification publicly available, which has increased uncertainty further.
The Welsh Conservative leader says it will be difficult to reach consensus on proposals for further devolution set out in a major report this week. Andrew RT Davies said he feared crime would go up if the Welsh Government were given control of policing.
The Opposition leader said he would 'really struggle to advocate' some of the changes recommended in the second part of the Silk Commission's report although he wasn't saying 'no' to all of its proposals.
And he repeated his commitment to the first part of the report which recommended transferring some tax and borrowing powers. That, he said, was 'the missing piece of the devolution jigsaw.'
The Welsh Conservatives have limited themselves to thanking Paul Silk and his commission for its work, without commenting on any of the recommendations.
There have been arguments over the detail of the commission's earlier proposals on tax between Welsh Secretary David Jones and the Tories' Assembly leader, Andrew RT Davies. Those disagreements have only just been smoothed over after the Prime Minister met his party's AMs and MPs.
Today, Mr Davies simply called on all political parties to study the recommendations in detail "with the aim of achieving cross party consensus on the way forward".
The Conservatives are calling for an urgent response from the Welsh Government to the concerns about Welsh hospital death rates raised by English NHS medical director Sir Bruce Keogh.
The concerns raised in this email confirm our serious worries over standards of care in the NHS.Professor Keogh’s recommendation of ‘investigation’ into mortality rates should be immediately undertaken and no longer ignored. It is a matter of great regret that Carwyn Jones and Welsh Labour appear to have dismissed the advice provided by this leading expert.For the sake of future generations - Welsh Conservatives have long called for a Keogh-style inquiry into NHS standards of care.I sincerely hope that this will now take place.
Professor Keogh’s comments are further proof of extremely serious problems within the Welsh NHS.If this leading expert has offered assistance and raised concerns over a potential cover-up – he should not be ignored.I am staggered at reports that his correspondence has gone unanswered and I urge Labour’s First Minister to clarify these reports as soon as possible.
Mortality rates in Wales are of huge concern and I have long raised questions over recent misleading statistics. NHS Wales has suffered catastrophically from Labour’s record-breaking budget cuts. Queuing ambulances, bed blocking, rocketing waiting lists and missed response times continue to throw the service into crisis.A Keogh-style inquiry would address serious concerns and see structures put in place to protect communities.
Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies explains why he sacked four of his Assembly Members from the Shadow Cabinet. When I asked him if he's worried about the prospect of a leadership challenge, he said simply, 'Do I look worried?'
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The Welsh Conservative Leader says 2013 was 'an unlucky year for Wales.' Andrew RT Davies said Wales has been making headlines 'for all the wrong reasons,' highlighting international education figures, ambulance waiting times and problems facing Welsh businesses. He said:
Thirteen is unlucky for some – and if you own a business, have a child in school, or a relative requiring NHS treatment, 2013 has been unlucky for you.
If a crisis is defined as a worrying failure to get the important things right – or a time of intense difficulty – then Wales is currently in the middle of one.
The country’s economic levers remain dusty and idle. Still no council tax freeze – despite another freeze in England – and still no further support for small businesses. Yet taxpayers have been forced to buy an airport for 52 million pounds, when an airport in Scotland was recently nationalised for a pound.
A Welsh university student, currently in their first year, has spent their entire life in a Labour-run education system. During those 14 years, pupils have been let down and a generation has been lost. PISA results cannot be swept away by Carwyn Jones and Welsh Labour.
The Welsh Conservatives have marked Carwyn Jones' fourth anniversary as First Minister by criticising his record as 'uninspiring' and 'four years of failure.' Tory leader Andrew RT Davies said:
Four years of missed opportunities.
Four years of failure to reach the very best for Wales – on education, on health, on the economy.
All under Carwyn Jones’s watch.
Skewed spending priorities have led to a refusal to freeze council tax, record-breaking NHS cuts, and business rates relief that could be hugely improved.
Legislation has been hugely slow in coming forward and to date, Mr Jones’s tenure remains entirely uninspiring.
This First Minister continues to preside over hospital downgrading, appalling global tests in maths, reading and science, and access to finance for businesses that is inexcusably bad.
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