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  1. Nick Powell

Delay new exams say Welsh Conservatives

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.

– Leader of the Opposition Andrew RT Davies AM

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.

– Shadow Education Minister Angela Burns AM


Tories say report shows 'knee-jerk' policymaking

A report by the Wales Audit Office which shows a 24% increase in the costs of capping tuition fees in Wales has been described as 'shocking' and 'scathing' by Welsh Conservatives. Shadow Education Minister Angela Burns says:

Costs were grossly under-estimated and based on wildly unreliable variables, the policy continues to siphon off tens of millions of pounds to English universities and as the report clearly states, the cap on student numbers could deny Welsh-domiciled students the chance to study at Welsh universities.

Labour’s tuition fee subsidy has completely failed to widen access to higher education, has starved Welsh universities of vital funding and has made it more difficult for our higher education sector to compete in the global race.

Labour Ministers have now cynically tried to take the heat out of this report by rushing out their announcement of a review into HE funding, albeit with no terms of reference or detail and purely simple-minded responses to key questions.

We hope Labour Ministers will study the detailed recommendations of this report, learn the lessons of their sloppy, rushed policymaking and change the timetable of their drawn-out review of HE funding to permit a public debate ahead of the 2016 election.

– Angela Burns AM, Shadow Education Minsiter

Tories fear truancy fines will hit most vulnerable

This is a lazy Labour government piling all its eggs into a basket of punishment – at the expense of support and liaison.

There is a real danger that these fines will hit the most vulnerable hardest and ignore the real reasons behind truancy.

I fear fines will stack up while behaviour remains largely unchanged.

Low school attendance can have a hugely detrimental impact upon a child and Labour Ministers should be working hard to tackle the problem at its root causes.

– Angela Burns AM, Shadow Education Minister

Welsh Conservatives announce childcare inquiry

Opposition leader Andrew RT Davies will use his conference speech in Swansea to announce that he's setting up a commission to look at ways of providing what he calls 'proper, affordable childcare.' He's appointed Shadow Education Minister Angela Burns to head the commission. He'll tell delegates:

I want parents across Wales to look at the Welsh Conservatives and see a party that “gets it” and is doing something about it.

I want young people across Wales to look at the Welsh Conservatives as a party leading the way for aspiration.

So today, I’m pleased to announce that my Shadow Minister for Education, Angela Burns has set up a Commission to look at how we can provide proper, affordable childcare.

Following on from some of the great work already undertaken by the UK Government in this field, Angela will work with professionals from representational organisations and business to see how we can help parents across Wales to be as aspirational for themselves as they are for their children.

Engagement in real policy development is the only way we can sell ourselves as the party that ‘gets it.'

– Andrew RT Davies, leader of the Opposition


Timeout rooms are 'weapons of incarceration and humiliation'

Shadow Education Minister Angela Burns, who's AM for Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire, has welcomed the ministers' letter but says she has enormous concerns over the use of timeout rooms, in whatever form, throughout Wales. She's called for strong guidance on how children are disciplined.

Children’s experiences at school help shape the adults they become and can deeply affect them in later life. Having seen the timeout room at the pupil referral unit in Pembrokeshire and heard evidence from children about other schools I fail to see how the use of a timeout room can be deemed appropriate in this day and age. The weapons of incarceration and public humiliation of children are shameful and should never play a part in the armoury of teaching.

– Shadow Education Minister Angela Burns AM