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Welsh Tories call for return to grammar-style education

by Adrian Masters

The Welsh Conservatives say a return to grammar school-style education in Wales is needed to boost standards.

Under their proposals, children would be assessed at the age of 14 and encouraged to follow either academic or vocational studies.

The idea has been criticised by opponents for turning the clock back to a divisive and discredited system.

NUT: Comprehensive system 'suits children of Wales'

David Evans, Secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) Cymru, said they back the comprehensive schools system fully.

He said "it suits us - its suits the people of Wales - it suits the children of Wales."

The last grammar school in Wales closed in 1988, but the Welsh Conservatives are calling for a return to the grammar system.

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Trainee: 'If I had started this at 14, I'd be a year into a job'

Myles Blood is 18 and from Cardiff. He is a catering trainee with ACT Training. He says he stayed in school to do his AS-levels, but wishes he had gone down the vocational route earlier.

He told our Political Editor Adrian Masters "if I started this at 14, I think I'd be a year into a job, and a professional demi-chef."

The Welsh Conservatives have proposed a streaming system in Welsh secondary schools, where pupils are separated between academic and vocational streams at age 14.

Union: Plans 'raise more questions than they answer'

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) Cymru says it is concerned that the Welsh Conservatives' proposals for a return to a grammar school system "raise more questions than they answer."

This is an intriguing development and quite a departure in a Welsh context where grammar schools are a distant memory for most.

At this point these proposals raise more questions than they answer - pupils need solid qualifications in academic disciplines too, notably English/Welsh and mathematics. It is not clear where these would fit under these proposals.

We are already moving to a Welsh Baccalaureate model which would seek to offer pupils an academic or a vocational route, all under the Welsh Bacc umbrella. Do these plans feature in this model?

The grammar school system is remembered positively by those who benefitted from it; that same system disenfranchised very many of our young people.

Ultimately the test for us will be what system can give all pupils the best opportunity to learn and prosper. We will study the detail of these proposals from that starting point.

– Anna Brychan, Director of NAHT Cymru

Your views on grammar school proposals

The Welsh Conservatives have proposed a return to a grammar school system in Wales, saying it would raise standards.

The party wants pupils to be separated into two streams - academic and vocational - at the age of 14.

There are no grammar schools left in Wales, but 164 in England.

What do you think about the proposals? Would they raise standards, and help make pupils fit for the workplace, as the Welsh Conservatives have said? Or would they be divisive, and a backwards step, as critics have said?

Please get in touch via:

Email: wales@itv.com

Twitter: @ITVWales

Facebook: ITV Wales

Welsh Govt: no return to 'divisive' grammar schools

The Welsh Government says it will "not be returning to divisive grammar schools".

It says education standards in Wales have not dropped since devolution - and it is focusing on breaking the link between poverty and low attainment.

We're working hard to deliver the best possible education system in Wales for the future, not looking to the past.

We are extremely proud of our philosophy of community education for all, we will not be returning to divisive grammar schools or any system which will fracture this or encourage parents to scramble for advantage.

To be clear standards haven’t dropped since devolution. The number of pupils in Wales leaving education without any recognised qualification is at an all time low and we’ve also closed the gap with England in the GCSE results last year.

By improving levels of literacy and numeracy and breaking the link between poverty and low attainment we will drive up standards and performance in Wales. We’ll be relentless in our pursuit of the best education system we can give our young people. They deserve nothing less.

– Welsh Government spokesperson

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Welsh Tory leader: Pupils could make choices at 14

Welsh Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies explains to our Political Editor Adrian Masters what their new policy means.

He says the 11-plus is "divisive", and instead "14 is a far better time to make choices - and I use the word choices, rather than selection - so that people when they come out of school, have the qualifications that are fit for the 21st century."

The Welsh Conservatives have proposed a return to a grammar school-style system, where pupils are separated into two streams - academic and vocational - at the age of 14.

Welsh Lib Dems: Children would be cast aside at 14

The Welsh Liberal Democrats say proposals, from the Welsh Conservatives, to reintroduce elements of the grammar school system here would just "see children cast aside when they're 14", rather than 11.

Aled Roberts says creating more grammar schools would "extend the attainment gap between pupils from affluent and less affluent backgrounds".

Once again the Welsh Tories are throwing around policy ideas without any idea how they would implement them.

They are refusing to operate in the here and now, instead reflecting on their rose-tinted Tory view of the past when many children were written off at 11. Their current proposal would instead see children cast aside when they’re 14.

A recent report showed that the odds of pupils entitled to free school meals securing a place at a grammar school were nearly five times lower than for other pupils.

Creating more grammar schools would merely extend the attainment gap that already exists between pupils from affluent and less affluent backgrounds.

Wales needs to target efforts on raising teaching standards and further restructuring would simply distract these efforts.

There are real practical difficulties with this proposals, particularly in rural areas. We believe, as a principle, that there is no difficulty in pupils of all abilities achieving their potential under the comprehensive system as long as the proper processes are in place to keep standards high.

– Aled Roberts, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Minister for Education

Education Minister 'thought someone pulling my leg'

The Welsh Government Education Minister said "I thought someone was pulling my leg" in response to the Welsh Conservatives' call for a return to a grammar school system here.

Huw Lewis described the policy as "muddled" and "back to the future" on Twitter.

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I thought someone was pulling my leg when I was told about Welsh Tory idea of re-introducing grammar schools #backtothefuture

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Announcement totally muddled. No clear answers. Selection? Yes/ no? Same school? Yes/ no? GCSEs for all? Yes/ no? #backtothefuture

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@welshlabour Government is committed to excellent schools for all, not encouraging a parental scramble for advantage #backtothefuture

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