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Teaching unions: 'Steady but slow progress'

Welsh teaching unions say Estyn's annual report shows "steady but slow progress", as schools step up to the challenge set by Welsh Government policies. They acknowledge though that there is still work to do.

The overall message is that we are making steady but slow progress. Again and again the report points out that numeracy remains the weak point in many of our schools and colleges. We now need to bring the same focus to numeracy as we did to literacy, which has shown much greater improvement.

– Dr. Philip Dixon, Director of ATL Cymru

Ann Keane's final report shows some grounds for optimism, as schools and colleges respond to the challenge laid down by Welsh ministers. Outcomes in the secondary sector have improved - albeit from a low base - and the Foundation Phase is improving outcomes in most schools for our youngest learners when it is implemented as intended. Primary school standards appear to have declined slightly, though this seems to result from ‘raising the bar’ in mathematics rather than an actual decline in standards overall.

– Dr. Chris Howard, Acting Director of NAHT Cymru

The performance of our secondary schools continues to improve. It reflects the improvement in the quality and depth of the support through the regional consortia. This is making a positive difference. Of course, Estyn makes recommendations that need to be taken seriously. Secondary school leaders will read the report with care and reflect on the recommendations.

– Robin Hughes, Secretary of ASCL Cymru

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  1. Prof Roger Scully

What the latest Welsh poll means for each party

Credit: YouGov/ITV/Cardiff University Jan 19-21, Sample: 1,036

Party politics in the UK currently seems more uncertain and turbulent than for a longtime –maybe more than it has ever been. We’ve seen big recent movements in the support levels of several parties, including the rise in Wales of UKIP and now a notable increase for the Greens. Yet, at the moment, a direct projection of poll findings produces only very small changes in terms of who wins which seats.We could be on course for an election in which lots of things change, but the basic fundamentals of which parties represent us in parliament are hardly disturbed.

Overall, what does this poll tell us about the prospects for each party, as we enter the final hundred days of campaigning?

For Labour, this poll is at least modestly encouraging. A persistent feature of the opinion polls in Wales during 2014 was the decline of Labour support: they finished the year well below the point that they started it. Our new poll seems to suggest that Labour have stopped, and may even have begun to reverse, this erosion in their support. This poll doesn’t put Labour on course to gain as many seats as they would need to help secure a parliamentary majority for Ed Miliband. But it does place them slightly ahead of where they were in 2010, and indicates that Labour are currently on track to make at least some ground in May.

The Conservatives have surprised many observers with the robustness of their support levels since 2010, holding steady at a level only slightly below the vote share they won in the last general election. Here is yet another poll that supports this pattern. Although the poll projects the Tories to lose the ultra-marginal Cardiff North, on these figures they ought to retain all their other Welsh seats. And it puts them in with a very good chance of taking Brecon & Radnor from the Liberal Democrats.

For theTories’ coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats this is yet another in a long series of disappointing polls. They have at least managed a very small up-tick in their support levels. But this poll still indicates that they have lost more than two-thirds of the support that they gained in Wales in 2010, and with the rise of the Greens they are now in sixth place! There seems to be no substantial improvement in their position in sight. The best the party can do for now, it seems, is to try to hang on to the three seats they currently hold. But even that will now be very difficult.

For Plaid Cymru this poll will be at least a little disappointing, putting them as it does a little below their vote share in 2010. One piece of slightly better news for them comes from a question where YouGov asked respondents how certain they were to vote in the election: Plaid supporters were the most likely to indicate that they were absolutely certain to vote. This poll suggests that Plaid may well be able to hold their existing seats. But they are nowhere near threatening the sort of breakthrough that their sister-party is doing in Scotland.

For UKIP, this poll may also be mildly disappointing. Perhaps the big story in Welsh politics in 2014 was the UKIP breakthrough. Our latest poll indicates, as have many of the recent Britain-wide ones, that UKIP’s forward momentum may well have been checked, at least for the moment. Nonetheless, UKIP have not yet gone into a clear reverse.They are currently on course to get lots of votes in Wales in May. But the party still remain up against it to convert this significant public support into a win in any specific constituency.

Finally, what about the Greens? This poll shows them making significant ground in Wales, relegating the Liberal Democrats to sixth place (as they did in last May’s European elections). As with UKIP, however, it is currently very difficult to see the Greens converting such support into actually winning a seat anywhere. But the more proportional voting system used for devolved elections makes a Green presence in the National Assembly after 2016 look increasingly likely.

More detailed analysis of this new poll will be provided in several posts over the next couple of weeks on my blog, Elections in Wales (http://blogs.cardiff.ac.uk/electionsinwales/).

The WelshPolitical Barometer is an unique polling collaboration between ITV Cymru Wales,the Wales Governance Centre at Cardiff University, and the leading polling agency YouGov.

Professor Roger Scully is Professor of Political Science in the Wales Governance Centre at Cardiff University. The poll for ITV and the Wales Governance Centre had as ample of 1,036 Welsh adults and was carried out by YouGov on 19-21 January 2015.

Boom in construction jobs predicted

Credit: Rui Vieira/PA Wire/PA Images

A boom in construction is set to create thousands of new jobs in Wales by 2019, according to a new report.

The Construction Industry Training Board says private housing is set to rise by 4.6% over the next few years while employment is expected to be particularly strong in Wales and the north of England.

It predicts over 5,300 construction jobs will be created in Wales alone over the next five years.

Across the UK it says more than 40,000 new jobs will be needed every year, 8,000 more than previously predicted.

Our forecast shows that construction is experiencing a major comeback, with a sustained period of growth set to make a positive impact on the wider economy. Leisure, infrastructure and housing are all driving growth, but this brings with it new challenges in meeting skills demand.

– Steve Radley, CITB's director of policy

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Welsh Government 'welcomes' waiting times report

The Welsh Government has welcomed today's report by the Wales Audit Office which shows the NHS isn't delivering low waiting times for patients having elective surgery.

A spokesperson said there's good practice underway across Wales and waiting times for patients has been falling since last year.

"We welcome the Wales Audit Office's report, which recognises the good practice underway across Wales, the prudent healthcare agenda and our planned care programme, which will set and deliver good practice across the country.

"The report shows nine out of 10 patients are waiting less than 26 weeks and the median wait is just under 10 weeks. Waiting times for diagnostic tests have also been cut, with the number of patients waiting more than eight weeks falling by 24% since May 2014.

"We expect health boards to continue to improve performance against referral to treatment times targets; this will be outlined in their integrated medium term plans, which will be submitted at the end of this month."

– Welsh Government spokesperson

Welsh Govt: 'Momentum for improvement' in education

The Welsh Government has welcomed Estyn's annual report as recognition of a "new momentum for improvement" in the education system here.

It points to last year's GCSE results, when the gap with England narrowed, to proof of progress, but says there is no complacency over moving forward further.

We particularly welcome Estyn’s recognition of the new momentum for improvement that exists within the Welsh education system. We must now work together to build on that momentum and focus on key issues such as leadership which will ensure the improvements we want to see.

Building an excellent education system is an ambition shared by everyone in the sector. Last year’s GCSE results show we are starting to see real and tangible progress but we are in no way complacent and recognise that we must continue to work hard and focus on ensuring sustained improvement throughout the sector.

We will now consider the report in detail and respond formally in Plenary at the end of February.

– Welsh Government spokesperson
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