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Minister hits back at Times over criticism of Welsh education

14 Nov 2020 3 minute read
Education Minister Kirsty Williams. Picture by the Welsh Government

Wales’ Education Minister Kirsty Williams has hit back at the Times after the newspaper published an editorial criticising Wales’ education standards.

In an article on Thursday, Jawad Iqbal had claimed that exams were cancelled in Wales to “disguise the real problems” with education in the country, and that it was “impossible to guarantee a decent education in Labour-controlled Wales”.

“A report published last year by the Education Policy Institute found clear evidence that teenagers in Wales are faring much worse in educational outcomes than those in England,” he said.

Kirsty Williams responded in a letter in today’s Times saying that Jawad Iqbal “seems unaware” that Wales has outperformed the rest of the UK for top A-level results two years in a row.

“We now punch above our weight on Oxbridge admissions, with a 55 per cent increase in state school admissions to Oxford,” she said.

“This is down to our Seren programme, which supports our brightest students. This scheme also means that Wales has more pupils at Yale’s prestigious summer school than any other non-US region or nation. ]

“We have also transformed our GCSE science performance, focusing in particular on our less well-off learners.

“Mr Iqbal mentions work by the Education Policy Institute on disadvantaged students but overlooks its findings that Wales was in a better position than the other UK nations in how we planned and delivered free school meals during the pandemic, and that we expanded access to digital devices at the same time.”


‘Out of touch’

In his original article, Jawad Iqbal claimed that the appeal of the “nannying” Welsh Government’s was wearing thin amongst the people of Wales.

“This frustration was evident in the furious reaction to a bizarre range of restrictions imposed during the recent two-week firebreak lockdown in Wales,” he wrote.

“The measures allowed people to buy vodka but not baby clothes, with items placed beyond reach in taped-off supermarket aisles or covered with plastic sheeting. Thousands signed a petition in protest.

“The Welsh government appears increasingly out of touch with the needs and priorities of voters. Ministers harp on about Welsh exceptionalism in a smug way that ignores years of underperformance and policy failure.

“Cancelling GCSEs and A-levels is a cynical political attempt to disguise the real problem, which is that the Labour-led devolved government has failed a generation of state school pupils.”

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