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Post  Admin on Wed 1 Oct 2008 - 15:06

No one in Wales will doubt the importance of education either for the sake of bringing the best out of people of all ages, or for the sake of imparting and developing skills which will be of use in employment and for the wider economy. The question is how we do it.

Since education has been devolved to Wales we have seen a certain degree of divergence between what we have chosen to do and what the other countries of Britain do. Most obvious of these are the Cwricwlwm Cymreig, the new Foundation Phase for early years learning and the Welsh Baccalaureate. We can discuss whether these have been or are likely to be successful and what we should do to make them work better. What other changes might we make, and what can we learn from other countries?

Another major issue will be the structure and funding of education, particularly the role of local authorities. We can contrast our situation with that in England where there is a greater move towards independent, directly funded schools. We can consider the role of private education; and also of the place of private suppliers of free education such as church schools, and whether other organizations should be allowed to set up similar bodies. If we have a plurality of options, then there must of necessity be a fair amount of surplus places within the system to allow real freedom of choice between them ... yet the current declining numbers of children have shown us that surplus places cost a good deal more money than we seem willing to afford.

We might ask if the current unitary local authority system is the appropriate scale of provision in certain areas, especially when children have to be bussed between counties due to lack of appropriate provision in some smaller counties. Do we rely on mutual cooperation, or look at wider education authorities covering a number of councils? What should be the balance between national and local control and accountability for education services?

Again at university level, funding arrangements in Wales and England are diverging, with every indication that top up fees in England are set to increase further. Will Wales need to do the same, or are there better models? How do we fund research? How we expand and improve provision so that Wales has internationally renowned world class institutions?

What is the appropriate training for non-academic skills? What is the appropriate mix of training in colleges and on-the-job training? How much should employers be involved in the provision of training for their particular businesses, and who should pay for it?

How should be make provision for life long education and training, and to what extent can we link redundancy and long term unemployment to retraining in skills necessary to increase the chances of finding work?

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