Earlier this week I interviewed Labour AM, Keith Davies and Labour MP, Nia Griffith.
Both interviews set out to explore firstly, the abysmal state of education in Wales and secondly, the political tensions that exist between Cardiff and London.
To begin, allow me to observe that Mr Davies was frank, open and obviously hasn’t forgotten that a sense of humour is an essential pre-requisite for any political ambition. His parliamentary counterpart however, was an accomplished pretender to the classic political art form of how not to answer a straight forward question. An ‘Off Message’ Bob Marhsall-Andrews, Ms Griffith was most definitely not. Ex-school mam and doyen of taxpayer funded haute cuisine, the lady was more a quintessential politician.
In relation to the parlous state of education in Wales, Mr Davies fully appreciated that a lot more needed to done in respect of science and engineering at Welsh schools, universities and colleges. He also readily agreed that inferior degrees were unacceptable if Wales is to compete in the modern world. When I quoted Matthew Taylor’s recent speech at the University of South Wales where he stated unequivocally that people in Wales should be ‘enraged’ at what was being done to Welsh schoolchildren, Mr Davies expressed at the very least some thoughtful understanding.
Ms Griffith on the other hand seemed to be in chronic state of Napoleonic denial, either this or she is an aficionado of Medieval trial by ordeal? It took a pair of dental pliers for her to concede and I quote, that “standards could be improved,” albeit that the evidence is clear and irrefutable: numeracy and literacy in Wales is on a par with Rumania and Bulgaria, that Welsh universities are accepting Law and Biology students who attain the minimum grade ‘E’ at two ‘A’ Levels and that spanking new Welsh education institutions are only allocating 12% of their budgets for engineering and science. As for the Welsh Baccalaureate and GCSE, apparently “plenty of consultation” makes them superior to the rest of the country and that was that. There was also a note of desperate satisfaction when she declared proudly that 40% of youngsters in the UK are now graduates “when in our day (she and I are the same age by the way) it was 2%”
Actually, in the seventies it was about 12%, nothing to be proud of admittedly, but 2% is pushing it. The MP seemed a trifle irritated when I reminded her that a large proportion of these graduates now work in Boots and WHSmith – if they are lucky!
I rather think Ms Griffith is missing the point, Welsh children are being cheated, and that’s that. Perhaps her years of monk-like reflection and libertarian chatter in the bubbled up, juvenile cloisters of academic endeavour may have something to do with it?
When questioned about the open warfare between Blair and Rhodri Morgan and more recently the pasting by Welsh Labour MPs of the First Minister over his attempts to create a Carwyn’s Peelers Police Force, Ms Griffith implied that my ‘historicisms’ were frivolous and irrelevant. Apparently, all is kisses and candy amongst Welsh politicians, at least according to Nia.
The lady would do well to remember that history has rather a nasty habit of repeating itself, does it not?
Mr Davies acknowledged the tensions between Wales and London but his passion for pulling Welsh education out of the doldrums tended to obscure this particular interview thread, and who could blame him? The young are the future and we ignore them at our peril.
To conclude then, 2-0 to Keith Davies AM.
The gentleman will convert me yet!
Julian Ruck is an author, columnist and Freedom of Information campaigner. He also makes contributions to both Welsh and national broadcasting and media
Tags: education, Julian Ruck, Keith Davies AM, Letter from Wales, Matthew Taylor, Nia Griffith, Nia Griffith MP