Tuesday 1 June 2010

Planning for schools

There's been a lot of analysis and discussion of the decision taken by Carwyn Jones on schools in Cardiff. Syniadau in particular has looked in detail at the rationale given and why it was fundamentally flawed.

The decision was one taken by the First Minister himself, and – officially at least – it's in the nature of a quasi-judicial decision by the minister on a proposal put to him by a council, rather than a political decision which one would have been expected would have been discussed by ministers in advance.

Others have imputed political machinations and motivations – I'm prepared to start from the assumption that there has been no political interference. But that doesn't mean that the decision came from nowhere - the case would have been looked at in detail by the relevant officers who would have presented their views to the minister before he made his decision.

And that's the part that concerns me most. The education department in the Assembly seems to be remarkably good at producing fine-sounding strategies, but what happens when it comes to implementing them? The decision taken by Carwyn Jones seems to fly in the face of two important strategies which are, I thought, the policy of the Welsh Government.

The first is Welsh-medium education. The education department seems to, at best, not understand the demand for Welsh-medium education, and at worst to have a deep antipathy to it. I have noted before that the department has been actively colluding with Carmarthenshire County Council in preparing a scheme which deliberately ignores the demand for Welsh-medium secondary education in the Tywi Valley. The decision in Cardiff is not a stand-alone case.

The second is rationalisation of empty school places. The department seems to relish demanding that rural counties close schools with surplus places, but faced with a similar urban issue on their doorstep in Cardiff, their enthusiasm for resolving it rapidly evaporates.

I don't pretend that I know enough about the detail in Cardiff to judge whether the proposal put forward by Cardiff was the only solution, or even the best solution. But I do know that they'd been working on it for some time, and went through all the proper processes in submitting it. There surely has to be a better way of working through this sort of issue than allowing a council to work on a scheme for two years – the government department in Cardiff must have known what was being looked at – and then simply rejecting it.


Anonymous said...

Why are you prepared to accept "that there has been no political interference"? This is the one thing that everyone in Cardiff is agreed on!

This is a political decision by the Labour Party to make it as difficult as possible for Welsh-speakers in Cardiff to get their children educated in Welsh. There's a lot of reasons for this, but a big part is get at the Welsh language in order to get at Plaid - an old Labour trick.

Plaid needs to think what this very political decision means for the coalition and the referendum. Is Plaid being set up for a fall like it was in 1979?

John Dixon said...


To suggest that the First Minister would take a quasi-judicial decision of this nature on the basis of party politics rather than on the basis of the advice received from the relevant officials could be taken as a potentially libellous statement could it not?.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure this will end up in court - but in a Judicial Review rather than a libel case.

John Dixon said...


I hope that you're right - it deserves to go to a judicial review.