Thursday, 12 November 2020

Missed opportunity


In what looks like only a minor variation on the customary song that Wales should use its devolved power any way it wishes as long as it does the same as England, the Secretary of State has been complaining that the Welsh government has axed next year’s school examinations. Apparently, he sees some sort of strange equivalence between a devolved body acting entirely within its own powers on an issue which has been completely devolved, and a UK government which ignores the devolution boundaries, in the sense that both, in his view, should be subject to what he euphemistically calls ‘consultation’. It’s another illustration, not that one were needed, of the fundamental problem with ‘devolution’: it doesn’t recognise Welsh sovereignty as being anything other than a temporary loan of power from London.

Whether the actual decision of the Welsh government is the right one or not is another question, and is a legitimate subject for debate, even if it’s a debate in which the Secretary of State has no legitimate role. The problem is that it’s an issue clouded by ideology and prejudice rather than one led by facts and evidence; the question of whether exams are the ‘right’ way to assess pupils seems to be highly correlated with political outlook. There’s no doubt that some children are well-served by an examination process, but neither is there any doubt that others are not – for a variety of reasons, exam performance doesn’t always reflect the progress and ability seen by teachers in classrooms. On the other hand, there is more scope for teacher assessments to contain a subjective element in their assessment of pupils, no matter how hard they strive to avoid that. There is no perfect system.

In the limited circumstances of the pandemic, it is probably better to do as the Welsh government have done and take the decision early, thus giving themselves plenty of time to think through a proper and robust alternative assessment process rather than the chaos we saw last year, and it’s probably reasonable to assume that the approach of the Westminster government of leaving things until the last minute to decide will lead to more chaos in England again next year, unless they get lucky in controlling the virus. (And lucky is the right word, given the obvious lack of any planned approach to anything.) The problem remains, though, that this still looks like a one-off decision to deal with a particular anticipated situation next year, rather than an opportunity for a thorough review to determine what Wales needs from a system of pupil assessment and how such a system can be made fairer for all. It’s in danger of being an opportunity missed.


dafis said...

I suspect that Hart is starting to discover how shallow his own mandate is. With so much devolved ( and hopefully more to come) he is confused as to what if anything he can shove his nose into. Given his background he should go back to Boris and ask to be reassigned to M.O.D or some other department like the Foreign Office where he will have new toys to play with and possibly avoid making a twat of himself so often.

Spirit of BME said...

In regards the Governor General you are totally correct, but remember they view life through lens of English racial superiority which is embedded in the governance of Wales from the 1536 Act. The sad thing about it is, that some of the Welsh and all the Anglo-Welsh accept this philosophy.
Time will tell if the cancelations was right or wrong, but governments tend to enter the death zone eighteen months from an election and kick every can they find ‘down the road’ for the next administration, as they are sure to upset some segment of the voter base.
Every crisis opens opportunities and I think they are missing the chance to ask questions, - Why did the procedures put in place to continue teaching, not produce the outcome require for the exams to be held? Why did some schools perform better than others?
There are no simple answers to these questions, but an opportunity to measure those in charge and identify corrective measures has been missed.