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The comments by England's top schools inspector that have caused anger in Wales

Welsh Government hits back as chief inspector of schools in England takes potshot at education system in Wales

The Welsh Government has complained about a TV programme going out on Tuesday which shows the Chief Inspector of Schools in England making critical comments about the Welsh education system.

"It now really is up to the Welsh Government to look at its own performance to ensure it matches the performance of England.”

Sir Michael's view of where Wales' schools should go

Wilshaw suggests the decision by the Welsh Government to scrap performance measures like school league tables based on exam results and the national testing of 11 year olds in maths and English may have contributed to lower standards.

He tells the programme: “If you take away those accountability measures it drives down standards rather than drives them up.

"My view is that that’s what probably happened so they might want to reconsider those policies.”

England's Chief Inspector of Schools Sir Michael WilshawDominic Lipinski/PA Wire

England's Chief Inspector of Schools Sir Michael Wilshaw

He also suggests the Welsh Government should copy England by allowing schools to become academies, free from local authority control.

He tells the programme: “Bureaucracies do not improve schools. People sitting behind desks in the town hall do not improve schools.

“It's people in the school who improve schools so why not give them the necessary tools to deliver better outcomes for children; and that is what the English system has done over the last few years as well as ensuring there is greater accountability - matching greater autonomy with greater accountability and that is working.

"I think it is working here and one thing the Welsh system should try to replicate.”

The Welsh Government: 'This is bizarre'

The Welsh Government is unhappy that a journalist with a track record of backing the UK Government’s school reforms has made the programme and interviewed the chief schools inspector for England.

Ratings from the international education body Pisa have been used to argue there is a decline in standards in Welsh schoolsA Welsh Government source said: “This interview with Michael Wilshaw is incredibly bizarre.

“It is clear he’s in no position to comment on an education system he doesn’t fully understand.

“We are writing to Ofsted to find out why he did this.

Ratings from the international education body Pisa have been used to argue there is a decline in standards in Welsh schools

“The remarks were made as part of an independently produced BBC programme going out later this week, presented by the Sunday Times education editor.

“Frankly the whole thing has been a bit of travesty from start to finish.

“The programme-makers have had to cut whole sections of the final edit because you’ve got the interviewer being caught out for making wildly misleading remarks.

“They have struggled to find people to interview, because of this astonishing agenda they’ve set out with that England = good, and Wales = bad.

“We understand that Ofsted were very clear with the programme that Wilshaw didn’t know much about Wales, and yet they both went for it anyway.

Sunday Times education editor Sian Griffiths“This was meant to be a programme about Welsh education, but it will be Ofsted and the BBC who end up with the most questions to answer.”

The journalist Sian Griffiths

In the programme, she visits a number of schools, including her old school, in St David’s and speaks to teachers, the Welsh Education Minister, Huw Lewis and educational experts .

Sunday Times education editor Sian Griffiths

She said: “As Education Editor at the Sunday Times, it’s my job to keep an eye on how schools are performing right across the UK.

"In recent years I’ve really noticed schools in Wales are amongst the worst performing in Britain; and not just in Britain, internationally too, they are lagging far behind…. So I want to know why.”

The political reaction

Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies said: “After 17 years of Labour in charge of Welsh education, it is troubling to hear the same concerns still being raised by experts.

“Welsh pupils are as bright and talented as those of any country, but they’re being let down by a Labour Government which freely admits that they have taken their ‘eye off the ball’ on education.”

Plaid Cymru education spokesman Simon Thomas said: “We are well aware of the failures of Labour after 17 years in charge of Welsh education – bottom of the UK tables for English, Maths and Science in PISA, failing children in poverty and flagship policies with no obvious improvements.”


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