Social Policy

Why our children deserve better than this Welsh Government

Growing up in a close-knit family, with a solid, secure and prosperous education, I can safely say
my level of personal well-being – happiness, satisfaction and psychological – was significantly high writes James Wallice.

Nothing short of what is expected from loving parents, kind peers and dedicated teachers.
However the same can’t be said for every child in Wales. Indeed, a team from Cardiff University’s Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research and Data has discovered that levels of well-being of children in Wales were on par with Vietnam and lower than countries such as South Africa, Romania and India.

In essence, this finding is nothing short of a national disgrace and there is only one institution to
blame: the Welsh Government. Time and time again, that same institution, spearheaded by the same stagnant political leadership, have let our children down.

The former First Minister, Carwyn Jones, had openly admitted that his party had taken its ‘eye off the ball’ on education causing school standards in Wales to plummet. Under the same leadership, Wales’ PISA rankings dropped year on year putting the education of young people in Wales behind that of Scotland, Northern Ireland and England. However, the current leadership has seen little improvement, the 2018 PISA results placed Mark Drakeford’s Wales behind every other UK nation for the fifth consecutive term, with our PISA average falling below the average of other economically developed countries.

In this past month alone, young people in Wales have been faced with more disarray, dither and
disappointment as Mark Drakeford and his Welsh Government flunked its handling of A-Level and GCSE exam results leaving students without their place at their dream universities – a scandal that Wales’ First Minister refused to apologise for. The silence was deafening, perhaps only matched by Drakeford’s comrade across Offa’s Dyke. Whilst Sir Keir criticised the UK Government’s approach to A-Level grading, he remained silent on his own party’s handling of the matter.

With all this in mind, we should not be surprised that young people in Wales are said to have
some of the lowest levels of wellbeing among children across 35 different countries. Indeed, every single failure, every single child that has been left behind by Mark Drakeford and his predecessor is representative of a legacy of missed opportunity and disappointment.

When we discuss these failures, we aren’t just talking about a generation of children that have
been let down by this Government, we’re talking about 21 years’ worth of young people who have grown up under the same subsided education system, bound by the same motionless, stale and inert leadership.

Next May, young people in Wales will be offered a new hope, a chance to divert away from a path of regression to one of prosperity and chance. Young people in Wales have proven their worth, whether that be forcing action on climate change, or twisting the arm of Wales’ Education
Minister. Come May 2021, it will be time to do the same and I have no doubt that is what we’ll see.

James Wallice is the President of CUCA.

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