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Rhondda Cynon Taff Welsh Liberal Democrats

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RCT Secondary Headteachers versus Education Minister

March 13, 2014 6:30 PM

A row has broken out between Headteachers in Rhondda Cynon Taff and the Welsh Labour Minister for Education Huw Lewis.

The row follows unexpectedly low results across Wales in the new English GCSE exams taken by pupils in January. As reported by Wales Online the Minister has ordered a "rapid fact-finding exercise" to discover what the issues are.

In the meantime a letter was sent signed by every Secondary School Head in RCT, along with the Director of Education, outlining major concerns with the implementation of the new examinations.

The letter states that most schools had seen a drop of around 25% in the number of students gaining an A to C grade and says.

"Clearly, we are all disappointed and frustrated with the results and are extremely concerned that the current Year 11 will be severely disadvantaged into the future if the exam results are allowed to stand as they are. We ask you to respectfully consider our views and hope that they will add some clarity to your recently announced investigation in to the results."

The response from the Minister was less than satisfactory as he launched an immediate attack accusing them of scaremongering.

RCT Welsh Lib Dem Campaign Manager Karen Roberts is Vice Chair of Governors at Tonypandy Community College and is angered by the Minister's response.

"The arrogance that is shown in his reply is breathtaking. He is being Headteachers not only in RCT but across Wales that there are problems with the system, yet instead of showing any degree of concern he throws back accusations.

"Heads did not take the decision to write this letter lightly. They are expressing genuine concerns that are shared by many staff and governors. The Minister's reply that they should be 'helping us get to the bottom of this or perhaps considering what they could have done better to raise the grades of their students' is insulting.

"The pressure on schools to produce results is immense, and nobody underestimates the task ahead, but constant changes and plans that are ill thought through and hastily introduced by Welsh Government do nothing to help.

"The Minister should welcome the honest opinions of professionals not dismiss them because they happen to contain a degree of criticism."

The letter stated that pupils were "distraught, confused and bewildered" and that staff were are at a loss to advise them "due to a complete lack of clarity".

Welsh Liberal Democrat Councillor Mike Powell is a governor at Hawthorn High School and says the Welsh Government has to start taking some responsibility.

"It is all too easy for the Minster to lay the blame at the door of schools and teaching staff, but it does nothing to help morale and that in turn has an effect on school performance.

"Just this week the NUT released figures showing the high rate of stress amongst teachers. In RCT last year 4486 teaching days were lost because of staff illness, a high proportion of this through stress related illness. Having the Minister and others constantly trying to lay all the blame for poor attainment at their door is not helping.

"Yes schools are aware that they need to improve, and are working very hard to ensure they get the very best out of their pupils. They need support not constant criticism.

"Nobody objects to change which will bring about an improvement in standards but changes have to be introduced properly, fully explained with clear advice as to implementation, and take account of professional advice."