Speech to the National Assembly for Wales
"I point out to the previous speaker that there is a big difference between envious glances and glances of relief—parents in schools across England know full well that their schools are much better funded than schools in Wales.
Any headteacher or teacher who has experience of teaching in schools both sides of the border will confirm that. They will also confirm another matter, and on that I will give the Government a small amount of credit, because I am always balanced, and pay it a small compliment, because it has got something right—it is an unusual event, and when it happens it is only right that we should acknowledge that.
The Government's consultation on the testing regime showed that teachers were overwhelmingly against it, and that is absolutely correct.
I am yet to meet a teacher, from any side of the political divide, who has a good word to say about the previous testing regime—I am sure that there are some, but I have never come across them.
The testing regime that is now being replaced was obviously unpopular and, to some extent, there was a lack of confidence in it across the education system.
We should not lose sight of the fact that the regime was brought in for a good reason, along with the national curriculum, because a number of teachers across the United Kingdom—a minority admittedly—seemed more interested in trying to imbue a socialist ethos into their charges than teaching them about the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic.
Be that as it may, we have moved on from that I am glad to say, and that sort of behaviour does not seem to be as widespread.
I would like to see a system that would allow us to give more freedom to schools so that they can get away from the national curriculum and the testing regime, but only where the headteachers show that they can deliver high standards of education.
That would mean allowing them to break free not only from rules set by the National Assembly, but from the local education authorities.
This may be a small step in that direction, but it remains vital is that parents can continue to be confident that their children are getting a good standard of education.
The testing regime is not disappearing, it is simply changing in a way that means that teachers will not only teach to the test.
They will teach, and the tests will pick up where mistakes are being made and where standards are not being delivered adequately.
The jury is still out on one thing, Minister: we need to ensure that the outside moderation, or whatever method you use to ensure that schools are not failing their pupils, works effectively.
On that basis, we give our support, but it is qualified. We must ensure that standards are delivered in schools across Wales and we expect you to come up with a means, as mentioned in the report, to ensure that that happens."