Fault lines have emerged today between the First Minister and his Liberal Democrat Education Secretary over a key Welsh Government target to improve Wales’ scores in the international PISA assessment.
The previous Labour minister for education, Huw Lewis, had set a target for 500 points on each subject – Science, English and Maths – in the 2021 PISA test.
This target was seemingly dismissed by Kirsty Williams AM when questioned by a committee last Thursday where she told AMs: “it’s not my target.”
But during First Minister’s Questions today, the Welsh Conservative leader sought clarification from Carwyn Jones over what in fact the Welsh Government’s target for PISA now was.
Publicly contradicting his education secretary – sat only yards away - Mr Jones told Mr Davies that the key 500 target remained a priority for the Welsh Government. Baffled by the response, Mr Davies asked: “Who’s taking responsibility for education in Wales?”
The Labour administration has presided over a decade of decline in the PISA assessment. In 2016, it finished significantly behind all other UK nations and scored beneath the OECD average on all three subject areas.
Despite making modest progress in the maths category since the last assessment in 2012, the results revealed that Wales went backwards in reading and science. All scores were however lower than they were in the first assessment 10 years ago.
In its worst performing subject, reading, Wales now sits on a par with former Eastern Bloc countries Hungary and Lithuania
Speaking outside the Assembly Chamber, Andrew RT Davies said:
“What we’ve learned today is that there exists clear disagreement between the First Minister and his education secretary over how the Welsh Government should prioritise education in Wales.
“It’s evident that Kirsty Williams had acted outside her authority when she disassociated herself from the Labour administration’s PISA target last Thursday in front of a committee of AMs.
“Having been very publicly undermined by the First Minister today, who obviously sits in the driving seat where education is concerned, one has to question whether Kirsty Williams’ role in the Welsh Government Cabinet is still tenable.”