A decade of young people abandoned by Welsh Labour

After 20 years of Welsh Labour running education in Wales, GCSE results in Wales are going backwards with the results for this year being worse than the summer of 2007. Analysts are predicting that education spending in Wales is to fall back to 2006 levels and a major Welsh employer has raised concerns that the level of skills are adequate to meet demand of the business in the future without lowering standards.

The Welsh Conservatives are expressing concern that Key Stage 2 and 3 results have also dropped for the first time since 2007, which could lead to standards falling back to levels last seen a decade ago.

The 2019 GCSE results saw 62.4% of students, sitting Wales-only qualifications, getting A*-C grades. These results are better than the 2018 GCSE results but is a drop of nearly 1 per cent compared to the same qualifications taken back in 2007 when A*-C passes stood at 63%.

Further analysis shows that the proportion of A*-A grades dropped by 0.1 per cent to 18.4% from 2018 and, despite substantial reforms, grades in key GCSEs have also dropped for 16 year olds.

Results show that:

  • Maths A*-C for 16 year olds has dropped by 1.6 per cent
  • English language A*-C for 16 year olds fell by 4.1 per cent, English literature for 16 year olds by 4.8 per cent
  • And A*-C for Welsh, as a second language, saw a reduction of 11.7 per cent for all ages

There is a concern that these results are linked to the underfunding of students in Wales by the Welsh Labour Government. Figures from NASUWT Cymru, the teachers’ union, show a gap in funding of £645 per pupil between pupils in Wales and England. In April, Siebieta Economics of Education also warned that, without further spending commitments, spending per pupil could fall to a level last seen in 2006-07.

This gap is likely to widen as the UK Conservative Government is investing nearly £14 billion over the next three years in education in England, ensuring that this money goes directly to primary and secondly schools. Because of this extra funding the Welsh Labour Government will receive an extra £1.24 billion over the next three years in the Welsh block grant, however it is up to Welsh Labour how this money is spent.

Leading the Welsh Conservative opposition debate, Welsh Conservative Shadow Education Minister, Suzy Davies AM, said:

“Only this week a major employer in Wales has spoken to us about their concerns on ensuring that the level of skills are adequate enough to meet demand in the future without the business having to lower their standards. This is not the fault of the students or the parents, but the fault lies with the Welsh Labour Government who have abandoned our young people for a decade, and now the sole Lib Dem in the Assembly as the Welsh Government Education Minister.

“Exams are not easy and it’s fantastic that our young people are achieving and are being rewarded for their hard-work but they are being let down by the Welsh Labour Government.

“As NASUWT Cymru has highlighted, for years pupils in Wales have been underfunded by this Labour-led Welsh Government by the tune of £645 per pupil compared to young people across the border. It is a shocking that under Welsh Labour the funding for our schools next year is being predicted to go back to spending levels not seen for a decade.

“Instead of tackling the issues in our Welsh education system that have been failing our young people, for 20 years Welsh Labour have laid the blame elsewhere. The increase in funding from the UK Conservatives Government can help to right this wrong and so the Welsh Government need to ensure this money goes directly to schools, to improve standards and to ensure that our young people can succeed and be a part of the brighter future for Wales.”