Leighton Andrews: My Reaction To Welsh School Criticism Was Not Over The Top

Welsh education minister Leighton Andrews hit back at claims his reaction to international criticism over Wales' school standards was knee-jerk, saying the accusations were "complete tosh".

The country's disappointing performance in the Programme for International Student Development (Pisa) triggered widespread criticism of the "complacent" system and prompted Andrews to propose a 20-point plan of action which he unveiled in June.

Pisa is the world's biggest education survey, involving 67 member countries from across the world and testing knowledge and core skills of 15-year-olds. The most recent results, published in December, showed pupils in Wales were lagging behind. The Welsh education system received another blow after GCSE results put the country's students behind the rest of the UK.

"The evidence points squarely to the need to improve standards, raise performance and to do this with speed", Andrews said.

Many aspects of the plan were welcomed but the introduction of a national school banding system has attracted criticism from the education sector, the Western Mail reported.

Former secondary head teacher Elwyn Davies questioned the minister at the annual Welsh Association of School and College Leaders' conference in Cardiff calling the reaction to the criticism rash.

"It seems to me that in Wales we take a very knee-jerk reaction to the outcomes of Pisa and we've in a sense used Pisa as a new league table.

"We've also, it appears to me, taken onboard a political agenda rather than an education agenda," he added.

But Andrews defended his actions saying he had a reputation for "speaking bluntly" - something which was not about to change.

"I think it's complete tosh to say our response to Pisa has bee knee-jerk.

"When you identify that we are not performing as well as we should in those Pisa assessments, you have to ask the question why that is. What are we failing to do in Wales that other parts of the UK, including Scotland for example, are doing?"