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EDUCATION IN WALES

Education in Wales differs in certain respects from education elsewhere in the United Kingdom. For example, a significant minority of students all over Wales are educated either wholly or largely through the medium of Welsh: in 2008/09, 22 per cent of classes in maintained primary schools used Welsh as the sole or main medium of instruction. Welsh medium education is available to all age groups through nurseries, schools, colleges and universities and in adult education; lessons in the language itself are compulsory for all pupils until the age of 16.

Since devolution, education policy in the four constituent countries of the UK has diverged: for example, England has pursued reforms based on diversity of school types and parental choice; Wales (and Scotland) remain more committed to the concept of the community-based comprehensive school. Systems of governance and regulation – the arrangements for planning, funding, quality-assuring and regulating learning, and for its local administration – are becoming increasingly differentiated across the four home countries. Education researcher David Reynolds claims that policy in Wales is driven by a “producerist” paradigm emphasising collaboration between educational partners. He also alludes to lower funding in Welsh schools compared to England, echoing similar concerns at university level. He concludes that performance data do not suggest that Wales has improved more rapidly than England, although there are considerable difficulties in making these kinds of assessments.

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