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Heseltine: Follow Gove to improve Welsh education; Advice from Tory lord.

Byline: DAVID WILLIAMSON Parliamentary Correspondent

WALES should follow Michael Gove's lead on education, Lord Heseltine said as he insisted poor performance in schools was a 'British problem' not a Welsh one.

The Swansea-born Conservative grandee said Westminster Education Secretary Gove has blazed the trail for the country to follow, and urged him to "go further" and "go faster" in his reforms.

Lord Heseltine was appalled by figures that show children from the UK nations are outperformed by international rivals. Rankings released by the OECD in December showed the UK finished 26 for maths, 23 for reading, and 21 for science. Wales had the worst results of the UK nations in the OECD's Pisa figures.

Lord Heseltine, who was deputy prime minister under John Major and a leading cabinet minister in the Thatcher era, said he was "hugely" concerned by such findings but argued Mr Gove Lord Heseltine was pursuing the right policies in England. He said: "You cannot compete in tomorrow's world with that level of underperformance. My only advice to Michael Gove is 'go further, go faster' - exactly the reverse of what the establishment pressure on him is to do. They want him to ease up and take his foot off the accelerator.

"My advice would be exactly the opposite." He added: "It is not a Welsh problem. It is a British problem...

"It's the same problem. We tolerate indifferent standards and Michael Gove is not doing that, and he's absolutely right." Lord Heseltine described the "failure of the education system" as "one of Britain's most acute challenges". A Welsh Government spokesman said: "In Wales, we are putting in place a package of reforms to secure rapid improvement in school standards. At the heart of these reforms are rigour and challenging ourselves and each other to do better.

"What happens in England is a matter for the Secretary of State to decide."

Lord Heseltine told journalists: "Basically, we work in a country where there is a perfectly defensible assumption that social provision in the widest sense will be of a common standard - in other words, the education, the health, the services of local authorities - they will all be broadly the same. The moment you start backing the richer, winning areas by giving them more control over their own budget the problem is how do you get the money to provide the equalisation of services throughout the more impoverished areas? "I don't know the answer to that question; until I do I'm a sceptic about, in this relatively small island, this idea about varying tax rates."

Lord Heseltine is upbeat about his party winning the support of voters in next year's election, saying: "I think they will say that they have led the country through an economic crisis and are now delivering a record of economic progress which is the envy of most other countries."

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Conwy, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 26, 2014
Words:479
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