Testing Times

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This is an extraordinarily insightful and thought-provoking book. Philip paints a breath-taking picture of the education system in Wales, shining a light into every corner of the system and down almost every corridor of power, before concluding that Wales has a seriously underperforming education system. Critically, however, Philip sets out his views about what now needs to be done, including how we encourage more ‘heretics’ throughout the system; people who will attempt to contest accepted orthodoxies, to stimulate debate and offer radically alternative approaches. We need look no further than this book to see how valuable this could be. 
Professor Chris Taylor, Cardiff University

‘An extraordinarily objective account of the state of Welsh education. There is no self-pitying, no lazy scapegoating, no  intellectual ‘huddling round a brazier’ in this book. It is a frank and at times damning indictment of the policies and politicians who have allowed Wales to slide into education’s international ‘third division’. But it is fair, lucid and incredibly perceptive.’ 
Gerard Kelly, Former Editor of the Times Educational Supplement


1.  Welsh Education Pre– and Post-Devolution

2. The Grand Narrative

    From The Learning Country to Qualified for Life

3. A Child's Journey in Wales
Laying the Foundations and Building The Pathways

4. Teaching and Learning

     From the National Curriculum to the Donaldson Review

5. Qualifications

    ‘Holding hands around a hole’

 6. The Hour of Reckoning

     League Tables, Banding, Categorisation, and PISA

 7. So, where do we go from here?

    ‘For the sake of our children’

The Welsh Government's Department of Education was famously called 'dysfunctional', by its own Minister. In Testing Times, a forensic and devastating critique of the Welsh Government's strategies and initiatives since devolution, the respected educationalist Philip Dixon argues that this is still the case, stating: 'If you want to find the weakest link in Welsh education today then look no further.’

A strong supporter of devolution, and a firm believer that Wales has the capability to create a world class educational system, Philip Dixon is brutally and refreshingly honest when identifying the major failures in the Welsh Government's creation and implementation of educational policy. He criticises a culture which he describes as overly complacent and occasionally reckless.

Essential reading for teaching professionals and education policy researchers, as well as for parents and school governors, Philip Dixon also perceptively describes the educational journey made by modern-day Welsh children as they move through school, and the major implications of the 2014 Donaldson Review. He pulls no punches in examining key statistical data to judge the effectiveness of Wales' education system.

Finally, following the 2016 National Assembly elections and the appointment of a new Education Minister, Philip Dixon, in the guise of a 'critical friend', outlines a number of essential questions that need to be addressed if Wales is not to languish for ever at the lower end of    international comparison tables, and with a system that is noticeably worse than its immediate neighbours in Scotland, Northern Ireland and England.

Testing Times will ruffle the feathers of the political peacocks who've ruled the educational roost for 16 years and presided over numerous debacles and fiascos.

Philip Dixon is a highly regarded  commentator on the Welsh education scene, and a regular contributor to the press and media. Born and educated in the Rhondda, he holds MAs from Oxford and Louvain, and a PhD from Cambridge and was the Director of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) in Wales from 2005 to 2016.

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