Cross-border provision of public services for Wales: Further and higher education - Welsh Affairs Committee Contents

Memorandum submitted by Mark Harper MP



  The teaching of Welsh in Welsh state schools is now part of the National Curriculum for Wales.[18] English pupils living in England are eligible to attend a nearby Welsh school but have to study Welsh up to year 11 (GCSE). Pupils in Tidenham, in the South Forest of Dean, for example, may attend Chepstow School but have to study Welsh even though they may never have any further exposure to Welsh culture. Every school day, a bus transports pupils from Ross on Wye in England to Monmouth Comprehensive School in Wales where they will be taught Welsh. And a bus, travelling the other way, takes Welsh children to the John Kyrle School in Ross on Wye where they will not be taught Welsh.

  Welsh Independent schools do not have to provide for Welsh teaching.

  Central powers provide funding to the devolved powers on the same basis as it provides funding to the English Local Education Authorities, ie. a non ring-fenced sum derived from standard parametric equations that incorporate pupil numbers and their characteristics. The devolved power represents an extra layer of administration and, hence, an extra financial burden.

  English people who have to deal with public services in Wales can either be put at a disadvantage with Welsh people, in the case of public transport, or other English people, in the case of healthcare.

  People very close to each other can therefore find that their experience of public services in border areas is very different. This is a direct result of certain aspects of the devolution settlement. Part of the problem with this system is that English people use Welsh public services in a variety of circumstances, but have no ability to influence services through the ballot box. There is also perceived unfairness in the amount of money that devolved nations get from the UK government and the resulting improved services—for example, free prescriptions in Wales.

  The Government compounds this problem by referring to national schemes to mean England only, not the UK. Clarity of meaning and communication is therefore also essential.

  Future developments in the process of devolution need to consider the impact changes in the policy will have on those that live close to the border and how local services in border areas will be affected.

May 2008

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