This paper examines the positioning of the Welsh education system within contemporary policy debate and analysis. It begins by outlining some of the ways in which education policy and provision in Wales differs from that of its neighbour, England, and then goes on to critique how these differences have been represented in both the media and by members of the educational research community. Indeed, the paper argues that these representations constitute a form of misrecognition. It is tempting to counter this misrecognition with assertions of the superiority of the ‘Welsh way’—and certainly pronouncements of a ‘crisis’ in Welsh education appear to be as much politically-driven as evidence-based. However, such an approach would underplay the very real challenges that face Wales—challenges which are both like and unlike those facing England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The paper concludes that we need a serious engagement with national divergences across the four nations of the UK—as well as elsewhere. The case of Wales highlights the need to undertake not only comparative analysis but also relational analysis if we are to enhance our understanding of the changing politics of education.
Published: January 2016