Why Wales needs a 10-point plan for education

Photos of elementary students using iPads at school to do amazing projects.

Siân Gwenllian AM, Plaid Cymru Shadow Minister for Education and Welsh Language

Later today, at Plaid Cymru’s annual conference in Swansea, I will be presenting a motion which, if passed, will form the basis of our party’s Action Plan for Schools and Early Years when Plaid Cymru form Wales’ next government.

The motion sets out ten key areas that we would urgently prioritise in order to improve the educational outcomes of our children and young people.

According to Estyn, pupils at half of Wales’ secondary schools don’t meet their full potential by the time they leave school. Thousands of young people are being let down by the system. This cannot be allowed to continue.

There is currently too much bureaucracy and too many unnecessary interventions and there is currently much needs to be done to allow teachers to focus on their pupils.

Year after year of cuts have resulted in fewer and fewer teachers in the system – with many of the most experienced are leaving. Added to this is the huge problem of recruiting new teachers and the fact that one in three teachers quits the classroom within the first five years.

At the root of the problem is insufficient funding for schools which means education is not being delivered effectively which inevitably has a knock on impact on pupils.

That’s why increasing school funding is crucial to our plan.

Plaid Cymru has consistently argued that schools need more money.

Since 2010-11 there has been an 8% real terms decrease in spending per pupil and over half of Wales’ secondary schools are in deficit.

There are particular concerns about inconsistencies in funding for the Foundation Phase. Teaching assistants now get paid through the Education Improvement Grant and compete against other expenditure and the EIG itself has suffered a 10% cut.

But more money alone is not enough and I very much hope our 10-point Action Plan will be supported by Conference as the starting point for our 2021 manifesto.

A good education system emphasises the importance of the relationship between teacher and pupil and gives it space in which to flourish. Teachers inspiring children in our schools are crucial in raising standards and vital in our quest for a prosperous and fair Wales.

We must pursue all avenues in order to promote and protect this important relationship, removing all unnecessary interference. The early years are vital, and early intervention strategies are key to creating a level playing field for each child, whatever their background or circumstances.

The Plaid Cymru Government we form in 2021 will implement a series of measures to give teachers and auxiliary staff a supportive workplace, allowing them to make their relationship with their pupils the primary focus of their work.

 

Understanding

Our 10-point Plan focuses on:

1.    making full use of devolved powers over teachers’ work conditions to ensure they are allowed to dedicate their time to teaching and inspiring their pupils, making the needs of the child or young person central to all they do;

2.    making the profession attractive for potential teachers, raising the societal status of teachers – leading to the recruitment of more excellent teachers to meet demands, and helping retain staff;

3.    removing all unnecessary interventions that disrupt the essential child-teacher relationship, concentrating on meaningful support, monitoring and accountability where necessary, following a full review of current practice;

4.    allowing time for the new curriculum to embed, providing adequate resources and opportunities for staff professional development;

5.    moving swiftly to a new qualifications system designed to complement the new curriculum;

6.    ensuring that the components of the new curriculum foster a good understanding of mental health and well-being, healthy relationships, citizenship, children’s rights and Welsh identity in every child;

7.    providing adequate finance for our schools, allowing for long-term planning and making sure resources reach the frontline in an effective and timely manner, moving away from specific grants, hypothecation and last minute allocations;

8.    creating a professionalised support staff network with adequate rates of pay and clear career progression;

9.    using schools as family support hubs with co-ordinated multi-agency early intervention for vulnerable children and families from birth; and

10.  providing universal, free, full-time, and bilingual early childhood care and education.

Plaid Cymru’s Programme for Government will contain full details around these ten action points, but in the meantime, I am eager to hear from anyone who has a view on what we’re proposing, or wants to add their ideas.

If you would like to contribute to the important work of creating Plaid Cymru’s Education Manifesto for 2021, please send me an email at sian.gwenllian@assembly.wales.

As Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Minister for Education and the Welsh Language, I look forward to becoming our Minister for Education and the Welsh Language after we form the next government in 2021.

Under Adam Price’s leadership as First Minister, that government will aim to transform Wales and making our education system the best it can be will be crucial to that plan.

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Teaching “Welsh identity” – good. A hanes Cymru?