Our children perform worse in reading, mathematics and science than children in any other part of the UK and worse than the OECD average. Education is the single biggest change we can make in Wales and a Plaid Cymru government will not let our young people down.
We will raise education standards and create more opportunities for our children by tackling the funding emergency faced by our schools that sees £324 less being spent in real terms per pupil during 2018-19 compared with the corresponding figures in 2009-10.
We will make sure resources reach the frontline in an effective and timely manner, moving away from specific grants, and last-minute allocations. We will work with childcare providers, such as Mudiad Meithrin, to ensure that sufficient Welsh language childcare is available in all parts of Wales.
Teachers inspiring children in our schools are crucial to raising standards and producing a prosperous and fair Wales. We will encourage a close connection between teacher and pupil and give it space in which to flourish. We must pursue all avenues in order to promote and protect this important relationship, removing all unnecessary interference. Good teaching makes all the difference.
However, we are currently facing a crisis in our education system with an estimated one in three teachers quitting the classroom within their first five years. We want to implement a series of measures to give teachers a supportive workplace, allowing them to make their relationship with their pupils the primary focus of their work. This will be done by:
- Ensuring teachers are allowed to dedicate their time to teaching and inspiring their pupils, making the needs of the child and young person central to all they do.
- Cutting bureaucracy and removing all unnecessary interventions that disrupt the essential child/teacher relationship.
The development of the new curriculum presents exciting opportunities to transform our education system. However, successfully delivering a new way of working requires a great deal of preparation and support. We want teachers to have the time and resources they need to prepare, and access to professional development opportunities to ensure that the curriculum is implemented effectively.
We want the new curriculum to provide a good understanding of mental health and well-being, including establishing physical education as a core element of the curriculum with more time earmarked for physical activity, as well as provision for lessons on healthy relationships, citizenship, children’s rights and Welsh identity.
Welsh medium education
The Welsh language belongs to everybody in Wales and it is important that all children have the opportunity to become bilingual. All pupils will learn Welsh as part of a continuum of learning. We will continue to expand Welsh in the Foundation Phase, with the aim that all children can speak and understand Welsh and this will become part of the new curriculum. We will take statutory powers to ensure all Local Education Authorities deliver on their Welsh Education Strategy Plans by reinforcing existing powers and increase Welsh Medium Education provision.
Early Years Education
Early intervention and support is a proven way to give children the best start in life and education. Some parents choose to deliver this at home, but many for economic reasons need childcare. Parents in Wales pay some of the highest childcare costs in Europe and receive fewer free hours of childcare than elsewhere in the UK.
We will work with schools and childcare providers to ensure that there are well qualified staff in all parts of the country with sufficient provision in both Welsh and English. We will deliver free full-time childcare to all children over the age of three and increase this provision when possible.
Currently there is insufficient supply of childcare to meet the needs of many families, for example, families living in rural areas, children with disabilities, Welsh-medium provision and parents who work atypical hours. For those interested, we will train young people and people seeking to re-enter the workforce to become childcare workers and to set up their own childcare businesses. We will also explore alternatives models of provision including the Nordic countries’ family daycare systems and childcare cooperatives.
We will also provide small loans or grants for entrepreneurs to set up childcare businesses to fill in the gaps in supply, for example in Welsh-medium childcare, services for children with disabilities, services in rural areas and services at atypical hours.
Child welfare at school and at home is crucial for them to achieve their potential. All schools will teach a healthy relationships agenda and maintain good counselling services. We will introduce legislation to remove the defence of reasonable chastisement. Schools will promote a positive attitude towards other pupils with the aim of reducing bullying of all types. We will also improve links between schools and social services regarding care and young carers to ensure that local support mechanisms can be put in place. We will scrap the ‘truancy tax’ and instead invest in education welfare officers to raise attendance.
We believe that higher education should be free for all, and we will continue to work towards this aim. Another guiding principle is our determination to address the long-term brain drain of young people out of Wales. Forty per cent of all Welsh students left Wales in the past year. The ability to retain young people in Wales or attracting them back is a key policy objective of ours.
We will review the funding offer for Welsh domiciled undergraduate and post-graduate students, in respect of both tuition fees and living costs.
Further Education colleges are a crucial link to expanding key skills and productivity for all. But they are underfunded, and college teachers and lecturers are not given the same level of support or pay as schoolteachers. We propose to increase college lecturer pay in Wales to ensure parity with schoolteachers in terms of base hourly pay.
We want to promote parity of esteem between academic and vocational education whereby each pathway to work is respected and celebrated.
It’s not always easy to find employment or training opportunities without the correct support, that is why we will introduce an under-25 Jobs Guarantee, where we will commit to identifying employment, education or training for any young person who has been searching for work for more than four months.
We propose making public transport free for all FE/6th form students and apprentices in Wales below age 21 in full time education or training.
Apprentices aged below 21 do not have the same access to support networks such as student voices. An apprenticeship should not just be considered an access point to employment, but an educational experience, with more uniformity than is currently the case.
We propose all apprentices under the age of 21 should be partnered with a Further Education college to ensure appropriate support, including access to college days or off-site training/education for key skills or other appropriate education choices.