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Education

A better future for our children

Education is the key investment we make in our children. Education is the way to ensure everyone can reach their full potential, makes our economy strong and provides a route out of poverty.

Our schools will only improve when we give teachers the tools, training and freedom they need to inspire and educate our children. Schools face too many restrictions and too much control from the Welsh Government. The underfunding of schools is the greatest scandal of devolution and has left children with little aspiration to succeed in life, trapping them into the intergenerational poverty we see across Wales that leads to further poverty, poor health and a cheap economy. Aled Roberts AM talking with pupils

We can break this link by investing in our education system. A child's life chances are determined at a very early age, with all the evidence showing that children from disadvantaged backgrounds perform on average less well than their peers. All children deserve the right to be allowed to flourish.

To help all children to reach their full potential and narrow the attainment gap between those from poorer and more affluent backgrounds, the Liberal Democrats have championed the Pupil Premium. This targets resources at those children most in need, enabling schools to provide the necessary resources for all children to get a good start in life. In Wales, thanks to a budget deal with the Welsh Government, we secured a Pupil Premium, known as the Pupil Deprivation Grant, of £450 per eligible pupil to help those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds. The English Pupil Premium will rise to £1,300 by 2014/15 and we will continue to campaign in Wales for more funding to ensure that Welsh pupils are not left behind.

Vocational courses are the backbone of many professions, helping to tackle poverty, drive economic growth and develop the skills base that we need in Wales. We will work to increase awareness and raise the profile of vocational opportunities, such as apprenticeships, so that pupils are well informed about the options for their future. We will ensure parity of approach between vocational and academic courses and encourage employers to offer more apprenticeship places to widen the opportunities that are available..

Higher education plays a vital role in helping individuals to develop their skills and enhance their career prospects; but also in forming a knowledge base that can help Wales to grow socially and economically. Liberal Democrats have long championed the need for vibrant, well-funded, independent universities in Wales, accountable to key stakeholders, and able to deliver high quality teaching in an excellent learning environment and undertake internationally significant research. We firmly believe that access to higher education should be determined solely by academic ability and should not be constrained by social background, geography or financial resources.

In government, Welsh Liberal Democrats will prioritise…

  • Increasing the Pupil Premium/Deprivation Grant to target £2,500 at each of the poorest children in Wales. The money will stay with the child so that schools can invest in the things that really matter, such as smaller class sizes, one-on-one teaching or tackling poor discipline.
  • Developing an individual pupil monitoring programme to measure pupils' progress, allowing school to target efforts at those pupils who are not meeting their potential. Alongside this, we would re-structure the school banding system to demonstrate how well schools are supporting pupils.
  • Introducing a Student Living Support Grant for all Welsh-domiciled students registered for a first undergraduate degree at a UK university, including part-time students, payable on top of the existing means-tested Assembly Learning Grant. This will be funded by withdrawing the Tuition Fee Grant.
  • Providing learners and businesses with better information on the availability and quality of further education courses, including joint prospectuses.
  • Reviewing post-16 qualifications and curricula in Wales including the delivery and appropriateness of the minimum subject provision mandated by the Learner Skills Measure, and the value, structure and delivery of the Welsh Baccalaureate, and the feasibility of adoption of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme as the standard qualification in Wales.
  • Creating a Welsh National Cyber College to commission, develop and accredit digital and online FE courses, while working through existing FE instutitons.
  • Introducing an Employability Enhancement Bursary to support postgraduate students in their employability skills.
  • Improving access to further education by earmarking Community First funding to facilitate access to further education in Community First clusters.
  • Supporting access to Higher Education by introducing a programme to encourage prospective students from low participating backgrounds, paying the full tuition fees of care-leavers, and requiring unviersities to adopt a 'Fair Access Agreement' outlining measures to broaden access.
  • Opposing the forced merger of higher education institutions, and instead encouraging partnership and collaboration between universities and between universities and FE colleges.
  • Developing a streamlined and flexible National Curriculum, that will ensure that children learn key intellectual and life skills such as financial literacy, and have access to a wide range of academic and vocational subjects, whilst giving schools more flexibility over how these subjects are taught.
  • Ensure councils respond to the need for Welsh medium schooling.
  • Reducing bureaucracy for schools and phasing out many prescriptive ring-fenced grants.
  • Investing in a Quality Teaching Programme, providing up-to-date training and professional development for teachers and head teachers and to encourage high-fliers to become teachers.
  • Guaranteeing teachers the right to an unpaid sabbatical year if they want to pursue academic study.
  • Strengthening the capacity and standards of teachers and lecturers in FE through introducing an up-to-date Teacher's Qualification Framework and the piloting of a new scheme for industry secondments.
  • Calling for a cross-party commission on on examining the funding and organization of adult education and lifelong learning.
  • Establishing a nationwide high attainment programme, funded nationally, which will develop and co-ordinate access to programmes for high achievers at schools.
  • Ensuring that any new model for delivery education services will be accountable to local authorities.
  • Improve special educational needs testing across Wales, in order to identify children who have learning, communication or other difficulties early on and get them the best help possible.
  • Urgently developing specific Homophobic Bullying Guidance, in recognition that this form of bullying is more difficult to tackle through normal plans.
  • Encouraging teachers in tackling bad discipline through strengthening the powers available to teachers, providing teachers with behaviour management training, and supporting pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds most likely to have behavioural and attendance issues.
  • Reforming the role of school governors to ensure they focus more on strategic oversight, alongside raising their status by launching a pupil campaign to recruit more governors and improving the training available for governors.
  • Strengthening the remit of Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol to include the FE sector.
  • Introducing a Welsh Students' Charter, guaranteeing university students receive strong levels of teaching, support and access to facilities.
  • Ensuring people have the right to study their first level-3 qualification (A level or equivalent) for free, regardless of their age.
  • Ensuring that there is greater cross-departmental co-operation in delivering lifelong learning by giving the Minister for Education a remit to pursue adult community learning across the whole government.
  • Promoting healthy food and drink in schools and regulating the food that can be provided, using powers in the Welsh Liberal Democrat Healthy Eating in Schools Measure that has already been passed.

Putting Pupils First

Conference in Spring 2013 passed our paper Putting Pupils First: Improving school standards in Wales. This policy paper proposed introducing individual pupil monitoring, increasing the Pupil Development Grant, and delivering a Middle Phase Strategy of pastoral and academic support for the 8-14 phase.

Pupil Deprivation Grant

The Pupil Deprivation Grant was introduced in 2012 following a budget deal between the Welsh Liberal Democrats and the Welsh Government, which secured over £32million to help reduce the impact of poverty on educational attainment. This year we are proud to have secured a further budget deal which will more than double the value of the Pupil Deprivation Grant. Schools will now receive £918 per pupil aged 5-15 on free school meals; more than double the current £450 per pupil.

Evidence is growing that the Pupil Deprivation Grant is making a difference to pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds in Wales and we recently conducted a survey on the impact and implementation of the PDG in schools to date. It was clear from the responses that a wide variety of creative interventions are being supported by funding from the PDG and schools highlighted the significant impact that the grant is having on pupil outcomes, on raising standards in literacy and numeracy and enhancing confidence.

You can read a copy of our report here:

English/Saesneg: Learning Lessons From the Pupil Deprivation Grant

Welsh/Cymraeg: Dysgu Gwersi o'r Grant Amddifadedd Disgyblion

Higher and Further Education Policy

Our Higher Education Policy Paper, Fairness and Freedom in Higher Education, was passed by Conference at our Autumn 2013 Conference at Gregynog. It proposed introducing a Student Living Support Grant to help students with the day-to-day cost of living funded by withdrawing the Tuition Fee Grant, introducing an Employability Enhancement Bursary, and opposing the forced merger of higher education institutions.

Our Further Education Policy Paper, Future for Further Education, was passed by Conference at our Spring 2014 Conference in Newport. It proposed providing learners and businesses with better information; creating a Welsh National Cyber College; and reviewing post-16 qualifications and curricula in Wales including the delivery and appropriateness of the Learner Skills Measure, the Welsh Baccalaureate, and the feasibility of adopting the International Baccalaureate as the standard qualification in Wales.