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Education, Election 2011, Guest Blogs, Politics

Guest blog: Nerys Evans of Plaid Cymru

We will be running guest blogs from the four political parties over the next few days in the run-up to the Assembly Elections. We continue with Nerys Evans of Plaid Cymru, who writes about Plaid’s plans for the education system.

Nerys Evans, Plaid Cymru

By Nerys Evans

Over the past few weeks, Plaid Cymru has launched a series of proposals that form part of our ambitious ‘Count on Plaid’ proposals for tackling the fundamental failings that exist within our education system.

As the weeks lead up to the election we will continue to highlight the radical plans we have, which I believe will give the children of Wales a far better start in life.

There is no hiding the fact that over the past decade the education system inWaleshas not had the leadership it needs. The system in its current form is failing. ThePisa(Programme for International Student Assessment) results, whilst only one snapshot, did make it clear that unless something is done to address the basic problems education inWalesfaces, then performances will only get worse.

What thePisaresults also show is that this is not simply a matter of money. There were countries that performed worse thanWalesthat spent more on education and those that spent less performed better. Clearly we have to insist upon leaving no stone unturned as we examine every aspect of the education system inWales.

Where Plaid Cymru is concerned, nothing is off the table in looking at improvements in education forWales. So far the party has announced a number of key proposals. These include:

Examining the term and day structure.

There is support for our view that the existing term structure is no longer fit for a modernWales. The make-up of the term timetable has been in existence for decades and was focused on allowing children to take part in the harvest.

What Wales needs is to have a modern term structure built around the needs of a modernWales. This would help teachers and students have greater flexibility in their approach, reduce end of term fatigue, reduce child care costs, increase knowledge retention amongst students and allow for a far more coherent approach to education inWales.

Our position of opening up the term structure to a debate with parents and teachers unions to find the most appropriate way forward for Waleshas already received a lot of support.

Making IT a core subject.

A modernWales needs a modern approach to education. Information Technology is a part of everyday life and continuing to teach it as a foundation subject holds Welsh children back.

When Ieuan Wyn Jones, as Minister of the Economy, announced a £4.9m investment in a centre of excellence in mobile technology he showed Plaid’s commitment to making a nation who can lead the way in terms of modern industries. Our proposals for IT as a core subject will ensure that Welsh children will be at the forefront of new technologies and new industries, building a sustainable economy for the future of Walesthrough investment in skills at an early age.

Halving illiteracy by 2015 and eradicating it by 2020.

This is a key proposal for the party and one which highlights our commitment to tackling the basic problems that exist within our education system. It is simply unacceptable that any child should be leaving primary school without being able to read or write.

Instead of asking why a child is failing, we need to ask why the teaching method is failing the child. As part of the programme for achieving our ambitious aims, we have proposed a comprehensive ‘synthetic phonics’ programme for all children going through the three-to-seven foundation phase; a safety-net programme during the eight-to-13 phase for those who by the age of seven, need extra and intensive tuition and efforts to change attitudes to reading so it is not just seen as a school activity or associated with homework.

Tackling the core problem of illiteracy and raising standards is the number one priority for any future Plaid Cymru government.

These are just some of the proposals that we have announced thus far as part of the ‘Count on Plaid’ programme. I am extremely excited about how our education manifesto is coming together and am confident that only Plaid Cymru offers a bold, ambitious, positive and deliverable way forward for our children and our education system.

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