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Election 2011, Guest Blogs, Politics

Guest blog: Jenny Randerson of the Welsh Liberal Democrats

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 Jenny Randerson of the Welsh Liberal Democrats who writes about the party’s education plan.

By Jenny Randerson

Jenny Randerson, Welsh Liberal Democrats

Welsh schools were once the envy of the UK. Now, sadly, international comparisons show that that Wales results in reading and maths have fallen significantly below the OECD average and that Welsh students are falling behind their counterparts in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The Labour-Plaid government is failing our children who are now paying the price for the gross underfunding of schools over the last decade.

Education is the key investment we can make for all our children. It is the route of out poverty, the key to ensuring sure that everyone can reach their full potential. Ultimately, it’s the way to make our economy strong and our country fairer.

Our schools will only improve when we give teachers the tools and training they need to inspire our children. Pupils in Wales get £604 less spent on their education than in England and recently we’ve seen two reports have been highly critical of educational standards in Wales. Welsh Liberal Democrats will start by giving education the priority it deserves.

Whilst we have a manifesto full of ideas that will improve people’s education from their first day in nursery to their first day of work and beyond, we have outlined two key priorities that will improve education in schools. We will:

· Tackle the spending gap, providing more money for schools by targeting additional money at the 80,000 pupils who need it the most so that schools can afford to invest in the things that really matter, such as smaller class sizes or one-on-one teaching.

· Invest in new training and development opportunities for teachers, driving up standards and challenging our teachers so we deliver for our children.

As well as this, though, we want to make education accessible throughout life. That is why we will tackle the skills deficit amongst young people by offering training grants of £2000 for new companies that take them on and by guaranteeing people who return to further education later in life that their A-levels will be free. This will ensure that education doesn’t stop when formal schooling stops.

But education success does not need just to be for the top pupils – everyone deserves a chance at education. Our pupil premium will tackle unfair variations in attainment between pupils from different backgrounds, but we also have plans to make schools safe and supportive for everyone. So we will crack down on homophobic bullying by updating the guidance, roll-out a programme of early testing for children with special educational needs, including language and behavioural problems so that proper support is provided and expanding the requirement for providing school transport for disabled pupils of all ages.

Over the last four years, Labour and Plaid Cymru have let our children down. The next Assembly term is going to last five years. We cannot let this government continue to wreak havoc in our children’s education and their future.

I have come to the end of my 12 years here. In January I was ‘introduced’ into the Lords, where my future as a politician now lies.

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