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Education

Education Minister to quit Senedd in May

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KIRSTY WILLIAMS, Wales’ Education Minister will not stand in next year’s Senedd elections.

Ms Williams, who holds the constituency seat for Brecon and Radnorshire was first elected to the then-Welsh Assembly in 1999.

“After much reflection, I have decided not to stand as a candidate in the next election,” she said.

Kirsty Williams is highly-regarded and seen as being perhaps the ablest of the current Welsh Cabinet.

Her departure from the Senedd in May could spark a Cabinet reshuffle by Mark Drakeford.

Mrs Williams said: “There is of course sadness in making this decision, but also a strong sense of pride. Above all else, I’d like to thank the people of Brecon and Radnorshire for their support over the last two decades.”

Writing to her local constituency party, Kirsty Williams said: “Next May it will have been 22 years since I was first elected to represent the people of Brecon and Radnorshire.

“The local party, and then the constituency, placed its trust in me – a young, female, Welsh Liberal Democrat, new to elected politics and for our new parliament. It remains the proudest day of my political career.

“And for us to keep winning and keep achieving for our community, has been the honour of my life.

“To be the parliamentarian for Brecon and Radnorshire and in Powys is not to own the seat or constituency, it is to be a steward of it – following in the footsteps of Welsh Liberal giants and hopefully being able to pass on and support another generation.

“I know that my pride in being the first female leader of a Welsh political party was shared locally and nationally, and I hope it was a small inspiration to others. Working with my party colleagues in the Senedd, we worked diligently to hold the Government to account.

“Despite being an opposition party, we turned campaigns into policies that changed lives across the country.
“This included the introduction of the Nurse Staffing Levels Act and the Pupil Development Grant which continues to support our most disadvantaged pupils.”

Kirsty Williams said it had been “an immense honour to serve my country as Education Minister”.

“Every day I have been inspired and uplifted by the shared commitment across the country to be ambitious for all our learners,” she said.

“‘Our national mission’ has been the biggest programme of education reform since the Second World War. It has been a nation-wide collective endeavour.

“The support I’ve received from civil servants, private office, and Ministerial colleagues has been invaluable and unstinting.

“Over the last four years, we have fought to raise standards for all children, to reduce the attainment gap and to get some pride and confidence back into Welsh education. Working together,
our improved performance in national and international assessments, radical student support changes and investment in teachers, is proof that education is truly Wales’s national mission. Being
the family of a politician is never easy. I must thank my husband and three wonderful daughters for the patience, and at times resilience, that they have shown over these years.

“My late parents started the interest in politics and current affairs with lively debate around the kitchen table, and I know they would be proud of how their granddaughters are already strong independent women with their own opinions!

“It is with them in mind that, after a great deal of thought and reflection, I have decided not to stand as a candidate at the next Senedd election. The next candidate, and the Welsh Liberal Democrats, will have my abiding support and I will be out there campaigning as ever.

“There is, of course, sadness in making this decision, but also with a sense of achievement and pride. Above all else, I would like to thank the people of Brecon and Radnorshire for their support over the last two decades. Diolch o Galon. I may be biased, but I am in no doubt that our constituency is truly the greatest anyone could have the privilege of representing.”

Education

Alun Davies says additional learning needs reforms not delivering

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THE ARCHITECT of Wales’ additional learning needs system warned the reforms are not delivering on the aim of transforming support for children and young people.

Alun Davies, who steered the Additional Learning Needs (ALN) Act through the Senedd, said the reforms had to deliver a sea change in learners’ experiences.

But the Labour MS for Blaenau Gwent, who has been on the backbenches since 2017, said implementation of the legislation has not delivered some of the initial ambitions.

“It breaks my heart sometimes to listen to the stories of parents, who are fighting hard for their children and who deserve the support to flourish.”

The former minister for lifelong learning called for confirmation that children and young people do not need a diagnosis to receive support in schools and colleges.

Lynne Neagle, who previously chaired the committee that scrutinised the 2018 legislation, confirmed support should be based on need rather than a diagnosis.

Stressing ALN is very much a priority, Wales’ education secretary told her Labour colleague: “I don’t agree with your rather bleak assessment of how the reforms are going.”

Ms Neagle acknowledged challenges with consistent implementation of the reforms, which are being phased in to replace the special educational needs system.

She said the Welsh Government has invested more than £60m to support implementation, with £54m budgeted for ALN in this year.

Also during education questions on June 12, the Conservatives’ Tom Giffard raised concerns about Labour’s pledge to apply VAT to private schools.

Mr Giffard, who represents South Wales West, told the chamber the Welsh Government has not carried out an impact assessment of such a policy.

The shadow education secretary estimated the cost to Welsh schools at £18m, asking how Welsh ministers would fill the “black hole”.

Accusing her opposite number of coming up with a “back-of-a-fag-packet” calculation, Ms Neagle said the policy will actually release funding for schools.

She replied: “You should know all about black holes, given that we have a black hole in our budget of £700m as a result of being short-changed by the UK Conservative Government.”

Meanwhile, Cefin Campbell criticised Keir Starmer’s pledge to recruit more teachers given education is devolved and Labour has run Wales for 25 years.

Mr Campbell, who took over the education brief in a Plaid Cymru reshuffle last week, said a survey shows three-quarters of teachers in Wales had considered leaving the profession.

The former lecturer raised concerns about the initial teacher education incentive scheme, saying the Welsh Government has “no idea” if it is working due to a lack of evidence.

Ms Neagle said Sir Keir is well aware education is devolved, suggesting consequential funding will be used to address Wales-specific needs such as shortages in certain subjects.

She agreed about the importance of data on incentive schemes: “I’ve been very, very clear about that with officials. You can’t change policy without having effective data.”

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Education

Ysgol Penrhyn Dewi’s model train club appeals for donations

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THE YSGOL Penrhyn Dewi Model Train Club, is reaching out to the community for donations of old Hornby 00 gauge rail tracks and accessories. The club, which has been a staple of the school’s extracurricular activities, aims to enrich its collection and create more intricate and engaging layouts for its members.

In an appeal reminiscent of a bygone era, the school has issued a traditional wanted poster, urging those with unused or forgotten model railway items to consider contributing to the club. The poster, which features a vintage steam locomotive and a railway crossing sign, reads: “Wanted: Ysgol Penrhyn Dewi VA Model Train Club is looking for donations of any old Hornby 00 2 rail track or accessories no longer used or needed.”

The initiative, spearheaded by enthusiastic students, seeks to foster creativity and technical skills through the hobby of model railroading. The club members, dressed in their school blazers, are pictured eagerly overseeing their current collection, which, while cherished, is in need of expansion to accommodate their growing ambitions.

Donations can be left at the Dewi Campus reception or, if necessary, arrangements can be made for items to be collected. The poster concludes with a heartfelt “Diolch!”, expressing the club’s gratitude in advance.

This appeal not only highlights the club’s dedication to preserving a traditional pastime but also underscores the educational value such activities offer. Engaging in model railroading allows students to learn about engineering, history, and geography in a hands-on and enjoyable manner.

As the Ysgol Penrhyn Dewi VA Model Train Club looks to the community for support, it stands as a testament to the enduring charm and educational potential of model trains. The school hopes that with the generosity of the public, they can continue to inspire and educate the next generation of railway enthusiasts.

For those interested in contributing, further details can be found on the school’s website or by contacting the Dewi Campus directly.

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Education

RNLI Meet the Lifeguards programme returns to Pembrokeshire schools

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THE RNLI’s beach lifeguards have been visiting schools in Wales to deliver important beach safety information ahead of the summer holidays.

The Meet the Lifeguards programme returned to schools across Wales earlier this spring. The RNLI lifeguards spoke to 26,784 pupils across 172 primary schools and seven secondary schools in the area.

In Ceredigion, RNLI lifeguards spoke to 4,133 pupils across 29 primary schools and 2 secondary schools.

In Pembrokeshire, RNLI lifeguards spoke 8,408 pupils across 48 primary schools and 5 secondary schools.

The RNLI want everyone to enjoy the coast, but to do so safely. RNLI beach lifeguards delivered water and beach safety information to the children, in preparation for the summer holidays.

The presentation includes four main safety points for the children to consider when visiting the coast.

Stop and think

Stay together

Float to Live

Call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard

Anthony Jones RNLI Water Safety Education Manager said: “Our lifeguards thoroughly enjoyed heading back to schools to deliver the Meet the Lifeguard talks. The 45-minute sessions are a great way for the RNLI to deliver our key safety messages to young people ahead of the summer season.

“The children are taught how to safely prepare for a trip to the coast, by encouraging them and their families to always visit a lifeguarded beach. The children are taught where is and isn’t safe to swim and how to identify risks in and around the water. 

“Lifeguards teach the importance of always staying together and never visiting the beach alone. The lifeguards demonstrate how to float to live – what to do if you find yourself in trouble in the water, and to call 999 or 112 in the case of an emergency at the beach.

“These interactive sessions are a great way for children to learn how to stay safe at the beach, to familiarise themselves with the purpose of our flags and to encourage the children to share their knowledge with their friends and families.”

To find your nearest lifeguarded beach visit: Lifeguarded Beaches – Find Your Nearest Lifeguarded Beach (rnli.org)

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