Kirsty Williams on supporting teachers, pupils and students: her vision for Welsh education

Kirsty Williams has been talking to Wales Online about her plans on education secretary. Here are some of the best bits:

On supporting teachers

She used tact and sensitivity, unlike some education secretaries in Whitehall. You are not going to get anything done in schools without getting teachers onside.

“I think there is some excellent practice,” said Ms Williams.

“I think that there are schools and other education institutions that are doing amazing work and children that are having a great education experience, but my concern is that it is not universal.

“There are too many variables between schools – even between schools that find themselves in the same local authority.

“What I want to do is focus on making sure that good practice, that undoubtedly exists within the system in Wales, is shared and adopted by all schools so all of our children, regardless of where they live, have access to the very best education.

“What I have been struck with in recent weeks is that the profession in many areas does not feel valued and I want to raise the status of the teaching profession.

“We are going to be asking a lot of them, [and] it is they that will make the difference to school standards in Wales, not me in an office in Cardiff Bay – so we need to support them to do the job that we expect of them.”

Curriculum reform

“I think the overall objective of Donaldson is ambitious, exciting and exactly the kind of curriculum that successful education systems in other countries have got and I want a piece of that for my kids – I want a piece of that for Wales’ children.

“The crucial thing is that we get the implementation right – in terms of developing the curriculum itself and ensuring our workforce is ready to deliver that.

“What I’m more worried about is that we will talk the talk and get to 2021 and won’t be doing anything significantly different – that will be a failure so we have got to work hard to make good on the vision that Donaldson has.”

The Scottish model is actually a very good one. The implantation in primary schools was brilliant but in secondary schools was a lot more confused, to put it politely, so Kirsty has got this one spot on.

Supporting university students

Kirsty is responsible for student finance. It will be easier for her to be consistent with Welsh Lib Dem policy, which was to end the subsidy the Welsh Government gives to students.

It will be difficult I’m sure, but we cannot afford to duck that,” she said.

“ I was very clear in the run-up to the election, and during the election campaign , about what my party thought was a sustainable way forward.

“I think what’s important is that we recognise that we need a system that if people want to go on to higher education, they are not prevented from doing so because of the expense of day-to-day living costs.

“That is often the biggest barrier: How do you keep a roof over your head? How do you feed yourself? How do you pay for your resources? Those are the issues that are at the forefront of students’ minds.”

And, finally, her views about her new job. You can sense her enthusiasm:

“I have spent 17 years getting up in the morning thinking: ‘What am I going to say about this today?’ I now have the opportunity to get up in the morning and say: ‘What am I going to do about this today?’

“This is an amazing opportunity for the Welsh Liberal Democrats to be able to have an influence on what has got to be the most important job of a Welsh Government – and that is educating our children.

“And we have got to get it right, because if we get our education system right; [and] if we have well-qualified, well-motivated youngsters leaving our schools, colleges and universities; that will lead to a stronger, better economy.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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