Kirsty Williams – the only Liberal Democrat delivering in government

In Wales we have the only Liberal Democrat Minister in the United Kingdom, delivering Welsh Liberal Democrat policies on education for our children and young people. Kirsty is now in her third year as the Education Minister. Since May 2016, she has forged ahead with innovative programmes to enhance education and learning for children and young people in Wales, embedded in the Liberal value of opportunity for all. As Kirsty says, it is no coincidence that the Welsh word for a ladder is the same as it is for school – “Ysgol”.

  • So a quick gallop of just some of the things the Party has done over the last two and a half years:
    Expanded and enhanced the Welsh Pupil Premium, or Pupil Development Grant. This policy has been supporting pupils from more disadvantaged backgrounds for most of this decade and has been taken further in government;
  • Delivered the most progressive student finance policy in the UK, that is unique in Europe. Students are supported with living costs and receive the equivalent of the national living wage. Support for part-time and postgraduate learners has been increased and figures released last month showed these applications have increased;
  • Made progress on reducing infant class sizes through a £36million fund. Schools are benefitting from more classrooms, teachers and teaching assistants. This was a key campaign priority at the last election, and now it is being implemented in government;
  • Published Wales’ first-ever plan to support rural schools. This includes a presumption against the closure of schools, and £2.5million per year grant scheme, and steps to make better use of technology;
  • Announced record investment in Wales’ teaching workforce, and developed financial incentives to attract graduates into teaching;
  • Taken steps to increase the focus on the mental health of children and young people. A pilot project is linking schools with specialist mental health support, and work is ongoing to develop a ‘whole school’ approach to mental health. As Kirsty has said, this is the foundation of successful education experience.

Recently she became the first Minister in our National Assembly to use British Sign Language in the Chamber – a language that will be encouraged to be taught in the new transformational curriculum that Kirsty is in the process of introducing! A curriculum, by the way, that is the first ever made-in-Wales approach. It’s also a curriculum that will reform sex and relationships education, making it inclusive, LGBT+ friendly and fit for the future.

We’ve also been able to avoid the worst of the Conservatives’ education policy in England. From very early in her term Kirsty was clear that grammar schools would not be introduced on her watch. Wales is not going down the divisive path that the Conservatives are pushing in England.

These are liberal values and liberal policies being implemented in government. Kirsty continues to make Liberal Democrats proud of her work in improving the educational outcomes for our children and young people in Wales.

 

* Donna Lalek is a bank worker and Liberal Democrat Community Councillor from Flintshire. She is a qualified Barrister and RE Teacher. Donna last year stood in the Alyn and Deeside Welsh Assembly Bi-Election. She is the Vice Chair of Flintshire Liberal Democrats and has recently become the Training Officer for the Welsh Liberal Democrats CCC.

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