(Title Image: Wales Online)
This is something new. I decided the First Minister doesn’t deserve all the glory when it comes to questioning, so I’ve decided to extend the privilege to Cabinet Secretaries too.
You’re welcome. This might even be worth a few quid a month * rattles tin can *
Starting off, Vikki Howells AM (Lab, Cynon Valley) asked for an update on plans to introduce new school uniforms guidance, amidst growing concerns over the general cost of uniforms as well as – a point raised by Angela Burns AM (Con, Carms. W. & S. Pembs.) – stories of pupils being punished for wearing the wrong uniform.
Education Secretary, Kirsty Williams (Lib Dem, Brecon & Radnor), confirmed that a 12-week consultation on new national uniform guidance will launch this autumn, with any new policies coming into effect in September 2019. On pupils being punished for wearing the wrong uniform, she said:
“….if the reason for that (uniform) infringement is because families are in financial difficulties, schools should allow an appropriate amount of time for the required item to be purchased, for there to be some flexibility in the system, and not to be able to penalise that child.”
– Education Secretary, Kirsty Williams AM
Leanne Wood AM (Plaid, Rhondda) called for the Welsh Government to adopt Bevan Foundation suggestions that schools only use generic, lower-cost uniforms.
The new Shadow Education Secretary, Suzy Davies AM (Con, South Wales West), focused on rural schools. She was concerned that a consultation on a new rural schools code might’ve been too complicated for young people to understand and took too long.
Earlier in the session, other AMs raised similar points, particularly in relation to the possible closure/relocation of Llancarfan Primary School in the Vale of Glamorgan.
Rhun ap Iorwerth AM (Plaid, Ynys Môn) called on the Welsh Government to innovate to enable smaller rural schools to remain open when the current school building programme focuses more on larger new builds which might not be suitable for rural areas.
“It takes nine months to produce a child; I hoped it would have been a bit quicker to produce a code.”
– Shadow Education Secretary, Suzy Davies AM
Suzy Davies asked why the Education Secretary didn’t ask councils to pause plans to close rural schools prior to the new code being introduced and also why it took nine months to report back on just 70 survey responses?
The Education Secretary told the chamber the code was laid as soon as possible under the Senedd rules but was clear that even with the code – and her support for rural schools – it wasn’t realistic to expect all rural schools to remain open.
On the issue of school building, the Education Secretary clarified that money under the 21st Century Schools programme can be used for refurbishments and doesn’t necessarily mean building a whole new school. Ultimately, however, decisions rest with local authorities.