(Title Image: St John Ambulance Australia)
At Education Questions this afternoon, Jane Hutt AM (Lab, Vale of Glamorgan) asked what the Welsh Government were doing to support the wellbeing of female pupils? She was encouraged by the Welsh Government’s £700,000 towards improved toilet facilities to address “period poverty” and wanted an update on its impact.
The Education Secretary, Kirsty Williams (Lib Dem, Brecon & Radnor), said the money was split between a capital fund to pay for toilet upgrades and a revenue grant to councils to maintain new facilities; it was generally up to councils as to how they deliver free sanitary products, but they have an obligation to tell girls how they can access them – whether in schools or elsewhere.
Leanne Wood AM (Plaid, Rhondda) followed up with the findings of a survey of 1,000 young women which found two-thirds had been victims whilst wearing school uniforms. The Education Secretary accepted more needed to be done:
“On the issue of supporting girls, clearly there is a need to ensure that our curriculum, via our current personal and social education lessons, and in our new curriculum of our new relationship and sexuality education programme, explores these issues from the very youngest age for both girls and boys, because, of course, boys are absolutely crucial in ensuring that girls do not have to endure this kind of behaviour.”
– Education Secretary, Kirsty Williams
Bad day at the office for Eluned Morgan?
Llyr Gruffydd AM (Plaid, North Wales) asked about pay raises for teachers and how this would impact the further education sector.
“Minister, teachers in schools are to receive a pay rise of up to 3.5 per cent, but we will have a situation where teachers teaching sixth-form pupils in schools will receive a pay rise, whilst those teaching sixth-form students in FE colleges won’t receive the corresponding pay rise.
“I’m not going to ask you to intervene in the current negotiations, but, from a point of principle, do you agree that we need to ensure fair play in terms of salary to teachers in FE, as compared to those in schools?”
– Llyr Gruffydd AM
ColegauCymru has estimated it would cost £10million to make up the difference.
Minister for Lifelong Learning & Welsh Language, Eluned Morgan (Lab, Mid & West Wales), said that there was a Barnett formula consequential to pay for teachers, but nothing for college lecturers; in principle, she agreed there should be no difference between the two.
Eluned then had to defend comments she had made (in relation to the Labour leadership election) that further education and lifelong learning should be a higher priority for the Welsh Government….Llyr pointing out that it was her responsibility now.
Later on, Eluned was corrected by the Education Secretary, who said there actually wasn’t a Barnett formula consequential to pay for the teachers’ pay rise – it was a direct negotiation with the UK Government.
Life-saving skills in schools?
Shadow Education Secretary, Suzy Davies AM (Con, South Wales West) asked about a campaign close to her heart (excuse the pun) – teaching life-saving skills in schools – and there was a (sort of) positive response from Kirsty Williams:
Her second question related to gender bullying and the problems of recognising autistic spectrum disorders in girls who are more adept at hiding it. What were the Welsh Government doing to raise awareness of this?
The Education Secretary said current professional development courses cover additional learning needs and if staff can get it right for ALN children, then they’ll surely get it right for all children. Estyn feedback so far was said to be positive.