Supporting Learners

2. Questions to the Minister for Education and the Welsh Language – in the Senedd at on 21 February 2024.

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Photo of Natasha Asghar Natasha Asghar Conservative

(Translated)

3. What action is the Welsh Government taking to support learners in South Wales East? OQ60693

Photo of Jeremy Miles Jeremy Miles Labour 2:37, 21 February 2024

We continue to provide support to learners in South Wales East, including £8 million of funding towards additional learning needs, £12.2 million-worth of funding through our universal free school meals programme, and £43 million-worth of funding for Welsh-medium education projects.

Photo of Natasha Asghar Natasha Asghar Conservative

Thanks so much for your answer, Minister. The consultation for the proposed school year changes closed just last week, and, I am sure similarly to many other Members in this Chamber, my inbox has been full of constituents raising their concerns around this matter. Firstly, the proposed changes will stagnate recruitment of our Welsh teachers, which is already behind where it should be, due to their loss of valuable holiday time prepping for a new term, which teachers across the border do not have to deal with. The changes will also increase costs for parents, as they will have to pay for extra indoor entertainment and heating, as their young ones will be home for longer, with increased holiday time over the colder months. This will most certainly have a knock-on effect, and we will also see a decrease in the vital benefits for outdoor education. Alongside this, Minister, our teachers will have to fight harder for much-needed annual leave, during a shorter summer leave period, whilst all the proposed changes deliver a disastrous blow to the economy and the rural sectors, with a £1 million loss that the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society will see from direct impact to the Royal Welsh Show, and the summer holidays underpinning our Welsh tourism industry. So, Minister, with these proposed school year changes clearly bound to negatively impact almost every area of society, will you do the right thing and drop the plans, going forward? Thank you.

Photo of Jeremy Miles Jeremy Miles Labour 2:38, 21 February 2024

I don't recognise the rather lurid picture that the Member paints of the planned reforms as described in the consultation. I speak to teachers all the time, who tell me that one of their main concerns is the length of the autumn term, which both staff and pupils find extremely challenging. Teachers tell me all the time as well that a moving Easter break makes it much harder to plan for their curriculum and do their lesson planning. So, there are a number of benefits to teachers from the proposals set out in the consultation document. As she will know, the motivation behind the consultation is around making sure that those learners who are least able to make sure their learning is maintained over the summer—[Interruption.]

Photo of John Griffiths John Griffiths Labour

Diolch, Llywydd. One very important development for learners in south-east Wales, Minister, is the relocation of the Coleg Gwent Newport campus to the city centre. This will put learning in the faces of the wider community in Newport, and I think lead to very good progression routes—indeed, also through to higher education, with the University of South Wales Newport campus on the doorstep. I know you very much welcome and are supporting this important development, Minister. So, would you join me in wanting to see it going forward in as timely a manner as possible? I think we're all very eager to see the development and the opening of that very important new facility.

Photo of Jeremy Miles Jeremy Miles Labour 2:40, 21 February 2024

I think it is an exciting proposal. As John Griffiths will know from our previous discussions about it, I'm very enthusiastic about it, and I very much hope that our officials, together with those of the college and the local authority, are able to make progress to realise the ambitions that the plan describes. I think it's really important from the point of view of the visibility of learning, as he says, but also in terms of the location of the project, which, I think, is itself symbolic.