Plaid Cymru the Party of Wales Manifesto

Plaid Cymru - The Party of Wales Manifesto 2001

Section 2
Cultivating the Mind

Mankind's ability to think is our most important characteristic, and nurturing the mind is essential for improving our understanding of ourselves and our appreciation of society and the world around us. In this section we shall be looking at education, culture, broadcasting and the Welsh language.

2 (i) Education and training

In addition to promoting economic initiative, ensuring first class education and training is crucial for a lively and thoughtful democracy, for promoting justice and equality in society, creativity, and appreciation of the fine and beautiful and the wonder of the natural world.

The school curriculum in Wales should reflect these needs, contributing to our national regeneration, while giving young people an opportunity to succeed wherever they choose to live and encourage a well-informed understanding of world citizenship. We support lifelong learning which promotes personal development, helps to integrate people into society and working life and encourages participation in the democratic decision-making process.

Many decisions on education have of course been devolved to the Assembly, but Westminster's influence is heavy in terms of policy framework and the resources available.

This is particularly relevant now since expenditure per head on education in Wales will be lower than in England over the coming years.

One of the effects of this is the Assembly's inability to emulate some of the initiatives that are available to teachers in England.

Although the failure to develop a truly Welsh agenda is largely the fault of the Labour administration in Cardiff , Tony Blair and David Blunkett have also undermined the spirit of devolution by imposing decisions on the Assembly, as in the case of performance related pay for teachers.

It is clear that the London New Labour approach to educational provision is completely alien to Welsh values; it is a mindset that regards the competitive market as an appropriate driver for schools. The present government has promoted the 'reforms' introduced by Thatcher and Kenneth Baker, although Labour opposed them at the time.

The method of funding schools rewards competition, and misleading league tables promote this further. This results in the decline of schools in poor areas, leading to social exclusion and selection on the basis of ability by the back door. In England selection according to ability is on the increase with the growing the number of 'specialist schools'.

For Plaid Cymru the school should be a resource for the community, not a commercial entity in a competitive market.

While Labour is determined to maintain the changes introduced by the Tories, the Tories themselves evidently want to move further, with independent schools deciding on their own entry policy and large scale privatisation. That is why it is essential that we have full legislative powers for the Assembly so that this can be prevented before it is imposed on Wales in the future.

  • Crisis in the teaching profession

    The heavy workload on teachers resulting from tests, inspection and bureaucracy has led to a crisis of morale and recruitment.

    The Plaid Cymru MPs will press for a general increase in teachers' salaries rather than performance related pay.

    There has been a serious deterioration in teachers' working conditions in the further education sector. This must be tackled, if only to facilitate close collaboration between schools' 6th forms and further education colleges.

    We also call for regular assessment of the children's needs and a move away from the target setting culture. Publication of league tables should be abolished, but schools and parents must have regular analysis of the relative performance of pupils including consideration of social factors and special needs. Similarly, we call for an end to the naming and shaming of schools, and for concentrating on support for the school within the community.

    Clear guidelines are needed which would enable teachers to discipline children in such a way as to protect children from ill-treatment.

  • Pre-school educare

    We shall press for substantial investment in this key sector, particularly for high-quality training for teachers and early years' childminders. We also emphasise the need for provision that is appropriate to the age of the child, opposing the DfEE's emphasis on formal teaching in this period.

  • Higher Education

    Higher education's contribution to the life and economy of Wales has been enormous. In addition to jobs that depend directly and indirectly on it, the sector also has tremendous potential to contribute to an economic renaissance by providing a flexible workforce and promoting new industries based on research.

    In order to establish a national strategy, we shall press for the Assembly to have full powers for higher education.

    We shall also press for the level of funding generally to be raised, as Britain is way behind in comparison with the rest of Europe and America. Wales is lagging behind in comparison with England, and this must be remedied in order to enable our establishments to compete, and to attract a higher share of research moneys.

    The Bett report has underlined the need for better salaries in Higher Education in order to attract and retain high quality staff. These recommendations should be implemented.

  • Financial support for students

    New Labour's decision to charge students tuition fees and to abolish the maintenance grant completely has caused serious hardship, and has been an obstacle to access to Higher Education for people on low incomes. In addition, it creates problems for Higher Education Institutions in Wales because of the tendency for students to study near their homes.

    The Party of Wales believes that Higher Education should be seen as a key investment in the future, and should therefore be available free of charge. In addition, means-tested maintenance grants should be reintroduced in order to facilitate access to Higher Education for everybody who so wishes.

    This extra expenditure should not occur at the expense of any other sectors, but in the context of a significant increase in public investment in Education and Training. Adequate financial support must also be ensured for access to Further Education and Training as part of the general expansion in Lifelong Learning opportunities. Post-statutory education is no longer a privilege for the minority, but a right for all

    2 (ii) Culture

    We need recognition at all levels of government that culture is an essential part of everybody's life. It involves our way of life, our heritage and the way we communicate with each other. Promoting creativity at all levels and raising standards and nurturing the ability to appreciate the best is a responsibility of public policy. The fact that cultural activity contributes increasingly to the economy generally has to be acknowledged.

    In the Assembly, a new foundation for policy has been laid by the Culture in Common report. In order to build on this foundation adequate resources are needed. This is another example of how the financial settlement for the Assembly restricts our national aspirations.

    2 (iii) Broadcasting

    This is an area in which a far-reaching revolution is currently taking place, for instance in the interface between television and computer, digitalisation, satellite and multi-channel television.

    As a result individual countries' control of broadcasting is weakening, and there is a need to consider responsibilities for broadcasting at the level of Wales, Britain and Europe. New legislation will provide an opportunity to discuss such matters.

    In the meantime, the Party of Wales will press for the protection of regional broadcasting, particularly in the nation-regions, within the BBC and by commercial channels. We shall support its retention of the BBC as an adequately funded public service.

    We call specifically for the development of an English television channel for Wales taking advantage of the opportunities that will come in the wake of the most recent technologies.

    In view of S4C's enormous contribution to the life of the nation and the Welsh language, an increase in its budget must be ensured to reflect the challenge of the digital age it is facing.

    Plaid Cymru supports the transfer of responsibility for broadcasting, over time, to the Welsh level. In the meantime the proposed new legislation will be an opportunity to establish an element of accountability by the Broadcasters to the National Assembly.

    2 (iv) The Welsh language

    For the Party of Wales, the revitalisation of the Welsh language is a major strategic objective, and this means making it an important consideration in all policy areas. To a large extent this is the responsibility of the National Assembly, and we welcome the fact that the Culture Committee will soon be conducting a review of the Welsh language.

    We very much hope that we will never again see the language issue degenerate into a political party football. At the same time, legislative power remains in Westminster.

    We call upon the Culture Committee of the Assembly to consider a new legislative framework as part of its Welsh Language review, and the Party of Wales MPs will call for parliamentary time to implement a new Language Act. We believe that the new act should cover the private as well as the public sector.

    Key Recommendations

    Schools serving communities not competing in a commercial market

    Increase in teachers' basic pay

    Better conditions for lecturers in Further Education

    No performance related pay

    Strengthening the power of the Assembly for Higher Education

    Abolition of tuition fees

    A new Language Act based on the recommendations of the Assembly's Culture Committee.

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