Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Proof of the pudding is in the eating

This column was published on the Llanelli Star on 23rd December 2015

Today is my son’s 11th birthday. It is a rotten time for a party, but that was the least of our concerns. After a stressful pregnancy we were just relieved to have him delivered.

I have lots of memories of that day, but perhaps the strongest is of standing in the maternity ward. I remember seeing all these new born babies, and realising that as unique as my son was to me, the newborns dotted around the room were almost identical - but what was radically different was their life chances.

It was a strong impression that came to me again when I became Chair of Governors of a Primary school. By the time children have reached 4 their paths in life are often set. Teachers know at that age which ones are most likely to end up in a cycle of poverty.

That’s wrong. And to me the purpose of Government - The State - is to intervene to disrupt that path: To allow every child to be able to fulfill their potential.

Our education system is probably one of the most powerful tools we have to fight poverty. It’s one of the reasons why the First Minister, Carwyn Jones, has pledged to increase schools spending by 1% above the budget given to Wales by the UK Government every year.

And despite the Tories slashing the size of the Welsh budget by 11% since they came to power, Carwyn has again stuck to that pledge. Although he’s had to make big cuts in other areas the education budget is getting an extra £40m next year.

But in Carmarthenshire the Plaid-run Council has asked schools to plan for a 18% cut in their budgets.  They talk a good game about being radical, but now they are in control in the County their priorities are clear, and they don’t seem to include investing in schools to tackle disadvantage.

Lee Waters is the Welsh Labour & Cooperative candidate for Llanelli in next May’s Assembly elections

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