Kirsty Williams puts Welsh education at the leading edge
The last month has been a time like no other. As Education Minister, I have had to make a number of particularly difficult decisions that I believe were necessary in the fight against Covid-19.
Before I detail those decisions, I want to express my gratitude to all the staff in our educational and childcare settings. They have been working so hard to provide care for our children in these difficult times. Their response has been nothing short of amazing.
Through this period, I have been working closely with Welsh Government cabinet colleagues but also with my counterparts across the four UK nations. We have been working together well, sharing information and ideas.
However, ultimately, I am responsible and accountable for education in Wales and I have to take and communicate clear actions for our students, staff, parents and institutions:
we were the first to suspend school inspections;
we were the first to repurpose schools, so they help support the children of critical workers and the most vulnerable children;
we were the first to provide certainty on this year’s GCSE and A Level grades; and
we were the first to provide additional resource so children can continue to receive Free School Meals over the Easter holidays.
Last week I was pleased to be able to announce additional funding for school counselling services to deal with an anticipated increase in demand.
But I know there is also a long way still to go.
This week, I will be publishing ‘Stay Safe. Stay Learning’ – making Wales the first UK nation to provide national guidance and tools in a coordinated way to support learning during this crisis.
It will set out my priorities as being:
the safety and physical and mental health of all learners and the education workforce;
the ability of all learners to keep learning; and
learners’ transition back into school and onto the next phase of their learning when it is safe to do so.
I recognise that we must do all we can to mitigate the impact of school closures on our children. ‘Stay Safe. Stay Learning’ will support teachers, parents, and carers in enabling remote learning and planning for how we can best help children through this time.
Our national mission to raise standards, reduce the attainment gap and ensure an education system that is a source of national pride, has driven progress for our learners, teachers, and schools over recent years.
We must not – and will not – lose sight of those shared ambitions for every child during these extraordinary challenging times.