Wales' education system needs clarity from the new Education Minister on where he stands on a number of vital on-going issues, according to Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Education Minister Aled Roberts.
In the Education Minister's first week in the role, Aled Roberts is also calling for him to listen more to those involved in the education profession and have an increased focus on delivery, rather than introducing endless initiatives.
In advance of today's vote on the Welsh Labour Government's proposals to fine parents £120 if their child plays truant (The Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003), Aled Roberts is calling on the Minister to reconsider these plans and to instead look at the evidence.
Aled Roberts AM said:
"The new Education Minister has a mammoth task ahead of him. After fourteen years of Welsh Labour being in Government, I am sorry to say that Wales is facing massive challenges when it comes to improving the basics such as reading, writing and numeracy. That is Welsh Labour's legacy on education.
"The previous Education Minister was particularly keen on initiatives, despite assurances given when he started in office. At times the Minister did not allow these policies time to bed in. Time and time again when I speak to people in the education profession they tell me that things change before anyone has the opportunity to see if they were a success or not. Wales' education system is crying out for stability and that it what the new Minister must give them.
"It is vital we get clarity from the new Minister on where he stands on a number of significant on-going issues. Even Labour AMs were openly musing on social media that the reshuffle poses lots of questions with regards to the direction of education policy. We need to be informed of his position on issues such the recently proposed re-structuring of Education Authorities, on consortia, and his views with regards to changes to education of pupils with additional learning needs.
"Mistakes have clearly been made in the past when the previous Minister should have listened more to advice. Pupils are constantly told in school that they should listen, perhaps it is time for a Labour Education Minister to do likewise?
"However, it's not too late to reconsider some of the policies currently in the pipeline. This afternoon the Assembly is voting on plans to fine parents whose children play truant. Huw Lewis, previously Minister for tackling poverty, must recognise that fines would simply cause more economic hardship to many families. Professor Reid, who advised the Welsh Government on this, has stated that fines are not the answer. The new Minister must see this policy for what it is - an attempt to get a few hard hitting headlines, rather than one that is evidence based."