Together for an Ambitious and Learning Wales - Huw Lewis' speech to Welsh Labour Annual Conference 2016.
Conference, I’m delighted to open this afternoons debate and proud to open my contribution with a very simple message.
A message that I want you to take to every doorstep and every community and every constituency the length and breadth of Wales in the coming election.
Welsh education is on the up.
It’s on the way up because of the actions taken by Welsh Labour.
In our schools, standards are rising across the board.
- Our GCSE results are the best ever – up thirteen and a half percentage points since 2007.
- We’ve got more good schools than ever before – seven per cent more Green schools at Primary level and four per cent more at Secondary.
- And more of our young people are getting the grades they need. The number of schools where pupils don’t get at least 5 Good GCSEs has halved in four years.
All this progress - all of it - a result of the difference a Welsh Labour Government can make.
Conference, it is because of what Welsh Labour has done that has made the difference.
It is a Welsh Labour Government that is investing £2bn in new 21st Century schools between now and 2023 where school building has been scrapped by the Tories in England.
It is a Welsh Labour Government that has maintained the Educational Maintenance Allowance scrapped by the Lib Dems in office.
And it is a Welsh Labour Government that has kept tuition fees low for young people to study wherever they want where Plaid Cymru want to charge them £9,000 to study outside Wales.
And the results of this are clear for all to see.
- 150 new schools being built in the first phase of our 21st Century Schools Programme.
- Over 28,000 young people from Wales last year benefiting from the EMA.
- Students from Wales leaving University with £22,000 less debt than students from England.
And conference, that’s the difference between our party and the rest.
That’s the Labour difference.
And that is why we need a majority Labour Government in the Assembly after May to go on supporting our Schools and Colleges across Wales.
Conference, perhaps what pleases me most about our delivery record is the clear difference we have made to the lives of our poorest pupils.
- Two thirds of our Challenge Cymru Schools saw their GCSE results rise last Summer.
- The attainment of our poorest pupils is rising faster after the introduction of our Pupil Deprivation Grant in 2012 than it was before.
- And conference, the statistic that should make us prouder than any other is that as we enter this election you can tell every parent and every individual you meet up and down the land in the next few months that the attainment gap between our poorest young people and the rest is closing at every single key stage of education.
Conference, that is the Labour difference.
Conference – there is new momentum in Welsh education.
Not my words, but the words of our independent inspectorate, Estyn.
Others too have commented on the success of what we are seeing
Professor Mel Ainscow who head up Schools Challenge Cymru says our programme is ahead of the London and Manchester equivalents after just one year.
The Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University say our recent changes to qualifications are ‘competitive at the highest level’ and the University recently accepted the Welsh Baccalaureate as a fourth A-Level.
Conference, we are delivering for our communities.
From support in the earliest years through to getting more people into work we are making a tangible difference to people’s lives.
Whether it’s the ten million free school breakfasts we have served over the last five years or the 15,000 young people we have supported into work through Jobs Growth Wales – we have delivered our promises.
From the 10 per cent reduction in the attainment gap at the Foundation Phase to the thousands of high quality apprenticeships we have created since 2011 – Welsh Labour is delivering.
Together for Wales.
And we will carry on this good work
Our plans to develop the new Curriculum for Wales are already well advanced.
Our New Deal for the Education workforce is already supporting professionals in innovative ways.
Our plans for reform of Initial Teacher Training are the most ambitious in a generation.
And this week we laid out ambitious new pledges to commit an additional £100m of funding to support school standards in the next term and to create a minimum of 100,000 high quality apprenticeships to support our economy to grow.
Conference, this is the difference a Labour Government can make to Wales.
A nation where now we can say proudly that we spend four per cent more per head of the population on education than England.
And this is the difference we can go on making if we win the election in May.
So let’s stand together.
Together for Wales.
And let’s return Carwyn Jones as First Minister in May so we can finish the job and build the world class education system we all want for our children.