Thursday, 24 December 2015

Festive Season good wishes from Gwynoro


This is to wish all my family and friends along with the hundreds of acquaintances and connections I have made through social media over the last six months ..

A Happy Christmas and a healthy and fruitful New Year

Christmas unites people in mind and spirit and brings together families, friends and acquaintances far and near;

This time of the year also helps us to appreciate what we have in our lives - that we far too often take for granted;

I trust that the true meaning of the Festive season fill our hearts and minds with good thoughts and deeds;


Remembering all those at home and abroad who are considerably less fortunate than ourselves, who live in fear, despair, hunger and yearn for peace and safety in this troubled and turbulent world.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Recollections of Christmas growing up in the late 1940's.

It was a time when the rationing of many essential foodstuffs and other products imposed during the Second World War remained in place until early fifties.

Presents and decorations were very scarce and in fact my first Xmas presents were wooden ones that my father made - being a carpenter (wheelbarrow/push-horse on wheels!).

Then living in a village called Foelgastell in West Wales there was no electricity or water supplies to the house until very late 40's - early 50s! So the water had to be collected in urns some 500 yards away from a local well.

Peniel chapel was central to the life of the home so every Xmas day we went to a service at 6 o’clock in the morning. That was considered more important than the day itself. In fact Christmas day was not much different to any other day - other than more food on the table and friends and relations who lived nearby calling in.  There were no cars in the surrounding villages until the mid 1950s. 

They were years when life was hard and frugal indeed but still I recall it being pleasurable. People's expectations were not that high. 

Food was basic, home cooked of course and wholesome - usually chicken (sometimes goose), stuffing, boiled potatoes and vegetables from the garden stored in the shed, jelly and custard, mince pies, Christmas pudding and cake.  

Cooking was an 'event ' as it was every day of course - all on the coal fire as was ensuring hot water for washing up etc.  

One of the most memorable recollections I have of those early years was the snow of 1947 which was the greatest snow storm period of the twentieth century with drifts 10ft and more. The snow lasted on the ground for a couple of months.



On the morning the snow had started I remember going downstairs with my mother and as she opened the curtains it was all white – the snow was up to window level. Not easy to get out but my father and grandfather managed it. Going out on to the main road there were council workers working at hedge level. By the way no JCB’s or snowploughs but shovels!


Anyway the video tells the story

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Recalling my Life and Times up to 1999

With Beti George on Radio Cymru – ' Beti and her People '

This programme was very similar in style and format to BBC Radio 4’s  ‘Desert Island Discs' with Beti asking about my background and early years growing up, my views, career and inevitably the titanic eight years of intense and at time rather fierce political campaigning with the late Gwynfor Evans.

By the end of the century I had been a director of a school inspection company since 1994 so the early years of a new school inspection regime was discussed.

Best not to say much more, those of you that understand Welsh best listen to the interview. However, it is clear the strong influence the home, family, chapel up-bringing, the community etc has had on me as is evident in the choice of recordings.

Also of course the importance of Wales as a nation, its language, culture and traditions are clear too.

The video that accompanies this Radio Cymru recording is not connected. Just thought you could watch a programme hosted by my old friend Gwilym Owen as you listened. It’s about Gwynfor and myself – what else! It was quite a memorable and historic period in Welsh politics and campaigning.


I hope you will enjoy the memories and choice of records etc.  

Thursday, 17 December 2015

What would happen if UKIP had its way and we Leave the European Union


Don't intend to say much other than this 43 page report should be read and studied.

The voters of Wales and the UK cannot afford to just sleepwalk out of the EU and people believe everything will be alright afterwards.

Is everybody sure of that?

Have you heard UKIP explain what will happen to our investment, jobs, regional development areas, farming and the rural economy for instance?


What sort of trading agreement will we have with the EU after leaving - one like Norway or Switzerland or maybe Turkey for example? They pay almost as much as the UK does into the EU budget but have no say whatsoever because they are on the outside - they have to accept and follow the rules come what may.  

Is that going to be UK's destiny? 

Click on - 

https://view.publitas.com/british-influence/brexit-what-would-happen-if-the-uk-voted-to-leave/page/42-43


Debating last month in Cardiff with

Stuart Agnew one of UKIP's MEPs 

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

When UKIP tell us not to worry, that we can walk on water, it will be best not to believe them


Guest post by Peter Sain ley Berry
Treasurer, Wales Council of European Movement. and Former Secretary Wales Council of SDP in the 80s and Alliance Committee member.
With Peter at British Wool Marketing Board Conference  - discussing key points to make when I was debating with an UKIP MEP last month.


Real jobs and livelihoods are being discounted for daydreams. 

Peter Sain Ley BerryWell done to Carwyn Jones for launching the campaign for Wales to remain in the EU and in particular stressing the 200,000 jobs in Wales that are associated with trade with the EU and which would be at risk if Britain were to vote to leave.

UKIP immediately hit back with accusations of scaremongering. They would, wouldn't they, having nothing else to say? And it is true that Wales would not lose 200,000 jobs the day after Brexit. But it is surely incontestable that over the following ten years many of those jobs would surely go as fewer international companies came to invest in an out-of-the-EU Wales and the ones here now stopped investing and gradually withdrew.

And the alternative? Pie in the sky. Assertion after assertion. We will be better off because UKIP asserts we shall. Leap over the cliff. I've designed you a parachute. Of course it will work! 

Real jobs and livelihoods are being discounted for daydreams.


But what Government at all levels needs to do is to explain why Britain chose to join the EU and then why it chose to build it and expand it to create the very important  and powerful international organisation we have today. Britain helped build the EU, the greatest single market in the world, the greatest economic and diplomatic partnership, ending centuries of brutal European wars and conflict.

Everyone needs to realise and recognise this, admit this, explain this before it is too late. As it is we all stand in danger of as Shakespeare put it: 

'throwing away the dearest thing (they) owned as though it were a careless trifle.'

If you are up a creek then it helps to have a paddle, not throw that paddle away. And if UKIP tell us not to worry, that we can walk on water, it will be best not to believe them.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

The Liberal Democrats are ignored more often than not these days by the media and Parliament and also considered by some as ‘an irrelevance’

Although the opinion polls in the UK and Wales cast a cloud over the party I find that party members are in a buoyant mood, determined to fightback and recover.

In mid-November I made the first of four contributions at the Welsh Liberal Democrats Conference in Swansea.  This was the first political conference I had spoken at since 1992 and was a bit apprehensive and in fact ‘rusty’ in my delivery. All that was inevitable I suppose after almost 25 years!

Since 1992 things have changed beyond recognition and the media were mainly absent from the event but nevertheless the attendance was good and what greatly encouraged me was the proportion of young people that were present.

The first debate I took part in was on developing a Manifesto for the Assembly elections in May 2016. The motion before the conference was a clear one and was designed to be, in Kirsty Williams’s phrase, ‘A Road Map’ to provide a clear direction for the party. It certainly meets that objective.

I was keen to point out that to reach any destination we have to follow the signposts that give direction. In other words a Manifesto does not win an election but concise and clear messages on a few themes (signposts) leave a more lasting impression and define what we are about for 2016.

To me the signposts are clear –

A more open and democratic Wales including a more inclusive and deliberative Welsh Assembly - more openly challenged and held to account and one that governs for the whole of Wales;

Raise the effectiveness, levels of provision, efficiency and standards within our key public services;

Ensuring that prosperity, investment, economic development and regeneration is shared across Wales and encourages enterprise;

Protect our natural environment, support agriculture, the rural economy and tourism;
  
Strengthen Wales’s place in the politics of the UK and Europe and

Safeguard our Welsh heritage, culture and identity.

I believe that the Road Map encompasses those six signposts very well.

Below is a video talk and my brief conference contribution (the sound quality is not up to the usual standard however).

In conclusion I do believe that it is perfectly possible for the Welsh Liberal Democrats to confound all the pundits come next May. With clear strategic messages, effective campaigning and a well-planned communication strategy in both languages it can happen.








Roadmap for 2016: Manifesto Motion
National Policy Committee

Conference Notes:

1. Elections to the National Assembly for Wales will be held on the 5th of May, 2016.
2. Welsh Liberal Democrats have the deepest roots of any Welsh political party, having been in the front line of progressive and radical reform for over 150 years.
3. The main tasks facing the next Welsh Government will be:

a. Building effective and people-centred public services during budget pressures,
b. Growing our economy for the benefit of all, and
c. Giving everyone in society the opportunity to get on in life, for themselves and their families.

Conference Believes:

1. Wales can only reach its potential by making the most of Wales' strengths such as our culture, our resources, and most of all, our people, and by good governance by a
government that values transparency and scrutiny.
2. In a time of further tightening of budgets, Wales needs innovative thinking to improve public services to meet the needs of patients, pupils and parents and achieve social justice.
3. People everywhere in Wales need more say over how they are governed, particularly in their own local areas.

Conference Resolves:

To present the Welsh electorate with policies which represent our liberal values and vision to revitalise Wales and calls on the Policy Committee to develop a radical and innovative manifesto to:-

1. Strengthen our economy and encourage entrepreneurship and growth including;

a. Delivering a balanced, integrated, export-led economic strategy;
b. Devolving more powers to local areas;
c. Stimulating the high street;
d. Expanding apprenticeships; and
e. Significantly cut burdensome red tape to allow businesses the opportunity to thrive.

2. Ensure the NHS centres care on the dignity, compassion, and choice for individuals within a clean, safe and well-managed environment by;

a. Ensuring safe levels of nurse staffing on Welsh wards;
b. Guaranteeing patients the best treatment, in the right place, at the right time,
including improving access to your GP;
c. Ending mental health discrimination and improving support for people with
additional learning needs.

3. Develop an education system which helps children flourish and empowers pupils and parents by:

a. Helping children develop and supports parents with effective childcare provision;
b. Promoting early years delivering lower class sizes;
c. Providing flexibility and freedom for teachers to lead,
d. Increasing funding through the Welsh Pupil Premium;
e. Ensuring fair access to further and higher education.

4. Support rural communities, particularly ensuring stability of the farming industry.

5. Ensure that everybody has access to good quality housing at an affordable price.

6. Protect our natural environment and enhance our renewable energy resources.

7. Ensuring public transport across Wales is efficient and accessible, particularly in rural areas.

8. Reform the way we do politics, emphasising devolution of power to the lowest practical level, empowering communities, and ensuring accountability at all levels.

9. Ensure everyone has the right speak Welsh in their daily life and can access good
quality Welsh education and public services.


10. Spread a uniting vision of a self-confident nation, standing on its own two feet, in the United Kingdom and in Europe.

Monday, 14 December 2015

History shows that centre/left politics changes every quarter of a century or so.

Just as the Liberal party came from the Tories so Labour emerged from the Liberals and gradually over the last 100 years social liberals and social democrats merged.

Last week I spoke at the Colwinston Philosophical Society - the subject was intended to be the ‘Gang of Four’, the founders of the SDP. Although I was quite close to the action in relation to how it all came about in the 1970’s and what happened in the 80’s I still did quite a lot of background research for accuracy sake.  In fact I was taken aback how much I had forgotten with the passage of time.

The more I delved into the events of the 1970s the more I got dragged back into the events of the 1960s and discovered that although March 1981 is the date of the establishment of the Social Democratic Party in actual fact its historical lineage went back to the end of the 1950’s – so it took well over twenty years for the party to come to fruition.

Noting that fact I then started looking into the datelines of the Labour and Liberal parties and I found myself preparing a different topic matter for the evening, giving it a much wider political and historical perspective.  The address was 55 mins long! And is all on video and will be uploaded as a series on to my YouTube channel covering appropriate time periods – each of some 15 minutes or so.

The reaction was so favourable that I received a request to go back on St David’s Day 2016 to complete the story as it were and was very pleased to have been informed that ‘It was an absolutely excellent evening, one of the best we have had in our (almost) fourteen years'. I was pleased because for the last 23 years I did hardly any public speaking and  am only slowly going back to how I used to be in the 70’s/80s – being somewhat ‘rusty’ at the moment!. 

So on March 1st I will follow the course of events from 1981-2016 for the SDP, Liberals and of course the Liberal Democrats. Concentrating on the highlights, the many successes and inevitably what went wrong in the Clegg years that culminated in the debacle of May 2015 and the challenges the party faces to be taken seriously since then.   

The historical timeline of the political parties greatly interests me because it teaches us so much about where we are and what is taking place these days. It is always the case that when we are too close to the action there is a tendency to miss the key signs. The fact is that where it is today the Labour party has been there before and indeed one can say the same about the Liberal Democrats (Liberal party).  

Generally it is considered that the Liberal Party was established June 6 1859 and the election of the Gladstone’s first Liberal Government. But in fact the Liberals were spawned at the time of the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846 when the Tory party split over the issue. Until then Gladstone had been a Conservative. Also the election of Richard Cobden in the late 1840s was another significant event in Liberal history.
  
Of course the Liberal party changed considerably over the following decades and in 1886 some 100 Liberals joined with Joseph Chamberlain in rebelling against Gladstone over Home Rule for Ireland and they also did not care much for his radicalism and anti-imperialist stance. So then was the final secession of the Whigs from the Liberal Party.
One could go on when further divisions appeared between Lloyd George and Asquith both with rival candidates in the 1918 and 1922 elections.  Lloyd George, Keynes and Beveridge changed the party into a ‘social liberal party’ – although many Liberals in today’s Liberal Democratic Party fail to fully appreciate the implications of that.

The Liberal Party was created from splitting with the Tory party, the onset of the first stage of the industrial revolution and the increasing demands for workers’ rights and universal suffrage – Peterloo, Tolpuddle and the Chartists.  Labour appeared during the second stage of the industrial revolution with the growth of a class conscious trade union movement and the emergence of socialism as the challenge to liberalism in Europe.

So just as the Liberals emerged from the Tory party so Labour emerged from the Liberal party.  Many cite the start of the Labour party as Jan 27 1900 with the establishment of the Labour Representation Committee but that is just a convenient signpost. Indeed there was the Independent Labour Party formed in 1893 and affiliated to the Labour Party until 1932.

Keir Hardie, Ramsay MacDonald and Arthur Henderson, the three leading lights of the Labour movement at the time - tried to become Liberal Party candidates in the late 1880/early 90’s but were not accepted because of their socialism and working class roots. Indeed Hardie whilst working as a Gladstonian Liberal and trade union organiser in the Lanarkshire Coalfield being convinced of the need for a more independent labour politics was instrumental in the foundation of the Scottish Labour Party in 1888.  It must also be remembered that the TUC was established in 1886 as well.

Interestingly just as it took the best part of twenty years for the emergence of a Liberal Government from the embryo of the party so it took Labour a similar period to become the main opposition to the Tories in 1922 when it returned 142 MPs to the Liberals 115.

The purpose of this brief historical perspective is to highlight how the political parties of the centre/left have evolved, divided and changed. Interestingly there has only been one constant for 200 years and more – yes the Tory Party. True it has had its moments of division, problems with a handful of MPs leaving the party to join Labour or the SDP but in essence it has remained largely unscathed – the establishment holding together!

Space does not allow me to examine the implications of the events that happened in the Liberal and Labour parties from 1922–1960 but they were momentous if not tumultuous times indeed.  History teaches us that over the last 200 years every 20 – 30 years or so there are there significant changes taking place. Since the Second World War the pattern has continued with the Labour party splitting in 1981 and I believe we are at present at the beginnings of another re-alignment that will, if the pattern continues, take some years to come to fruition.


So back to the proposed topic for Colwinston what of the Gang of Four and the SDP?  If March 1981 is only a signpost why and where did it come from?, how did it come about? and what of Labour and the Liberal Democrats now?  Next couple of posts – very soon!  


Wednesday, 9 December 2015

If UKIP and the Tory Euro sceptics get their way farming and the rural economy would face devastating times.

Agriculture and the countryside make an important contribution to the Welsh economy and the Nation’s way of life. 

Although Wales is only some 5% of the population of the UK it has 9% of the agricultural land, 29% of the sheep, and 12% of the cattle in the UK with 60,000 people engaged in farming.

So across vast areas of Wales farmers and their businesses are vital within their communities and play an important role in ensuring a strong and vibrant local economy and in preserving the landscape and environment that so many of us enjoy whether living, working or visiting the countryside. There was a notable contribution from the former MP for Brecon and Radnor Roger Williams whose knowledge of the industry is considerable.

Unfortunately the sound effect on the video clip is not as good as it should be but the points I made and covered were:

Coping with market volatility in a global market where volatility is bound to happen. Over the summer lamb and milk prices caused farmers to face challenging times receiving less for their products than the cost of production. The Welsh Government must forever be vigilant and be ready to support the industry when there are such prolonged periods of volatility.


The importance of striking the right balance between production and environmental concerns to ensure that agriculture can be sustainable.

To ensure sustainable agriculture within a sustainable community there are four important elements - supporting rural services and economy, looking after the environment, safeguarding our heritage and ensuring good levels of income.


The various rural development policies and initiatives being promoted by the European Union does contribute effectively to supporting the rural economy, communities, heritage and landscape and the Rural Development Plans programme makes an invaluable contribution.   This funding not only supports the agricultural industry but also services such as tourism and other rural services.


Of course should UKIP and others in the Tory party were to have their way and Britain did leave the European Union there is little question that rural businesses would find it more difficult to survive. Currently some £4.0bn is received in subsidy payments and the best guess that has been made is that a British Government operating on its own would only be able to replace some £1.0bn of that. So leaving the EU would have serious consequences for farming.
The devastating effect on the nation’s farmers and hence the rural economy can best be exemplified by this fact alone that at present on average farmers rely on the EU programme of support for some 35-50% of their gross incomes. It would be a bleak future indeed outside the EU and it is estimated that only some 10-15% of farmers could survive without the current levels of support.

This was the motion passed at the conference
   
Conference Notes that:
1. Agriculture and its ancillary industries make a major contribution to the Welsh
economy, with a gross value added of agriculture to the Welsh economy in 2014 of
£374m.
2. Agriculture provides the backbone for rural communities, around which other sources of income can be created.
3. Average Farm Business Income in Wales is forecast to fall to £22,200 in 2014-15, a decline of 24 per cent from £29,300 in 2013-14.
4. The average age of Welsh farmers continues to rise from 60.26 in 2013, compared to 59.58 in 2010 and 58.47 in 2007, and that young entrants face particular challenges.
5. The Common Agricultural Policy is, and always has been since its inception, a subsidy
on food production which benefits the retailer and consumer at least as much as the
primary producer and its relationship to farm incomes is complex.
6. Food production is one of very few industries necessary for the most basic of human needs.
7. There is an increasing disconnect between rural and urban communities resulting in a fundamental lack of knowledge around food production and that initiatives such as ‘Cows on Tour’ introduced by farming unions can help to address this.
8. Farmers wishing to modernise increasingly find themselves facing planning
obstructions which can unfairly extend the process and reduce the cost-effectiveness
of the steps they need to take to maintain a viable business.
9. Global food markets are increasingly volatile and that the importance of food security is as great as it has been at any time since 1945, with UK food self-sufficiency at around 60%; a decrease from around 75% in 1991.

Conference Believes That:
1. It is important to maintain agricultural production throughout rural Wales, including both lowland and upland production, for the sake of Welsh rural communities as well as farmers.
2. The natural environment is best cared for by a continuation of farming tailored to the needs of individual areas, including their environmental needs.
3. Both large modern units and smaller scale units able to benefit from niche marketing will be necessary and beneficial to Wales and its agriculture.
4. Farmers should be supported in finding the best route to profitability and sustainable production depending on their individual situation.
5. Support for farmers should continue to be given to all farmers in an equitable way so as to maintain the balance between small and large, upland and lowland.
6. We must recognise that Common Agricultural Policy funding will continue to reduce and that it should be used as effectively as possible with an emphasis on maintaining appropriate food production.
7. The maintenance of food security should be central to any agricultural decisions made in Wales and that such decisions should always consider their long term impact on Wales' ability to continue to feed itself.
8. Planning processes should be improved to avoid unnecessary complications and
delays and favour maintaining sound businesses of all sorts to support jobs and living standards, whilst remaining sufficiently rigorous to protect communities from
inappropriate development.
9. The Welsh people would benefit from knowledge of food production being made more widespread, especially from an early age.

Conference Calls For:
1. The Welsh Government to implement policy initiatives to safeguard agriculture and food production across Wales and especially to embed food production using suitable systems into all environmental decision making in rural Wales.
2. The Farming Connect network to help farmers and landowners to find the best route to both profitability and sustainability according to their situation, in particular to recognise the importance of Field Officers and the harnessing of local knowledge in building confidence and resilience in the farming sector, whilst minimising the level of generic consultancy services funded through Farming Connect.
3. The Welsh Government to work with local authorities to improve the planning process for all Welsh businesses, to ensure minimal delays and long term support for the sustainability of entire communities.
4. A fundamental review of TAN 6 guidance on ‘Planning for Sustainable Rural
Communities’ so as to enable real progress to be made in the provision of affordable rural housing across Wales. It is also important both for younger entrants as well as providing appropriate accommodation for farmers wishing to handover to the next generation.
5. The Welsh Government to work with the National Farmers Union, the Farmers Union of Wales and Wales Young Farmers Clubs to support YFC activity in urban areas and to take farming and food production into schools across Wales and beyond, to show children from primary level, both rural and urban, how animals are reared and food is produced and what contribution this makes to the nation.
6. The Welsh Government to maintain its support to farming across Wales in an equitable manner, bearing in mind the needs of communities for a strong farming sector in all areas, as CAP funding tapers down.
7. A full review of agri-environment schemes to ensure that they achieve sustainable
farming and environmental management and to ensure that they are fully funded so
that farmers are properly rewarded for the conservation work they carry out.

8. The Welsh Government to further develop support for young farming entrants in Wales with an emphasis on the potential contribution of share farming and the significance of local authority owned agricultural holdings

Saturday, 5 December 2015

The education service in Wales is in need of significant improvement

Standards in performance and provision in Welsh Education should and could be much better

The in-phrase these days when forming a judgement about the poor performance of any organisation, public body or even an individual tends to be ‘not fit for purpose’. Well I think that conclusion can be made when looking at the performance of the current Education Minister in Wales – Huw Lewis. Over the last month his performances in the Assembly shows clearly that he is not in control of his brief - that will be the subject for another post.
    
This one is about how good are standards in our schools. In the short time one gets at a conference to make speeches I endeavoured to explain the current situation in Wales at the Welsh Liberal Democrats one in Swansea a few weeks back. It is also the topic of the video talk below.

It is fair to state that in certain areas there are signs of improvement such as attendance, truancy and the decline in the proportion of young people not in education or training. But in the key area of standards there is considerable scope for improvement, indeed the current Minister and his predecessor agree with me with one pointing ‘complacency’ and the other ‘systemic weaknesses’.

Briefly the key points are in relation to the schools inspected by Estyn in recent times:
The proportion of primary schools with ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ standards has declined to 6 in 10. In other words 4 out of 10 are only ‘adequate’ (in other words OK!). The central problem was weakness in pupils’ numeracy skills and this has been a matter of concern for years. The standards in literacy have only improved ‘slightly’.

Although the standards in secondary schools are improving there remains a long way to go. Only 50% of the schools inspected achieved ‘excellent or good’ standards. So there are an awful lot of them in the ‘adequate’ box.  Clearly that is not good enough.


At secondary level it has been found that there is a general need to improve standards in mathematics and numeracy as well as the provision for more the able and talented pupils.
Two matters of concern and they were present throughout the years I was an inspector – the standards in Welsh second language and schools’ assessment of pupils’ work is not robust or accurate enough. The latter weakness is so crucial not only does it mislead pupils and parents, also call into question the school’s self-evaluation processes and judgements but more importantly school leaders are unable to have a proper and accurate grasp of how the school is performing.

Without going further one can begin to understand why Wales is so low down the international education comparison league table called PISA. Out of 65 countries we are 43rd, Northern Ireland 33rd, England and Scotland more or less the same at 25th.  In fact none of the UK countries are anywhere near the standard set by so many countries across the world. Of course to explain away these facts the Welsh Government and others in the education profession try to say that such comparisons are meaningless – actually they are most certainly not.

When inspecting there was a good 75% of schools always complaining about the lack of professional support and guidance they were getting from their local education authorities. It was a common feature.  But it is not surprising because in recent years 9 local authorities have been, at various times, placed into the in need of ‘special measures’ category and requiring significant external support to ensure improvement.

As I said at the beginning I addressed some of these issues at the Welsh Lib Dems conference and what gave me immense satisfaction was to listen to many of the delegates that spoke understanding the nature of what is defective in the Welsh education system. It was a very good and knowledgeable discussion.

The final policy motion agreed following the passing of several amendments is as follows.
Conference Notes That:
1. Wales has fallen significantly behind the rest of the United Kingdom in reading, maths and science, according to the OECD’s PISA rankings;
2. The Welsh Government does not set minimum standards for schools in Wales;
 3. Headteachers and teachers deliver the best results when they are given flexibility and support, not smothered by centralising red tape;
 4. It is often better to improve accountability and performance through managing risk, not increasing control;
 5. The positive impact of the Welsh Pupil Premium, which according to independent analysis has led to “a significant amount of new activity” aimed at supporting disadvantaged pupils.
 6. That the existence of English-medium and Welsh-medium schools has provided parents in Wales with an element of choice in where to send their children to school, although full choice is still limited to those parents able to afford to move to the catchment areas of good schools.
 Conference Believes That:
 1. We must be the party of opportunity, enabling people across Wales to make progress in their lives.
 2. There is nothing progressive about poor public services, and we must find new and innovative ways to deliver public services that take the side of parents, pupils and patients.
 3. In freeing up individuals from restrictive government and empowering leaders to lead, while ensuring that minimum standards are met and accountability is strong and transparent.
4. Head teachers should be given the autonomy to make the right decisions for their pupils.
 5. Professionals and experts know better than politicians what should be included in the school curriculum and how schools should be run.
 6. Schools should not be run for profit, or operated by private companies.
Conference Calls For:
 1. The introduction of individual pupil monitoring, and for schools which do not adequately support the development of all pupils to be automatically placed into special measures.
 2. Ensuring children get the individual attention they need by introducing a maximum class size of 25 for Early Years and Key Stage 1 (Reception, Year 1, and Year 2).
 3. Expanding the Pupil Premium to our target of £2,500 per pupil per year aged 5 - 15 and to £1000 per pupil, per year under 5.
4. Establishing a single authority to set the curriculum content in Wales independent of government interference, while maintaining Ministerial powers to set the broad overall direction.
 5. Direction to endorse Personal, Social and Health Education – a curriculum for life – being included in the curriculum, including financial literacy, first aid and emergency lifesaving skills, political education, citizenship, and age appropriate sex and relationship education.
 6. Establishing a Welsh Academy of Leadership to promote high quality leadership and help the best leaders to work in the most challenging schools.
 7. Allowing schools which have demonstrated key values of leadership, innovation and improvement to gain new powers and autonomy from local and central government, providing they maintain a demonstrable track record of excellence. This should be done in a way which does not diminish the ability of democratically-elected local authorities to fairly and effectively manage the provision of school places across the areas they serve, or to intervene where necessary to ensure the provision of appropriate educational standards.
 8. Accountability to be strengthened by giving school governors extra powers to caution, discipline or dismiss head teachers who do not meet mutually agreed targets;
 9. Introducing a Talented Head Teachers programme to draw top leaders to the schools where they are most needed.
10. Giving schools greater freedom over term dates, but setting the month of July (from the first Monday in July) as compulsory holiday between school years, enabling Welsh families to book more affordable holidays at home and abroad.
11. Enabling greater control for head teachers over their school’s budget.
12. Regional Consortia to be abolished.

13. Ensuring elected representation of peers from the teaching profession to the Education Workforce Council to ensure it is properly accountable.