Welsh Labour has just managed to agree a deal with the Welsh Liberal Democrats (BBC Report), which will allow them to get their budget through the Assembly. The negotiations have gone on for weeks; all three opposition parties set conditions for their support and the Liberal Democrats demanded more money for schools and apprenticeships, funded by the windfall which Wales is getting following the council tax freeze in England.
In essence, this is an equivalent of the Pupil Premium in England (a Liberal Democrat Policy) which channels more money to those schools which have the most pupils from deprived backgrounds. Given that school funding per pupil is considerably lower in Wales than it is in England (£604 per pupil in January 2011), this has to be extremely welcome, and although I work in a university, I have to say that if there is a choice of boosting the funding for one of the three shamefully underfunded sectors in Wales (Schools, universities, NHS), it would have to be schools first every time.
I am involved in a literacy scheme which provides student volunteers for literacy sessions with pupils who need it most – this works in concert with a number of initiatives specifically funded by the LibDem-led council in Swansea to improve schools in the most deprived areas (ironically, I found out about that context a long time after I agreed to co-ordinate the university side of the project!). The difference it makes is very encouraging, and I hope that other areas of Wales will soon see such benefits as well.
Since this blog is about memories, there is now one thing I am curious about – and that’s one of my reasons for writing this blog post: I want something to come back to in a few months’ time, because I wonder how this will be remembered come the election campaign in spring 2012. I bet you won’t be able to tell from Labour’s election material that it’s been almost as hard as pulling teeth to get this concession from them…. more funding for poor pupils? Isn’t that a ‘typical’ Labour policy?
There is one thing you have to say about the Labour party: they have one of the best brands I have ever seen. It doesn’t matter what they do – start wars, introduce tuition fees, act against the interests of the very poorest on endless social housing waiting lists, let the City get out of hand, be relaxed about the filthy rich, neglect the most deprived council wards as long as those people vote Labour anyway…. that sort of thing: whatever they do, people still believe that they always have the best interest of the poor at heart, and that they are the only party to do so. How do they do it?
So – I am curious to see how many people will be willing to remember that giving more funding to the poor and supporting apprenticeships was a concession wrested with great effort from the Labour government by the Liberal Democrats?