Sixth formers in Bishop Hedley High School

Education is 'key' say voters

On the eve of tomorrow's council elections, voters in the South Wales Valleys say education is a key priority for them in the ballot box.

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10,000 free books for children living in Wales' disadvantaged communities

It's hoped the books will highlight to parents the importance of reading Credit: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

New funding has been announced today by the Welsh Government, to provide 10,000 free books to children in Wales' most disadvantaged areas.

Deputy Minister for Tackling Poverty Vaughan Gething has revealed children living in 'Flying Start' areas will benefit from the books to help with continued learning at home.

Each child eligible for the scheme will receive a book bag containing a bilingual and an English language book, a set of crayons and a scribble pad.

Flying Start aims to make a difference to the lives of children under the age of four and their families, in the most deprived communities.

It's hoped the extra books will highlight to parents the importance of reading with their children, to improve their language development.

The books, costing £100,000, will be available from this month.

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Cut red tape for teachers says Plaid

Plaid Cymru has pledged to cut red tape for teachers to allow them to concentrate on teaching with minimal bureaucracy. Education spokesman Simon Thomas told the party's conference a future Plaid Welsh Government would give schools more freedom.

Having excellent teachers and heads sitting before a computer filling in forms or ticking boxes, or sweating over reports at home, is a waste of their talent and commitment. I want to see them freed up to teach at the whiteboard face as much as possible.

That’s why I’m proposing to set up a taskforce to work with teaching unions to cut unnecessary bureaucracy. We want to work with schools and give them the freedom to achieve.

I want to see a system where the Welsh Government sets learning outcomes for schools, but to allows them flexibility to decide how they want to get there. We need to nurture best practice, and teachers need freedom to do that.

– Simon Thomas AM, Plaid Cymru

'Too few young women' studying science in Wales

Boys 'continue to dominate scientific subjects at A Level'. Credit: Klaus OhlenschlÀger/DPA/Press Association Images

The Welsh Conservatives say fewer young women are studying science subjects at A Level.

Boys outnumber girls by five to one.

The Chief Scientific Adviser for Wales says a science plan's being developed.

It'll include actions to address the low take up of girls for A level physics.

£20m scheme launched to improve schools in Wales

The scheme will help secondary schools across the country that are under performing. Credit: PA

A new £20m scheme called 'School Challenge Cymru' will be launched this morning by the First Minister Carwyn Jones and Education Minister Huw Lewis.

It aims to help up to 40 Welsh secondary schools which are under performing and is based around schemes which have already taken place in Manchester and London, which supported schools to help them improve.

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Councillors vote to reduce Valleys' nursery services

Parents have campaigned against nursery cuts in Rhondda Cynon Taf Credit: ITV News

Rhondda Cynon Taf Council's cabinet has voted to give the go-ahead to controversial plans to reduce the amount of time younger children spend in nursery classes.The council made two amendments, after widespread opposition from parents.

Children will be able to attend full-time nursery from the term after their fourth birthday, rather than having to wait until the September following their fourth birthday for full-time education via primary school reception as previously proposed.

The changes will be implemented from September 2014, rather than April, as was originally planned.

Decision due on controversial nursery cutback plan

A decision is due later today on controversial plans to change nursery provision for children in Rhondda Cynon Taf.

The council has warned that it needs to make savings of £70m over four years.

Hundreds of parents and children joined a march to protest against the plans. Credit: PA

Its proposals could see nursery classes for many three and four-year-olds cut back from full-time to part-time.

6,500 people responded to a consultation on plans aimed at reducing spending, which also include library closures, and cutbacks to day centres for older people.

The local authority says its proposals would still mean more hours at nursery than the statutory minimum, and that it needs to make savings due to the funding gap.

Rhondda youngsters fight negative stereotypes

by Tom Sheldrick

If you're a teenager living in one of the poorest parts of Wales - you'll be less likely to own a car compared to other 16 to 18 years old in the UK and you'll also be less likely to try hard drugs.

The figures are part of a survey carried out by local MP Chris Bryant on young people's aspirations in the Rhondda.

They suggest that 62% of young people plan to move away after finishing their education.

They also indicate that fewer of them will go to college or university than the UK average. The figure is 65% for the Rhondda, that compares with the all Wales average of 79%.

MP for Rhondda: ideas of young people are wrong

MP Chris Bryant says ideas of young people in the Rhondda are not realistic. He has helped to conduct a survey which has looked at pupils' future ambitions and opinions on education, relationships and drugs.

In many ways the young people from the Rhondda don’t fit the stereotype of Valleys kids. They work hard, they study hard, they want to be engineers not pop stars and they think people should wait until they can afford to bring up a child before starting a family.

The comparisons with elsewhere are fascinating too. As the survey shows, young people in the Rhondda are far more likely to be in work whilst at school than their peers elsewhere, and are more likely to stay in Wales for university than young people from other parts of Wales.

The majority of those surveyed are optimistic about their futures, with many expecting to earn considerably more than the median income in sectors such as engineering and IT.

I look forward to discussing these results further with the young people in the constituency and working hard to help them achieve their ambitions.

– MP Chris Bryant
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