Plaid Cymru's Education Spokesperson, Simon Thomas, says today's PISA figures show that 'something is going wrong in our education system.' He also says the Welsh Government's aim of getting into PISA's top 20 by 2014 is 'completely unrealistic.'
Plaid Cymru's Education Spokesperson, Simon Thomas, says these new figures show that the way students and universities are funded is unsustainable in the long term.
The increasing weight of evidence from both the Finance Committee inquiry and the Welsh Auditor's report this week points to the fundamental unsustainability of the current funding regime for students and universities.
Though Plaid Cymru does not believe it is wrong in principle to fund students studying outside Wales, the lack of fair funding for Wales does force all political parties to rethink their priorities in HE.
– Simon Thomas AM, Plaid Cymru Education spokesperson
Plaid Cymru has been consulting on alternatives and while our core policy will remain free higher education tuition for all, until that is affordable we will concentrate on working up proposals that ensure access to HE is open to all; that those from less privileged backgrounds get a head start; that key subjects in Wales such as medicine and science, technology and engineering (STEM) are supported; that Welsh universities have sufficient funding to be attractive to studens and researches and that we improve our take of the Research Councils' funding.
Plaid Cymru AM Simon Thomas was an adviser to the One Wales coalition government which introduced the cap on tuition fees in Wales. But he says the Wales Audit Office report calls into question the policy's long-term affordability.
Plaid Cymru's Education spokesman says his party wants to engage with the review of higher education funding and student finance announced by the Education Minister. But Simon Thomas says the review should report before the Welsh Election in 2016 and not after it as currently planned.
And he rejected the suggestion that by engaging with it, Plaid is allowing Labour to put off making its own policy clear until after the election.
Plaid Cymru's Education Spokesman has welcomed the Education Minister's announcement of review into the funding of universities and student finances. But Simon Thomas says the review is an attempt to deal with 'shortcomings' in the Welsh Government's policy.
The Education Minister’s decision to set up a Commission to review the Higher Education funding policy is an admission that the current policy is unsustainable and it is welcome that the Minister is seeking to address its shortcomings.
However, the remit and timetable for the Commission’s reporting should be determined by its chair and panel. A Commission that does not report until after the next election will be seen as saying as much about the Minister’s reluctance to engage with his own party on reform as it does about anything else.
– Simon Thomas AM, Plaid Cymru Education spokesperson
Nevertheless, if this is a genuine cross party commission we will play our part fully but we will continue to develop and scrutinise our own policies.
Plaid Cymru has weighed into a row between Welsh Labour and the Welsh Conservatives over a delayed decision on tax and borrowing powers. Plaid AM Simon Thomas called the argument between Tory leader Andrew RT Davies and Labour AM Mike Hedges 'a unionist spat' and added:
– Simon Thomas AM, Plaid Cymru
This is a case of two toothless men fighting over who lost the toothbrush.
Plaid Cymru is the only party that can deliver for Wales. Unionist parties are ignoring the evidence and letting us down.
Only by putting Wales First will a Welsh Government enable our nation to reach its full potential in the community of nations.
Opposition leader Andrew RT Davies has claimed that Leighton Andrews had to resign after first campaigning against a reduction in services at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital and then urging Rhondda Cynon Taff Council to look again at plans to close a school in his constituency.
– Leader of the Opposition Andrew RT Davies AM
After the failure of Carwyn Jones to endorse his Education Minister’s position during my questions to him today, it was inevitable that he had to go. The actions of the Education Minister - both over the Royal Glamorgan Hospital and now school closures - called into question not only the Education Minister’s judgement, but that of the First Minister himself.
Plaid Cymru's education spokesperson Simon Thomas had already called for the Education Minister to lose his role in deciding appeals against school closures on the grounds he had damaged his impartiality.
– Plaid Cymru Education Spokesperson Simon Thomas AM
The Education Minister’s long-held position on school surplus places has been undermined by his actions and this undermines the Welsh Government as a whole. [His resignation] is the correct decision to take when collective cabinet responsibility has been abdicated and you find yourself arguing against your own policies.
Plaid Cymru has welcomed the Welsh Government's move to introduce an independent panel to limit the pay of council chief executives. The move is contained in an amendment tabled by the Local Government minister to the local democracy bill.
All three opposition parties had joined forces to force the u-turn by the Welsh Government by threatening to vote against the bill. Plaid's Simon Thomas confirmed that his party will support the legislation and has confidence that the independent panel will keep salary levels down.
He also dismissed warnings from the Welsh Local Government Association that the move could lead to legal challenges. He said the WLGA had been 'defending the indefensible' and hoped that, after 'an initial flurry of huffing and puffing' it would offer leadership.
Plaid Cymru's Education spokesperson Simon Thomas says the priority now must be to ensure Wales-only exams are not seen as 'second rate' in relation to England's. He says they must be monitored by a powerful, independent regulator.