Welsh Youth Opportunity Index – educational and learning opportunities in the valleys

Today I had an opportunity to ask the Education Minister about education and learning in Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney, and across the South Wales valleys. I focussed my question around recent research on a Welsh Youth Opportunity Index published by Learning and Work Institute Cymru.

In short the Institute’s research shows that for too many people it is still their place of birth which determines their educational outcomes:

“The index shows that the four lowest ranking local authorities are in the South East Wales Valleys (Torfaen, Merthyr Tydfil, Blaenau Gwent and Caerphilly), showing that opportunities today – both in education and in employment for young people – remain unevenly distributed and are entrenching existing inequalities. It reveals that where you live has an unacceptably high bearing on level of attainment and opportunities for young people, with those growing up in our poorest communities just not getting a fair chance”.  Read more here

The question and answer can be viewed here.

The Minister stated in response “it is totally unacceptable for children’s success to be determined by their social or economic circumstances” and made reference to a range of Welsh Government interventions being delivered this Assembly term including the Pupil Development Grant (PDG), shared and junior apprenticeships in our valleys communities.

Education is one of the key factors which determine the outcomes in our lives, and I want to spend some time with local providers to discuss the findings of this Index and the types of actions the Welsh Government can take in the years ahead to better support learners to improve more lives.

Colegau Cymru were also in the Assembly today for discussions including with my office about the further education sector, apprenticeships and lifelong learning. I was pleased that Lisa Thomas from Merthyr college was in attendance. As always funding is an important issue especially with the uncertainties around Brexit and the delay in the UK Comprehensive Spending Review. However there is also an important discussion we can have around how we improve opportunities and outcomes for learners balanced against the unit cost of learning activity.

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