Laura Anne Jones MS is the Welsh Conservative Shadow Education Minister.
A fair and free education system is a right of every young person in Britain. But here in Wales, and under Labour, that right is in jeopardy. Trade Unions are being given unprecedented influence over the curriculum. The ‘Unions and the World of Work’ pilot will compromise the Welsh education system’s impartiality by inviting trade union representatives into our schools to give talks and spread their ideology.
This is not just old-fashioned union-bashing. This criticism is borne of us not wanting to see Labour politicising the classroom with their union paymasters ‘educating’ our children. Labour are also are pushing ahead with schools being used as polling stations, having already given 16 year olds the right to vote. Now with their plan is revealed. How to guarantee your grip on power in Wales: expand the franchise and giving Labour supporting groups special access to a huge cohort of voters.
Labour govern in Wales and are many unions are clearly and closely affiliated with them, including via financial support. We should not be allowing organisations with political affiliations into our schools to deliver lessons. Parents will not and must not accept this kind of overreach.
This is particularly the case given the unions’ role in grinding Wales and the UK to a holt with their disruptive behaviour, making it more difficult for pupils and teachers to attend school. For months, militant unions have flexed their muscles, ramping up pressure on governments across the UK. This has highlighted the clear differences in approach between Labour and the Conservatives.
There is constructive dialogue and negotiation from the UK Government and abject surrender from Labour. This pilot is emblematic of Labour’s habitual appeasement. The Welsh Conservatives are not opposed to teaching pupils their employment rights. This is an important addition to the new curriculum. These elements will help provide some readiness to young people in the world of work. But we do believe that this topic should be well-rounded. Aspiration and the value of hard work should be promoted so that they can get on in life.
Labour’s record on education is atrocious. For a quarter of a century, they have let the young people of Wales down. Mark Drakeford and Jeremy Miles’ new curriculum has been widely criticised for its rapid implementation, leaving schools unprepared. Schools already have a tough task ahead of them in dealing with the fallout from Labour’s longer, harsher lockdowns. Pupils missed a shocking 66 days of schooling, more than any other nation in the UK.
Parents have been consistently let down by a Labour Government intent on ignoring their wishes and shutting them out of the decision making process. They have made complaints about the new Relationships and Sexual Education (RSE) curriculum, based on a lack of consultation and their legitimate concerns being brushed aside. They are concerned that they still do not know what their children are being taught. They are not convinced that the content is age appropriate; they have been denied the ability to withdraw their children.
The Welsh Conservatives believe in parental choice. We trust parents and respect the fact that they know what is best for their own children. Labour thinks the state knows best how to run our lives. To them, parents are a mere afterthought when it comes to their children’s education. I fear that a similar situation is developing with this decision, with unions being given substantial influence without that vital parental consent.
My concern is that trade unions will not only provide little in the way of educational benefit to students, but that they will be a detriment to them. They will encourage a culture of industrial strife from an early age. Parents expect classrooms to be places of learning and teachers to provide impartial information and advice. Any notion that visiting trade union ideologues will act in this way is nonsense.
As of now, this is just another of Labour’s taxpayer-money-wasting pilot schemes, like their pilot of a universal basic income. Be in no doubt, however, that this is part of a larger scheme to reshape Wales into Mark Drakeford’s Corbyn-style socialist utopia. The fact that this announcement was made via a joint written statement from the Education Minister and Deputy Minister for Social Partnership, is telling. This is indicative of Labour’s plan to further integrate unions into Government, the public sector, and every possible part of our lives.
Moreover, they have already expressed their hope for the pilot to ‘prove successful’ without publishing any parameters to measure said success. This is typical. In government, they waste time and resources on pilot schemes and consultations for projects that they intend to push ahead with regardless. Labour’s penchant for cronyism is also renowned. They have a track record of packing their advisory bodies, Commissioner roles and likely their upcoming Social Partnership Council with union-affiliated supporters of their party. Expanding their influence to schools would be a giant step beyond reason and a colossal misuse of their power. We cannot stand by and let this lurch toward dystopia go forward without opposition.
Labour have proven time and again how out of touch they are, piling excessive workloads onto teaching staff while simultaneously under-staffing and under-resourcing them. We have lost 4,000 teachers but gained 7,000 pupils in 10 years. Those pupils are missing out on £1,000 per head in funding as Wales receives £1.20 for every £1 spent in England, an additional amount that the Labour are failing to funnel into education delivery.
Labour should abandon these ludicrous plans. Instead, they should focus their energy on ensuring students have their basic needs met instead. They must get Wales off the bottom of the PISA rankings in the UK, instead of politicising the classroom and stuffing it with their union friends.