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'Having excellent schools which deliver the highest possible standards of teaching and learning has, and will conti...
'Having excellent schools which deliver the highest possible standards of teaching and learning has, and will continue to be, one of our highest priorities,' was the message from education minister Jane Davidson.

Speaking at the National Education Exhibition and Conference in Cardiff on Friday the minister said: 'It is a great pleasure and privilege as education minister to be able, once more, to work with the professionals in education.

'A vision takes time to achieve; but we have made significant progress in setting a distinctive agenda for Wales, an agenda that is truly 'made in Wales' and meets Welsh needs. We are a small, close knit country, and that makes it possible to work together - listening and sharing ideas - in a way that is not possible in England.'

The minister explained that the new Education Act 2002 provides the legislative platform for taking forward the Wales distinctive approach and turning it into action. This includes:

* the basis for a separate national curriculum in Wales which will allow development of the foundation stage for 3-7 yr olds and change at Key stage 4

* powers to secure regional provision for special educational needs pupils (SEN) and to set up a separate SEN Tribunal for Wales

* the requirement that LEAs enter into partnership agreements with their schools

* facilitating transition from primary to secondary school

* establishing school budget forums in each LEA

* giving governing bodies powers to provide services for local communities

The minister went on to say: 'The greatest resource in our schools are the staff who work in them - qualified teachers, classroom support staff, technicians, librarians and administrative staff. The national agreement on reducing teachers' workload will raise the professional standing of teaching and make teaching more attractive to new entrants.'

The minister added: 'We have achieved much but there are considerable challenges ahead in delivering our radical Le arning Country agenda.

'We clearly set out in our manifesto what we want to achieve in the assembly's second term. We will now deliver on our full commitment to a world-class education system in Wales, increasing our investment in education, ensuring that all our children have the means to reach their full potential.

'We have committed to providing for all our primary school children to have free breakfasts. This is a vital part of our social inclusion agenda, making sure that all our children are given the best opportunities to succeed. It has been warmly welcomed in schools across Wales.

'We will abolish large junior classes once and for all. We are well on the way to achieving that.

'We have committed to £560m to improve school buildings in the next assembly term. Schools across Wales are seeing the difference.

'In our first term, we made a start on narrowing the gap between the best and worst performing secondary schools in Wales. In this second assembly term, we are extending this radical agenda to primary schools. Deprivation and poor performance do not have to go together. This will be backed by a funding formula which is based on need instead of numbers as it was in the past.

'We will be prioritising quality learning for our most vulnerable children. With our all-Wales approach to special education needs and regional centres of excellence, we will ensure that every child has the best learning opportunities.

'In our manifesto, we set out how we will expand ICT learning across our schools in Wales. We will give priority to developing the ICT skills of teachers. We value our teachers and the fantastic work they are doing in Wales. Regional learning and resource centres right across Wales will also provide additional support.'

At the end of her speech, the minister said: 'These are all key parts of our learning country agenda. Working together, we can deliver this agenda, we can develop a world class education system in Wales; one that provides qual ity learning and ensures that all children have the means to realise their full potential.

'This is an exciting challenge one which I am delighted to be taking on again, and one that I know you are willing to share - because this has to be a joint venture between the assembly government and you, the people engaged in education.'

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