Following a busy period of consultation and evidence gathering towards the end of 2021, the Senedd Children, Young People and Education (CYPE) Committee released their Stage 1 Report on the Tertiary Education and Research (Wales) Bill on 4 March 2022.
This is one of several Senedd Committees to report on aspects of the Bill in recent weeks – notably the Finance Committee and Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee.
The general theme seems to be one of ‘further information needed’ which is not uncommon at this stage of legislation and provides a welcome opportunity to refine, improve and clarify the draft Bill. However, it’s clear that the current text of the Bill has significant room for improvement, clarification and further detail. ColegauCymru welcomes many of the recommendations made by the different Senedd Committees.
Specifically in relation to the CYPE Committee recommendations, we are pleased to see the call for more information about parity of esteem between vocational and academic routes and what delivering on this would look like in Recommendation 3. ColegauCymru is also supportive of the Committee’s call for stronger measures to ensure the Board reflects the breadth of education provision and research, and the broad diversity of Wales, as well as the recommendations to cement the Commission’s role in relation to Welsh language provision and research, and learner voice.
The Recommendation on the need to clarify the policy direction for adult learning is helpful in light of Welsh Government’s ongoing review of adult education as is that on the wider context for apprenticeship framework development.
ColegauCymru argues that the purpose of the Bill must be to improve the learning experiences across the post-compulsory sector and deliver for the citizens of Wales. We have some concerns around Recommendation 29. The issue of additional safeguards to ensure that any plans brought forward by the Commission for changes to sixth form provision does not have a detrimental impact on Welsh medium provision or provision within a religious school setting cannot be used as an overarching way of entrenching current systems where they do not place learners’ interests at the heart of the system.
The CYPE report could have gone further in terms of ensuring parity between sixth forms and further education colleges, particularly in terms of learner protection plans, and we would have welcomed this parity of treatment, expectation and experience. We await with interest the Minister’s response to Recommendation 32 which provides an opportunity to address this.
Removal of Section 105 of the Bill, which has the potential to cause something of a bureaucratic nightmare when managing funding to third parties, and the recommendation that another way is found to address due diligence when funding is passed onto third parties, should do much to allay many of the concerns of the post-16 sector.
Ultimately, much of the detail of the Bill is yet unknown which is why Recommendation 36 which calls for Welsh Government to publish draft regulations on several areas before Stage 2 of the Bill proceeds is key.
ColegauCymru Chief Executive Iestyn Davies said,
“Senedd Committees have worked hard to scrutinise the draft Bill and have come up with several helpful recommendations. The challenge now is for Welsh Government to act on these and sharpen up the Bill. Much of this involves providing further detail.”
“Standing back from the immediate interests of members, we cannot help but be concerned at the amount of trust institutions are expected to place in regulations that they have not yet seen. This needs to be urgently addressed. The Bill does not address some of the fundamental challenges to the post-16 sector of how to fund and resource provision.”
“The Bill is a major reorganisation of the post-16 sector and for that reason needs to have the maximum positive impact. It must ensure that the learner experience is improved and consider how to improve outcomes. We are keen to continue constructive dialogue with the Welsh Government to achieve this.”
Welsh Parliament - Children, Youn People and Education Committee
Tertiary Education Research (Wales) Bill Committee Stage 1 Report