BEFORE we were chosen by the people of Monmouthshire to run local services, we had made a commitment to focus on education in general and ‘levelling up’ in particular.

And I am proud to say that despite the absurdly difficult spending round which we are just entering, we have made a commitment to fund every penny of the pay rise of our county’s wonderful school teachers.

You will not need reminding that the knock-on effect of the Covid pandemic left deep scars throughout the education system. Many children and young people have still to fully recover from the effects of the pandemic. Equally, many pupils identified as needing additional help and support were not properly catered for before we came into office. Far too many were failing to reach their potential.

From the very first we set out to ensure that plans were amended to ensure that the focus was on delivering positive outcomes. So, for the first time, those working with our most challenged families in the areas of the greatest social and economic deprivation were helped to work more effectively with colleagues who would be providing care in nursery and reception classes.

And as plans for the new 3-19 School in Abergavenny developed, even before we won control of the council, a local political campaign was successful in changing the plan to create a maintained nursery–rather than a private one. It means that all staff can work and train together and ensure the needs of our children are best met.

We have also been able to provide teacher training in every school focussing on the impact of poverty on children’s learning. This has been reinforced by Will McLean, the Chief Officer of our Children and Young People Service, through his regular meetings with headteachers, emphasising that every school’s senior leadership team must contain a member whose clear focus is on better outcomes for disadvantaged pupils.

I also pay tribute to our cabinet member for education, Councillor Martyn Groucutt, whose tenacious grasp of his subject has given guidance to us all.

There is still far, far more to be done to support the way in which we educate and support all our children and young people, but none can question our commitment and determination.