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Coalition ties won't stop me speaking out

Plaid's education spokeswoman Evans vows to ensure Labour stays true to One Wales

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She is gaining a reputation as a firebrand in political circles. But Nerys Evans, Plaid Cymru's new education spokeswoman, is adamant she won't be silenced - despite being part of the coalition government formed by her party and Labour.

In an interview with TES Cymru, Ms Evans promised to hold the Assembly government to account on issues affecting schools.

Her aim is to make sure Jane Hutt, her Labour counterpart, sticks to the policies set out in their parties' One Wales agreement, made when the coalition was formed after the May 2007 election. If the education minister should stray, the Plaid spokeswoman will challenge her.

Ms Evans, who at 28 is the second youngest Assembly member, took over Plaid's education role from Janet Ryder, North Wales AM, who quit last month after a public row over the vocationally led 14-19 learning pathways. Ms Ryder was unhappy with much of the detail and the lack of progress.

Ms Evans, the Mid and West Wales AM, has already proved she too is not afraid to stand up to the government. She has spoken out in the Senedd against the controversial 7.43 per cent cut in post-16 funding and called for a rethink.

But she told TES Cymru that debate was healthy. "I won't be at all afraid to speak out if I disagree with something," she said.

"I fully support One Wales and it's my job to make sure they stick to it. Coalition government is about negotiation and compromise with no surprises."

As for her own political interests, Ms Evans said she would push for more parental choice in Welsh-medium education. She hopes the Welsh-language strategy, published this spring, will underpin future policy. But she said there were still issues around 14-19 reform, FE funding and school reorganisation that could push her into conflict with her coalition colleagues.

However, she felt Wales should be proud of some of its "excellent" education policies since devolution, particularly the scrapping of Sats tests and the introduction of the play-led foundation phase.

"The FP is a fantastic idea," she said. "We really are leading the way, but I don't think we are selling it enough." She also praised the country's "amazing, hard-working" teachers and heads, saying they deserve more praise than they get.

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