Lib Dems want action on bullies

The Welsh Liberal democrats have promised to go to war on school bullies and bad behaviour in a pre-manifesto education document. They want local authorities to assess the anti-bullying policies drawn up by schools to make sure they are not just tick-box exercises.

Peter Black, the Lib Dems' education spokesperson, called for a new-look national anti-bullying strategy in the Senedd this week.

He said the party would also encourage more trained youth workers to help teachers control pupils who need "extra behavioural support" if it wins through the ballot box in May.

Schools were criticised last year after it was reported that three-quarters failed to respond to ministers' and researchers' requests for copies of anti-bullying policies. Cardiff university had been commissioned by the Assembly government to evaluate policies.

Other priorities for the Lib Dems in their document, A Better Learning Environment, include smaller class sizes and better school buildings.

However, Mr Black said that an ambitious target of making primary classes no bigger than 25 would be costly in terms of teachers and premises.

Figures recently reported for 2005-6 show the percentage of Welsh classes with 30 or more pupils in Wales is up. But Mr Black said class sizes could be reduced through grants and falling school rolls. "We don't think the cost will be too big," he said.

Bringing school buildings up to scratch is also a big pre-election pledge for the party. Mr Black blasted Labour for admitting that it expects to fail in its pledge to make buildings fit for purpose by 2010.

Jane Davidson, minister for education, lifelong learning and skills, last year put a pound;620.6 million tag on the bill for a repairs backlog across Wales. But the Lib Dems say they cannot cost the pledges until after the Assembly's comprehensive spending review in June.

In all, the Lib Dems made 21 education promises, including:

* more money for bilingual education "where parents want it"

* specialist and peripatetic teachers in primary schools

* modern foreign languages for all

* the reinstatement of music development funding

* a youth volunteering scheme, with schools open out-of-hours.

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