Judith Bunting, Liberal Democrat MEP for the South East and Spokesperson for Education in Europe, has given her backing to what the party has offered as its vision for a “new era of learning throughout life”.

The concept entails the creation of an ambitious Skills Wallet. This will give every adult £10,000 to spend on education and training throughout their lives. It will be paid for by reversing government cuts to corporation tax to bring the rate back to 20%.

Judith, who also sits on the Committee for Culture and Education (CULT) in the European Parliament, says: “The new plan gives people £4,000 for additional training at 25, £3,000 at 40 and another £3,000 at 55. It will help us all stay up to date in the workplace and also help people who respond better to training when they are older, outside of college or university.

“A Liberal Democrat government will create a new era of learning throughout adult life with Skills Wallets for every individual, providing £10,000 for each of us to spend on education and training at different stages of life.”

Individuals, their employers and local government will be able to make additional payments into the wallets, if they wish. Access to free careers guidance will also be provided.

Judith continues: “By stopping Brexit and investing in our Skills Wallets, Liberal Democrats will empower people to develop new skills so that they can thrive in the technologies and industries that are key to the UK’s economic future and prosperity. 

“Only the Liberal Democrats have a real plan to build a fairer economy and a brighter future.”



Judith Bunting, Liberal Democrat MEP for the South East and Spokesperson for Education in Europe, has today welcomed the news that the European Commission has called for an additional €3bn worth of funding for the 2020 Erasmus+ programme, a 12% increase from 2019.

Most notably, Erasmus+ provides funding for university students and apprentices to live, learn and work for extended periods of time in EU member states. Since its inception in 1987 it has provided opportunities for over 9m people.

Judith, who also sits on the European Parliament Committee for Culture and Education in Europe (CULT), says: “I am absolutely delighted to see that the European Commission has called for an extra €3bn worth of funding for the Erasmus+ programme. This is a life-changing scheme that enables young people IN THE UK to live, study and train abroad. Erasmus+ symbolises all that’s great about the EU and, most importantly, HELPS ensure young people, are prepared for a world in which business is increasingly done on a global level.

“With this additional funding, the number of young British lives we could embolden by providing them with the means of living in new cultures and learning new languages is endless. That’s why I’m resolute in my belief that by leaving the EU, we would be failing our young people.”

Speech from Berlin Wall 30- on 6th November 2019

Hello. It is wonderful to be back in Berlin. I have always appreciated the warmth with which I have been greeted when visiting Germany – and it has been no different today. So, thank you for inviting me to join this conference – and thank you for coming this evening.

I am a newly elected Liberal Democrat Member of the European Parliament. Until last April, I was like you. Interested in politics, but not elected to any role, I really am a voter who got angry – and stood up and got involved.

In the European Parliament, I sit on two Committees that cover Culture and Education and also Industry, Research and Energy. What unites these two roles, for me, is Innovation.

That is why, today, I have decided to talk with you about the culture that I have seen and enjoyed here in Berlin and why I think that art, music and technical innovation are, here, are so comfortably wrapped up together. And why this really matters for Berlin, Germany and the rest of the world.

Thirty years ago, there was an energy then about Berlin that was unmissable, and remarkably it has not faded. Of course, people were innovating here, before the wall went up, before the wall came down, but those 28 years – those 10,316 days – that Berlin spent as divided city somehow changed the way Berliners think and the way they work. It brought art and science together in your innovations many, many years before the rest of Europe – or even the rest of the world – were even thinking about it.

I have a friend, and artist – a German artist who has lived in the U.K. for more than twenty years now – who, under threat of Brexit, has been bringing his art to Berlin. He is a sculptor, whose early series, Immaterial, uses granite and metal to crate a negative space – usually a human form, sitting and in conversation, so poised for action that you wonder if they will move when you look away – but essential when you enjoy his work, you are looking at the air at a space, at something which you cannot quite lay your hands on, which is… intangible, immaterial, inspirational.

My first time in Berlin was in 1991. I was filming for a science documentary series called Tomorrow’s World. It was on prime time tv, a science magazine show, and by then I had filmed all over the UK. I had filmed inventions elsewhere in Germany and here, there was different feel high tech – but with a twist that has to be put down to your own unique history.

On that trip I was privileged to visit Potsdamer Platz station while still closed and a part of Hitler’s bunker which had been caught between the walls. These visits were unsettling. In the bunker – stark murals, poised, stylish – but knowing what they represented, repellent. From there we went directly to the underground station – Potsdamer Platz – stark, dark and empty. A strange reflection of the inhibition of the communist era where the lack of imagination, the lack of freedom, left a powerful impression.

But I was in Berlin to discover innovation – architecture, design, Potsdamer Platz, VR – and remember this was 1991. VR was completely new. Very advanced, very exciting and – very Berlin. Art and tech coming together to build a better world.

Your engineers were similar, drawing on natural and environmental ideas, the curve of a leaf, the feathers of flight. I do not remember the names, now, but people building natural lines into urban design, an idea which is fashionable now – growing in Berlin as the wall came down.

On a more practical note, I spent time with an environmental community in Kreuzberg which practised environmental, sustainable living. – words which were not common in the nineties. Now, every time I see a green wall, I think of Kreuzberg. Berlin was working out how to cut water consumption and develop sustainable ways of living, while the rest of world was asleep on the job!

Just thinking – we filmed with the children in the Kreuzberg nursery flushing the loos, turning taps on and off and on and off again – they thought we were nuts – they would have been just 3 or 4 years old – which would make them about 34, 35 years old now. If you know anyone who was there – tell them the crazy film director says hi.

FUTURE SKILLS – so why does this all matter?

As an educationalist, I attend a lot of talks, discussions and meetings about what skills we need to address the future. The only thing that is clear is that cross fertilisation between disciplines is going to be critical. Also, empathy and diversity – places like Berlin and London which bring together people and ideas from across the world – are the places expected to thrive.

Innovation that brings together unlikely disciplines, unlikely aspects of art and science and music and tech and play – the kind of innovation that we see here in Berlin is going to be the bedrock of our new society. Innovation drives employment, drives taxes and services and so drives the good of society. It’s also fun, stimulating and makes life worthwhile.

Here, it seemed as if crazy, fantastic innovation sprang from 28 years of confinement and repression, even in the West Berlin, which was called ‘free’ and of course was essentially ‘free’ but enjoyed a strange crazy half life for 28 years – clear confinement for East Berlin, but also a strange semi confinement for the West. Although West Berlin was free, we outsiders often forget that the city was surrounded on all sides by East Germany and USSR.

People could leave and have safe passage, but in the course of everyday life, not many people would leave. You live where you live. And some life for west Berliners seems to have had a semi-caged quality. And I think this was important – certainly in the 90s it was as if ideas were falling like fountains. As if the pressure of confinement and restriction gave people time to think, pushed them to lift their eyes and their hearts beyond the day to day

Add to that the fact that the city is even now too small for culture to divide itself into narrow silos. The science, it seemed when I was ere, could not escape from art, and the art that I saw at the time acknowledged and embraced the influence of science. Where else would you see – as we did here in 2012 – opera performed in the turbine hall of a former power station. {Staatsoper Unter den Linden at the Berlin Power Station, Luigi Nono’s socialist opera Al Gran Sole Carico d’Amore.}

Even today, you have 3 opera houses, the world class BPO with our own SIMON Rattle and something like 20,000 artists, in a city that is less than half the size of London.

In some magical way your city and your institutions seem to be managing to build in that inspiration – so often when the big players get involved they squeeze the life out of things, but not here.

So, we see the collaboration between the Arts university and the Technical university which brings together artistic practice with scientific research in the Berlin Open Lab. We have the Fab Lab – a fantastic hub of the Berlin maker community, with spaces that young inventors and makers can work in and kit – 3D printers, laser cutters and the very latest design software for them to use.

When the wall came down in 1989: there was no internet. The work of Kreuzberg and the German Greens, notwithstanding, we had never heard the words ‘climate change’. For goodness sake, Ed Sheehan was not even been born!!

If I may take the liberty of echoing JFK’s speech from 1963: Berlin has been and, amazingly, still is a cradle of change.

HERE IN BERLIN – You HAVE lifted your eyes beyond the dangers of the past and towards the hopes of tomorrow.

And the fantastic culture of invention that goes on here has had and will have repercussions that reach beyond this city, Berlin, and maybe even beyond Germany.

This city is still a symbol of peace and the CHANGES and inventions WROUGHT HERE carry a greater weight

Wherever the next 30 years take us in terms of culture, art, music and innovation, I have no doubt that you, that Berlin will be leading the way


Speech at Debate on Education: Autumn Conference!#LifeLongLearning

F19: Education is for Everyone: Investing in Further Education and Learning Throughout Life

Investment in education and training for skills development is essential to boost growth and competitiveness: skills determine our capacity to increase productivity and act in an increasingly globalized world.

In the long-term, skills can trigger innovation and growth, move production up the value chain, stimulate the concentration of higher-level skills and shape the future of our labour market.

The quality of education and supply of skills has increased worldwide but in the UK, as we learned, annual funding for a student in 16-19 education has fallen by 18 per cent in real terms since 2010 and two in five further education colleges are in deficit.

The Adult Education Budget has been cut in real terms since 2015 and less than two per cent of the Government’s education spending is for adult learners. This is unacceptable.

In consequence, our education and training systems continue to fall short in providing the right skills for employability. Our education systems are not working adequately with business or employers to bring the learning experience closer to the reality of the working environment.

Our call is to:
 – Introduce a universal Personal Education and Skills Account (PESA) for adults in England.
 – Make three payments into an individual’s PESA when the account holder turns 25, 40 and 55.
 – Make additional payments in response to certain life events (e.g. redundancy), to combat socio-economic inequality, and to encourage workers to retrain into shortage occupations.
 – Offer tax relief or match funding to incentivise account holders and their employers to pay into their PESA.
 – Encourage local authorities and city regions to make discretionary payments into PESAs to incentivise education and training in their areas.
 – Enable account holders aged 25 or over to use the money saved in their PESAs to pay for any accredited education or training course.
  – Provide free careers guidance to anyone wishing to use the money in their PESA to support them to choose a course that will help them achieve their personal or career development aims.

This is just a beginning. Much more needs to be done if we want to shape a competitive global economy.

Demand better for education

The Education Select Committee report, published today, calls on the Government to commit to a 10-year, multi-billion cash injection for schools and colleges. Sitting on the Education and Culture committee, I have been horrified over the past few years by the way that the Conservative government has cut funding for schools and colleges to the bone. Funding levels have failed to keep up with spiralling costs and increased pupil numbers. 

Representing the South East of England in the European Union, I wholeheartedly support the cross party call for the Government to commit to a 10-year, multi-billion cash injection for schools and colleges.

Teachers have been forced to buy resources out of their own pockets, teaching assistants have been let go, and many schools have been forced to shut their doors early. Schools report not having enough funding to pay for textbooks, stationery and science equipment. 

Today’s report shows that MPs across all parties are not prepared to see our schools and colleges face years of continued uncertainty. Yet this is exactly what the Conservative Government has created. They have seemingly scrapped an announcement on school funding planned for this week, and have not yet told teachers how much they will be paid next year. 

As Liberal Democrats, we demand better for our children and teachers. That is why we are campaigning for an emergency cash injection into our schools and colleges, so that they have the resources teachers need to teach and pupils need to learn.

“Newbury Talks” with your MEP

Rounding off her time as co-organiser of Newbury talks, MEP Judith Bunting reflects; “I have really enjoyed meeting so many people through Newbury Talks, both the audience and speakers. The sessions have been engaging and eclectic, covering a wide variety of subjects.” Since being elected as an MEP for the South East of England, Judith’s time is now taken up with focussing on her role in the European Parliament, which officially started on Tuesday.

Sunday’s talk featured Alom Shaha
discussing ‘How to be your child’s first
science teacher’. Teacher & author
of Mr Shaha’s Recipes for Wonder, Alom spoke about how to introduce science to children, and how parents can help their children learn using their natural curiosity about the world and taking the step from “wow!” to “how?”.


Attending her last session, Judith comments; “I am pleased to say that I will be sitting on the education and culture commission, and as Alom said at ‘Newbury Talks’ – science is one of our greatest cultural achievements, humans make science.”


Organised with Trevor Mathers, and supported by his family, Newbury Talks was established in 2016. Trevor says; “Newbury Talks has been organising free talks to educate and entertain since March 2016. In that time, we have covered an eclectic range of subjects from genetics, telling the future using crowd sourcing, making music from data, all the way through to political corruption in the UK!”

Speaking of what the future holds for Newbury Talks, Trevor explains “We are currently putting together the next programme of talks, there are some exciting things in the pipeline, watch this space.”

To keep updated with upcoming ‘Newbury Talks’ events, you can contact the team here:


School cuts – West Berkshire Council proposes charging schools who need help

Judith Bunting at Park House School, Newbury, during
the recent election campaign.
With Ian Millar, Head of Physics.

This week West Berkshire Council announced plans for financial “task forces” to be sent into the district’s struggling schools to help heads manage their budgets. They are also threatening to charge any school that requires ‘the task force intervention’.
Judith Bunting, Parliamentary Spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats in Newbury, said: “This is another shockingly negative move from the Conservatives on West Berkshire Council. They present this issue as if our schools are failing, In reality, the actions of West Berkshire Council and the Conservative Government mean that many local schools have not only suffered significant cuts to their funding, but at the same time are being expected to provide more services around children’s mental health and other matters.”
Judith continued, “West Berkshire Council should be glad to help schools doing their best to keep up standards of education under such onslaught, not chastise them and then charge them for the privilege.”
This week, Liberal Democrat Shadow Education Secretary Layla Moran told national press about the hypocrisy surrounding Justine Greening’s announcement £1.3bn of additional funding for schools. In reality, she said, this ‘additional funding’ will come from “efficiencies” from within the education budget:
“This is a desperate attempt to pull the wool over people’s eyes. Instead of providing the £4bn of extra funding promised in their manifesto, the Conservatives are recycling cash from the education budget. It is robbing Peter to pay Paul. Schools are still facing cuts to their budgets once inflation and increasing class sizes are taken into account.
“Children only get one go at education. We need to invest more in our schools to ensure that no child is left behind.”
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Free school breakfasts scheme an uncosted blow to schools, families and children

The Lib Dems have warned that Tory plans to scrap free school lunches, in favour of free breakfasts, is an uncosted scheme that will put pressure on barely managing families and schools, as well as contributing to the issue of childhood obesity.

The Conservative manifesto pledges to scrap universal free school lunches for primary school pupils under seven, one of the policies the Lib Dems authored during their time in the coalition, and replace it with a scheme to provide free school breakfasts for all primary school children. Universal Free School Meals cost an estimated £600 million a year. The Tory manifesto has pledged just £60 million a year for their breakfast scheme, saying the difference will help fund school budgets.

However, the Conservatives have set aside just 6.8p per pupil for its manifesto pledge to give all primary school pupils free breakfasts, in what food experts have labelled a “black hole” in the government’s manifesto calculations.

Aisling Kirwan, the founding director of the Grub Club, a school-based social enterprise that provides cooking lessons for pupils in poorer areas, said that a nutritious meal costs 25p  per pupil on average. Even then, this is only a bowl of porridge with milk. A more filling breakfast, which would include bacon, two sausages, one egg and bread, would cost 85p per portion.

“Clearly there’s a huge disparity between the realistic costing and that put forward by the Tories,” she said.

Dr Rebecca Allen, director of think tank Education Datalab, said in SchoolsWeek, that schools were looking at a bill in the region of £400 million once costs of paying a teaching assistant to oversee the breakfast club were included.

Scrapping free school lunches in favour of free breakfasts could also have a significant nutritional cost, Nick Clegg has warned, saying Theresa May should take “her inspiration from Jamie Oliver not Oliver Twist”.

Clegg said scrapping the lunches, which will be replaced by free breakfasts, could mean thousands of pupils no longer receive a single portion of fruit or vegetables on a daily basis.

No nutritional guidelines exist for school breakfasts, though schools are expected to provide two to three of the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day in school lunches.

Judith Bunting said this week that:

“This scheme is an uncosted disaster that will hit children, families and schools hard. At a time of unprecedented school cuts, schools will be expected to fund staff to cover free breakfast clubs. Families who are barely managing with stagnated incomes and rising costs will struggle to fund the extra £440 a year per child for lunches – or send them to school with a less nutritious packed lunch.

Half of low-income pupils go hungry at breakfast, and a further fifth eat breakfasts with little or no nutritional value. Providing them with a bowl of sugary cereal is not going to help this. When we know we have issues in this country with both childhood obesity and food poverty, this scheme is ridiculous.”

Judith Bunting announces Lib Dem plans for funding boost to give children in West Berkshire a brighter future

Judith reading to preschool children
Judith reading to preschool children

This week, at Park House School, Newbury, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate Judith Bunting launched the Liberal Democrat’s manifesto policies for young people and children.

Under the plans, 3-4 year-olds in Newbury and West Berkshire would benefit from Liberal Democrat plans to triple funding for the early years pupil premium, which gives extra cash to nurseries, pre-schools and school receptions when they take on children from disadvantaged backgrounds. The cash would triple the funding to £1,000 per pupil per year – up from £302 in 2015-16.  This will increase the allocation for West Berkshire Council from around £75,000 (£74,591) to £223,773, and will pay for every disadvantaged child who benefits to receive 570 hours of state-funded early education. This forms part of a series of policies the Liberal Democrats are announcing with a focus on giving children and young people a brighter future.

Judith Bunting said: “I was delighted to be able to tell the 6th formers today about key Liberal Democrat policies that will significantly improve the lives of young people.”

These include:

  • Helping people buy their first home for the same cost as renting, with a new model of ‘Rent to Own’ homes
  • Restoring housing benefit for young people
  • Creating a discounted bus pass for 16-21 year olds, giving a 66% discount
  • Introducing votes at 16 for elections and referendums across the UK

As well as:

  • Investing almost £7bn in our schools and colleges
  • Doubling the number of businesses that take apprenticeships
  • Tripling the early years pupil premium
  • Extending free school meals to all primary school students

Judith Bunting added: “We will give children in Newbury and West Berkshire a brighter future, by investing in those from more deprived backgrounds to give them the best possible chance in life.

“This forms part of a package to build a fairer Britain and ensure no child or young person is left behind. Education is at the heart of everything I stand for, as a Liberal Democrat.

“I want the opportunity to help the Liberal Democrats provide a strong opposition to this Conservative government and to give the people of Newbury and West Berkshire a voice in standing up against the cuts to our local schools, hospitals and regional funding.

“A vote for the Liberal Democrats is a vote for a brighter future for people across Newbury and the surrounding area.”  

“Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour has let us all down by voting with Theresa May and UKIP on Brexit. “The Liberal Democrats will stand up to Theresa May and give the people the final say on Brexit, with the choice to remain in Europe if they don’t like the deal on offer.”

Lib Dem candidate Judith Bunting challenges Council to work with Newbury Community Football Group

Judith Bunting, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Newbury constituency has challenged Hilary Cole, Acting Deputy Leader of West Berkshire Council to provide assurances that they will work with Newbury Community Football Group on to protect and enhance the town’s Football Ground on Faraday Road.

JB football2

Speaking last Thursday to West Berkshire Council’s Executive on Football and children’s health and wellbeing, Judith Bunting said: “As the Council’s adopted Core Strategy requires the protection and enhancement of green infrastructure and cultural facilities in West Berkshire, … what investment is planned to safeguard and enhance the protected community green infrastructure and cultural facility at Newbury Football Ground in Faraday Road?

She went on to ask: “Are Councillors willing to work with the Newbury Community Football Group on a progressive strategy to protect and enhance the Football Ground with a view to encouraging a positive attitude to exercise, health and wellbeing which are at the centre of the Council’s Health & Wellbeing Strategy?”

Judith Bunting was a prominent supporter of Newbury Town Football Club in its fight against eviction by West Berkshire Council last year.

Speaking this week, she said: “In excess of 500 people including more than 350 children play club-based football in Newbury each week. Physical education is important for our children. In football, they learn good habits of cooperation, discipline and motivation, as well as getting fit and having fun.”

“Richard Benyon’s Conservatives on West Berkshire Council have removed school bus routes, they have cut back drastically on children’s mental health support, and have tried to close our libraries. Now they want to destroy the football club too.

“If the Conservative party, here, do not have some particular axe to grind against the health of our children, I ask them to please think again and try working with Newbury Football Club to encourage the work it does rather than to destroy such a great and useful organisation.”

You can read more about Judith Bunting’s campaign to support Newbury Town Football Club here: Open Letter about Newbury Football Club

Newbury Community Football Group is a new organisation that brings together Ladies, Men’s, Boys and Girls’ and Youth Football groups in Newbury. For more information please go to: