In the news: Jane Davidson

February 15, 2002

Few who know Welsh Assembly education and lifelong learning minister Jane Davidson would have been surprised by her announcement this week of grants for hard-up students. Much of her professional life has been dedicated to tackling social, youth and hardship issues.

Since commissioning an independent inquiry into student hardship in Wales, she has been at pains to underline her commitment to acting on its findings. The seeds of these interests may have been sown after spending much of her youth in Zimbabwe, where she gained "an acute appreciation of issues around race".

From the age of 14 she attended Malvern Girls' College. She read English at Birmingham University and gained a postgraduate teaching qualification at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth. After two years as an English, drama and PE teacher, she became a development officer for the Youth Hostels Association and then a youth and community worker, heading the Dinas Powys Youth and Community Centre for three years.

She entered politics in 1994 as a researcher for Labour MP Rhodri Morgan, later the assembly's second secretary. In 1996, she became Welsh coordinator for the National Local Government Forum Against Poverty. Two years later, she became head of social affairs for the Welsh Local Government Association and, in 1999, was elected assembly Labour Member for Pontypridd.

Ms Davidson's drive for reform has been apparent since her appointment as education and lifelong learning minister 16 months ago. She has presided over a review of higher education and is pushing forward with the introduction of a Welsh baccalaureate.

She is married with three kids and has been described as one of the assembly's "sexiest members" but is keen to avoid the image of a "Blair babe". Few would deny her credentials as a serious politician remain intact.

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