Improving outcomes for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds is a central part of the National Mission for education.
It is a child’s ability and potential, not their background, that should determine their fortunes.
Today, Kirsty Williams has made a statement in the Welsh Assembly outlining how disadvantaged and vulnerable learners are being supported to meet their potential.
Here are 6 steps that have been taken:
Over £475m has been invested to support over half a million young people eligible for free school meals.
We initially secured the Welsh Pupil Premium – also known as the Pupil Development Grant – in a budget deal with the Welsh Government in the last Assembly term.
Since then it has been enhanced and expanded, particularly in the early years where the funding can have the greatest impact. There is also an element of the fund specifically focused on looked after children.
Meeting the cost of the school day
One of the latest additions to the Welsh Pupil Premium has been the ‘PDG Access’ scheme - targeted at helping families meet the cost of the school day.
It helps cover the costs of things like school uniform, sports kits, and equipment for activities outside of school.
Introduced in 2018, the scheme was initially available for pupils entering reception class or Year 7. Following an announcement at Welsh Liberal Democrat Conference it was extended to Year 3 and Year 10 pupils.
It’s not enough that families are supported to meet the costs of uniform – we want uniform to be cheaper in the first place.
Schools are being expected to consider ways to minimise the cost of uniform, for example by reducing the use of logos or allowing more items to be bought from retail chains.
The same plans would see the introduction of gender-neutral school uniform, promoting inclusivity for trans and non-binary young people.
Tackling holiday hunger
Unfortunately school holidays can be a challenging time for many families. Children who receive free school breakfasts and lunches can miss these meals, and ‘holiday hunger’ becomes all too real.
That’s why £500,000 has been announced to support holiday lunch and fun clubs. The clubs are designed to offer an opportunity to be active, eat healthily, and develop friendships. Funding is targeted at the most disadvantaged council areas in Wales.
Ending period poverty
Young women are being forced to miss out on education because they can’t afford sanitary products, and we know how important it is to change that.
We want to see an end to period poverty. We want a national, sustainable response that supports young women to reach their full potential.
Living costs at university
It is living costs, not tuition fees, that are the greatest barrier to studying at university. Our changes to student finance have acknowledged this and have acted on it.
Students receive the equivalent of the National Living Wage while they study, allowing them to focus on learning, not on paying the bills.
The increase in support for part-time and postgraduate students has also seen applications soar, opening doors in higher education for people from different backgrounds.
All told, it is the most progressive and generous student support package in the UK.