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Extra £72m to support learners as they return to school

Welsh Education Minister Kirsty Williams. Photo credit: Matthew Horwood

Education Minister Kirsty Williams has announced a further £72 million to support learners as part of the response towards recovery and progression since the pandemic.

The funding will include the continuation of the Recruit, Recover and Raise Standards programme into the next academic year, extra learning resources and support for foundation phase learners in schools and childcare settings that provide early education.

Support will also be targeted at learners in years 11, 12 and 13, to provide additional help with their transition into the next stage.

Since last July, the equivalent of 1,800 extra full-time school staff have been recruited in schools across Wales to provide extra support during the pandemic, double the original target of 900.

Funding will also be used to support 1,400 trainee teachers currently in Initial Teacher Education, enabling them to complete their practical experience in the autumn, complete their qualifications and move into full-time teaching.

In a comparison of UK nations in February, the Education Policy Institute (EPI) found that Wales’ “catch up programmes are far better targeted at their most disadvantaged pupils”. The announcement today is expected to increase the spend-per-pupil equivalent to £239 – the highest in the UK.

Kirsty Williams, the Education Minister, said:

“We all know it’s been a difficult period for learners and staff. Schools and colleges have done terrific work in ensuring learning has continued, while putting preparations in place so the return of learners is as smooth as possible.

“I know that extra help is needed, especially for learners at key stages in their academic careers and in their lives. As learners continue to go back to face-to-face learning, we are providing this additional funding to ensure support is in place when our young people return to the classroom.”

In a big week for education reform in Wales, the Minister also looked ahead to Tuesday’s final Senedd stage of the Curriculum and Assessment Bill and the introduction of the first ever ‘made in Wales’ national curriculum:

“It is a significant milestone in our national mission as the Curriculum and Assessment Bill reaches its final stage before being passed into law.

“I call it a ‘national mission’ as it has involved everyone working together – teachers, parents, academics, businesses, national organisations, and my department of course – to raise standards, tackle the attainment gap and have an education system that is a source of pride to us all.

“Diolch yn fawr to everyone who has played their part in this historic journey for education in Wales.”

Responding to the Welsh Government’s announcement today that a further £72 million will go to support learners as part of the since the Covid-19 pandemic, NAHT Cymru Director Laura Doel said:

“While we welcome the money, it must be used to support high quality teaching and learning, and a long-term evidence-based strategy of wellbeing and education recovery for pupils.

“The concept of ‘catch-up’ is a quick-fix gimmick, and the Welsh Government must listen to the education profession when it comes to assessing the needs of learners and the need to fully fund a recovery and allow schools the time to assess the impact of the pandemic on learners.

“It’s critical that the money goes directly to schools – not consortia – and local leaders and their teams need the flexibility to use it to support wellbeing where that is the greatest priority for a school, as well around raising standards.

“Investment in high quality teaching through professional development and retaining good teachers underpins this long-term recovery.

“While we await to find out the details around this announcement, it would be useful for school leaders to know that a full academic year is being funded in terms of planning staffing and activity as they move forward on the long road to recovery”.