Kirsty Williams, Cabinet Secretary for Education
Reducing the attainment gap between pupils from poorer backgrounds and their peers is at the heart of our national mission to raise standards.
Today we have published the third year evaluation report by Ipsos Mori and WISERD on the Pupil Development Grant which was known as the Pupil Deprivation Grant (PDG), when the evaluation was undertaken. The report examines how schools are spending the PDG, and teacher’s perceptions of the impact the grant is having.
The findings of the report are very positive and show that we are making further progress in identifying and addressing the needs of disadvantaged learners.
The report notes that there have been a number of positive and promising effects over time. The PDG funding is considered to be hugely valuable by schools and in many of the schools it was considered ‘invaluable’. Many schools have also acknowledged that the PDG has over time helped them to focus and raise the profile of tackling disadvantage across the school changing attitudes and culture.
We know that tracking of learners who qualify for free school meals has improved since the introduction of the PDG. Evidence from case study schools showed that they now use sophisticated tracking systems alongside their own knowledge of learners’ circumstances to identify which learners they considered disadvantaged and in need of targeted additional support. The introduction of tracking systems was a key finding from previous evaluation reports and I welcome that schools are developing these systems as part of a ‘business as usual’ embedded approach to tackle deprivation.
We recognise that quantifiable evidence of impact is a long term goal that will need time to emerge, but it is encouraging that “substantial improvements in softer outcomes” have been noted, such as:
- Pupil well-being
- Confidence and self-esteem
- Increased willingness to participate in classroom activities
This report is strong evidence of a continuing change to the culture in schools, where the individual needs of learners are placed at the heart of planning, and all pupils are given the support they need to achieve their full potential.
There is of course still much to be done and the report usefully directs us to the areas where we need continued focus. Working with our Raising Attainment Advocate – Sir Alasdair MacDonald – we have already started working on strengthening arrangements in these areas to enable even greater progress in overcoming the barriers presented by disadvantage.
This report is further evidence that the PDG is playing a key role in supporting pupils to reach their full potential. That is why, as outlined in the Progressive Agreement reached between myself and the First Minister, we have recently doubled the PDG funding for our youngest learners.
To ensure schools can plan and make full use of the funding, we have also signaled the government’s commitment to the PDG for the lifetime of this Assembly.
We should all applaud schools and settings for the clear progress they are making. We can be proud that the attainment gap has narrowed over recent years. Yet there can be no room for complacency; the link between poverty and attainment has dogged our education system for far too long.
Together, we will continue to explore innovative and effective ways in which we can support schools – and the wider community – to ensure that all learners are given the best possible chance in achieving their full potential.