Jeremy Miles MS, Minister for Education and Welsh Language
The Recruit, Recover and Raise Standards (RRRS) funding programme was launched in 2020 in response to the Covid 19 pandemic. It provides all schools and settings delivering funded nursery education with additional staffing capacity to ensure the impacts of the pandemic on the learning and well-being outcomes of children and young people could be identified early and appropriate mitigating actions put in place. This has been particularly important for our most disadvantaged and vulnerable pupils who were more adversely affected.
Since 2020 £165.5million of RRRS funding has been distributed to schools and early years settings - £59.1million in 2020-21, £68.9million in 2021-22 and £37.5million in 2022-23. In this financial year (2023-24) £37.5 million will be distributed to schools and settings delivering funded nursery education and in 2024-25 a further £28.5million will be made available.
Within the Welsh Government’s Renew and Reform Plan children in the early years (up to the age of 7) were also identified as a cohort of learners requiring extra support. Additional funding of £10m was provided through the Education Improvement Grant in 2021-22 to strengthen the delivery of early education, particularly to ensure children’s emotional, physical and learning needs are met. A further £3m was provided to wider childcare settings, including childminders, that do not provide nursery education but are expected (as outlined in the National Minimum Standards) to understand and apply the pedagogical principles of early education in their provision.
In October 2021, Miller Research UK were appointed to undertake an in-depth evaluation of the RRRS and Early Years programmes. The evaluation explored how schools and early years settings have used their funding, the impact the funding has had, and continues to have, on children and young people and the approaches s that are proving to be the most effective and sustainable.
I welcome the publication on 3 May 2023 of Miller Research UK’s report ‘Evaluation of Recruit, Recover, and Raise Standards & Early Years Programmes’. The findings of the report are extremely positive and the report concludes that the funding programmes has been critically important in addressing the impacts of the pandemic, by trusting our headteachers across Wales to make the funding decisions that are the best for their children and young people.
A recent IFS report found that Wales had the highest level of Covid recovery school funding – more than double than that spent per pupil in England and in Scotland. The Miller Research report now indicates that this money was well spent and is expected to have a lasting impact on our pupils and how our schools and settings operate.
It is estimated that 2,452 full time equivalent (FTE) additional staff have been appointed through the RRRS programme. Of this increased capacity, 62.2 percent are support staff and 29.9 per cent are teachers. On average each school has gained 1.05 FTE support staff member, and a 0.5 FTE teacher. This exceeds our Programme for Government target of providing 1,800 FTE additional staff to schools through Covid recovery funding.
The report reinforces the need to provide ongoing, additional financial support to schools and early years settings as the impacts of the pandemic continue to be felt, particularly in relation to children and young people’s well-being outcomes. The recommendations have already informed revisions to the RRRS funding formula for the 2023-24 financial year in relation to rural schools and small schools to enable them to better meet the specific needs of their children and young people and fulfil the requirements of the RRRS terms and conditions more effectively.
The report highlights the important role funding has played in addressing speech, language and communication and well-being to support development in the early years. It also recognised the benefits of adopting holistic, child centred strategies for our younger learners.
I welcome the recommendations within the evaluation report which will be taken forward collaboratively by Welsh Government in partnership with key stakeholders. I would like to thank Miller Research UK and all those who participated in the evaluation. The recommendations will ensure that we are able to continue to provide the best support to our children and young people as they continue to recover from the ongoing impacts of the Covid 19 pandemic.