To reduce inequalities in educational attainment between children

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1 END CHILD POVERTY NETWORK CYMRU RHWYDWAITH DILEU TLODI PLANT CYMRU The End Child Poverty Network Cymru is co-ordinated by The role of education in eradicating child poverty in Wales Introduction Although levels of child poverty in Wales had fallen over the last decade, the number of children living in poverty is now on the rise again, with independent analysis predicting this upward trend is likely to continue at least in the short to medium term. 33 per cent of children in Wales are living in households in relative income poverty which is higher than the other nations of the UK. This is around 200,000 children, over half of who live in working families. The Welsh Government has reaffirmed their commitment to eradicate child poverty by 2020 and this target has been enshrined in law by the UK Government. Policy Context The Children and Families (Wales) Measure 2010 makes statutory provision to take forward the Welsh Government s commitment to tackle child poverty and placed a duty on Welsh Ministers to develop a new child poverty strategy. Part 1 of the Measure provides the framework within which public bodies will be expected to demonstrate their commitment through the publication of child poverty strategies. The Measure is underpinned by 13 Broad Aims which, include To reduce inequalities in educational attainment between children The Child Poverty Strategy for Wales 2011 identifies three Strategic Objectives which cut across all of the Broad Aims, the third of which is to Reduce the inequalities that exist in the health, education and economic outcomes for children living in poverty, by improving the outcomes of the poorest. 1

2 The School Effectiveness Framework 2008 (SEF) identified 3 priorities, the third of which is to reduce the impact of poverty on educational achievement This positions schools as drivers for change in reducing inequality, recognising social disadvantage as the single biggest obstacle to achievement in education. As well as improving literacy and numeracy, the implementation of the third priority of the SEF, alongside delivering on the core components of the Learning and Skills (Wales) Measure should have the potential to improve the educational experience and outcomes for many of our poorest children. The Welsh Government is also working across every aspect of education to refocus on higher standards, by requiring a new approach to accountability, strong leadership, clearer expectations and monitoring progress at every level i. The revised Communities First Programme and new Communities First Fund, which supports the most disadvantaged people in our most deprived areas with the aim of contributing to alleviating persistent poverty has three strategic priorities, the second of which Learning Communities which aims to contribute, alongside other programmes, to narrowing the education/skills gaps between our most deprived and more affluent areas. The Families First programme also promotes effective multi agency systems and support with an emphasis on prevention and early intervention, particularly those living in poverty. The Pupil Deprivation Grant, together with the School Effectiveness Grant and additional resources for lower banded schools, provides opportunities for schools to invest in effective approaches for tackling the impact of poverty on children and which will contribute to raising attainment levels amongst our country s poorest pupils. The Welsh Government s Tackling Poverty Action Plan outlines a commitment to narrow the attainment gap and break the link between socio-economic disadvantage and education under achievement. Chapters 3 and 9 of the Programme for Government 2011, together with the developing School Standards and Organisation (Wales) Bill, also demonstrate the national commitment to work towards breaking the link between poverty and low attainment. Members of the End Child Poverty Network Cymru recognise and support this commitment. Priority Calls (Education) The End Child Poverty Network Cymru have set out a number of calls in relation to Education and Child Poverty in the Child Poverty: A Programme Towards Eradication (2012) 1 which are listed below: 1 2

3 Inclusive education The Welsh Government should ensure that all children in Wales have the opportunity to realise their potential through education. This must include sustained action to break the unacceptable link between poverty and low attainment. The development of a wider set of outcomes than academic achievement should be developed to ensure that children are given the right support at the right time during their school experience. In accordance with Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Welsh Government should establish mechanisms to allow pupils to be involved in making decisions, planning and reviewing actions that affect them. The best possible start for all children Flying Start and the Foundation Phase are key policies that are giving children a better start to their education. In our view, given the importance of the early home learning environment to children s prospects, there is a strong case for doing more on early interventions and family support. To narrow the gap all low-income parents should have access to proven programmes that help them support their child s early learning and development. Whilst the recent expansion of the Flying Start programme is very welcome in this regard, it doesn t provide the necessary universal access for all low income families across all parts of Wales. Education Funding The Welsh Government s commitment to increase education funding 1% above the block grant received from the UK government year on year is welcome. We also welcome Schools Effectiveness Grant (SEG), the Community First funding as well as the establishment of the new Pupil Deprivation Grant, which creates focused funding to improve the achievement of disadvantaged students. The Welsh Government should establish a clear system to monitor and regularly report on the effective use of new funding that has been made available. This should monitor the educational attainment of all individual pupils and provide guidance on appropriate interventions that can help to address any identified issues linked to performance. This sharper focus on the poorest pupils would reinforce the urgent need to tackle the injustice of this attainment gap. Breaking the cycle between low educational achievement and poverty in adulthood should continue to be a Government priority thought this Assembly term. This includes looked after children who typically fare even worse in relation to academic achievement. Addressing educational outcomes and narrowing the poverty gap The Welsh Government should invest in programmes, which seek to address the poor educational outcomes of children from disadvantaged homes. Low income in a family is a strong predictor of poor educational achievement; at every stage of schooling children living in poverty do worse and make less progress than their better off classmates. It is therefore welcome that the Welsh Government has made reducing the impact of poverty on educational achievement one of three national priorities for schools in Wales, and we welcome that significant grant funding (particularly the Pupil Deprivation Grant) that has been introduced to support this. 3

4 The Welsh Government should provide clear guidance for schools and local authorities and ensure that they are supported to share knowledge of what works. Crucially, it is how additional resources for schools are spent which is key if we are to witness real progress in narrowing the gap and improving educational outcomes. Further research should be undertaken to ensure that all future policy/programmes are based on firm evidence of what works so as to ensure that resources are channelled into the most appropriate and effective interventions. Schools and local authorities also need to be supported to ensure that they have strategic plans in place and leadership structures that enable real progress to be made in this area. Finally, the Welsh Government should ensure training on the effects of income poverty on children in school, for head teachers, teachers and school based staff. The End Child Poverty Network Cymru have produced a guide for schools - Tackling Child Poverty in Wales: A Good Practice Guide for Schools 2 - which aims to increase awareness of poverty, parental engagement and what schools can do to promote achievement and well-being amongst children who are living in poverty. In partnership with SWAMWAC and the Child Poverty Solutions Project, this Guide complete with an on-line Self Assessment tool is being piloted in a number of schools. The guide also complements recent publications by the school s inspectorate Estyn. Improving the school experience The Welsh Government should ensure that the education system recognises the importance of supporting and addressing the social, emotional needs of the most vulnerable children. Whilst attainment levels and qualifications are important for future life chances, children and young people should experience other benefits from participating in school. Addressing the additional costs of education All financial barriers to education should be removed. The Welsh Government must ensure that schools and local authorities support children living in poverty by eliminating the costs associated with education in line with the new duty placed upon them in the Children and Families (Wales) Measure. To do this, the Welsh Government should ensure that all schools adhere to equal opportunities principles and ensure that no additional costs are made for activities and essential items required for school, such as costly school uniform policies and expensive school trips. Funding allocated under the Welsh Government s School Uniform Grant should continue and the level allocated should be assessed in line with growing pressures on family budgets. Schools for the community The Welsh Government should seriously consider the potential for holistic and mutually reinforcing approaches that unite schools, parents and communities to foster solutions for reducing the poverty gap in education. The national priority to reduce the poverty gap; the extension of Flying Start, the introduction of Families First and the further development of Communities First provide a unique opportunity to develop such a holistic approach within the Welsh Government s Tackling Poverty Action Plan. There is also an opportunity for the Welsh Government to build on the progress made through the Community Focused Schools 2 4

5 programme to seek to ensure that all schools provide a range of afterschool activities for children and families which do not exclude low-income families due to their cost. The Welsh Government should provide comprehensive guidance to make it clear what community focused schools should offer, helping to clarify their role in tackling the link between disadvantage and achievement and as part of a holistic approach. The role of Community Focused Schools should be incorporated into local child poverty strategies and included in local Partnership Plans. Parental engagement and Life-long learning As well as measures that can be taken by schools, we know from a growing body of independent research that 85% of a child s success at school depends on the type of support and stimulation that their parents provide for learning in the home. Supporting parents to ensure that their children do not fall behind can make a real difference in breaking the poverty cycle and helping children to develop to their full potential. The Welsh Government should continue to work with local and third sector partners to ensure that holistic approaches and initiatives are put in place that encourage and foster parental engagement in children s learning. The Welsh Government should engage with evidencebased programmes and activities that are already supporting children in Wales most deprived areas. Opportunities for parents to be re-engaged in education, through schools and colleges should also be supported. Recent considerations As we move forward and the Tackling Poverty Action Plan in refreshed in June 2013, we would hope that our calls outlined above are given due consideration in relation to the educational elements to be included in the revised plan. Finally, a couple of additional points for consideration Free School Breakfasts (FSB) Building in the evidence from independent research, how can we truly ensure that all children, including in the context of our paper, those children in low income families, can both access FSB and do take up FSB? In our response to the School Standards Bill consultation, we raised the need to explore this further and the need to look at different and creative ways of ensuing that children access this universal provision. Free School Meals the figures for the number of children eligible for FSM have raised passed concerns given that not all children from low income families meet the existing criteria. Take up levels in many areas have also been the subject of much discussion. There will be changes under Universal Credit but as yet, it is unclear what the new eligibility criteria will be or how the new service will operate. [The above points have been collated from a number of ECPN Cymru sources, including Child Poverty: A Programme Towards Eradication, Good Practice Guide for Schools, Cost of 5

6 Education briefing papers and the ECPN Cymru responses to key to consultation documents]. The End Child Poverty Network Cymru (ECPN) is a coalition of concern focused on the eradication of child poverty in Wales, co-ordinated and managed on a day-to-day basis by Children in Wales. Its steering group include representation from across the voluntary and statutory sectors and the Network has an increasing supporting membership from a broad cross-section of agencies. Steering Group members include Barnardo s Cymru, Children in Wales, Save the Children Wales, NEA Wales, Action for Children, NSPCC Cymru, WLGA (observers), Citizens Advice, Oxfam Cymru, Public Health Wales, Shelter Cymru, the Frank Buttle Trust, Fairbridge Cymru-Princes Trust, Consumer Focus Wales, TUC Wales (Observers) and the Office of the Children s Commissioner for Wales (observers). Operational since 2001, the ECPN is supporting the Governments vision that no child in Wales should be living in poverty by 2020, and is working to achieve this by Increased public and professional understanding of child poverty in Wales Public and professional support for measures to tackle child poverty Ensure that policies are in place at all levels of Government (local, Assembly and Westminster), which contribute to eradicating child poverty in Wales. 6

7 i Teaching makes a difference - Leighton Andrews, 2 February zdkvnbbks4nzhxyztjswvtrtvpnjtx1sgvt6bxgbkc2pyqq7zv1b! ?lang=en 7

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