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‘Leanne Wood is mistaken to say there is no clear strategy for the Pupil Deprivation Grant’ – Aled Roberts

2012 Mehefin 12 4:10 PM

Aled Roberts, Shadow Minister for Education, has hit out at the leader of Plaid Cymru's recent criticisms in local media outlets of the Pupil Deprivation Grant.

The Pupil Deprivation Grant, which the Welsh Liberal Democrats secured from the Labour Government, provides additional funding for more disadvantaged pupils to ensure they benefit from the same opportunities as pupils from richer families

Aled Roberts AM commented:

"I was disappointed to see that Leanne Wood was questioning the value of the Pupil Deprivation Grant. This grant includes an extra £20million for Welsh schools, helping to close the funding gap between England and Wales. The money is specifically targeted at those children who need it the most and whose educational attainment is falling short of their peers.

"Ms Wood is mistaken when she says that 'there is no clear strategy' for the grant. We have made sure that there are comprehensive guidelines which will help schools invest in programmes that will boost the achievements of children from difficult backgrounds. We shall need to ensure that the grant is effectively monitored, which is why we introduced at the Assembly an amendment that Plaid Cymru voted for only this month. As for stating that she doesn't know how long this money will be there for - a quick look at the Welsh budget will show that it is financed in each of the three years that the Government has so far planned for. It will be a matter for future budget negotiations to ensure that forward planning is translated into reality as far as education spending is concerned.

"It is quite frankly bizarre for Ms Wood to suggest that while free school meals reduce poverty, the improvement of education for our poorest children does not. It is clearly established that there is a direct correlation between poverty and attainment, which is why the Welsh Liberal Democrats insisted on increased funding to break this link that has dogged our education system for so long.

"The school spending gap between England and Wales grew when Plaid Cymru was in government, meanwhile educational standards declined. It seems Ms Wood now wants to take the money away from schools that is helping to reverse both those trends. Fortunately, the Welsh Liberal Democrats are committed to working constructively to improve standards for every child in Welsh schools, rich or poor. As education expert Professor David Egan said, the grant is a 'terribly useful' investment for Wales' schools. Does Ms Wood believe the Government shouldn't spend extra money on our poorest pupils?

"We shall build on the work of the Sutton Trust and Joseph Rowntree Fund in measuring the effectiveness of strategies funded by schools from the Pupil Deprivation Grant."