Speaking at a conference in Aberystwyth Univeristy today, Mr Andrews said that poverty had been a persistent problem in Wales and that the Welsh Government was determined to deal with it.
“Our Tackling Poverty Action Plan 2012-2016, launched on Monday, set out three key objectives prevent poverty, help people to improve their skills to secure employment and mitigate the impact of poverty,” he said.
“Evidence shows that family characteristics and the home environment of children who experience deprivation have a strong and persistent effect on their life chances, through their influence on children’s opportunities for learning. There is no doubt that our education system has a unique role in helping our poorest children.”
Mr Andrews explained that many of the Welsh Government’s education policy, underpinned by research findings, were helping to deal with poverty and inequality.
He said he had introduced a 20 point action to end the variation within and between schools and to raise school performance so that everyone gets the best possible education experience.
“Effective schools can break the link between attainment and poverty,” he told the conference.
“I have already made clear my three priorities for education: improved literacy levels, improved numeracy levels and breaking the link between educational attainment and poverty. We will break that link through improving standards.”
The Minister added:
“We are also investing in the early years to give children the best possible start in life. We have made an extra investment in early years, supporting young children and families through Flying Start, doubling the reach of the programme. It is also why we have invested so heavily in the Foundation Phase.”
Mr Andrews said the Welsh Government was also working to raise standards of literacy and numeracy during primary school so that everyone is on a level playing field when they start their secondary education.
“It is not acceptable that so many pupils are leaving primary schools with low levels of literacy,” he explained.
“To address these shortcomings, we published the National Literacy Programme and began consultation on the National Literacy and Numeracy Frameworks and the National Reading and Numeracy tests.”
He said that standards of teaching were crucial and through the introduction of the Master’s in educational practice, they are elevating the status of the profession.
Finally, Mr Andrews said the Welsh Government was also using financial levers at their disposal to address inequalities due to deprivation.
“A key development has been the introduction of the Pupil Deprivation Grant. Some £32.4 million is being made available this year, all of which is being provided directly to schools for work to narrow the attainment gap.
“We must continue to tackle poverty by raising aspirations, improving standards in education and increasing skill levels if we are to ensure that our young people have the best possible opportunities in life.”
The Minister was speaking at ‘A Child's World - Working Together for a Better Future’ a three-day international conference aimed at improving working amongst professionals in child education, training, social work, voluntary work, government and academia will be held at Aberystwyth University on 27th - 29th June.
Organised by Aberystwyth University, the conference includes contributions by experts from around the world. Countries represented include England, Australia, Canada, South Africa, Belarus, The Netherlands, Finland, China, Sweden, Ireland, Azerbaijan, Portugal, New Zealand, Greece, Scotland and Wales