Huw Lewis, Minister for Education and Skills
Today is a very important day for me and for everyone who cares about Education in Wales. I am delighted that I will be participating in the first national Schools Challenge Cymru Event “All children can achieve’. This event will provide the first opportunity for Headteachers and Chairs of Governors from Pathways to Success Schools from across Wales to meet one another and develop a common understanding of the programme. Newly appointed Schools Challenge Cymru Advisers will also be on hand, alongside Managing Directors of Regional Education Consortia, Local Authority Directors and Welsh Government officials, as we begin the process of creating partnerships and agreeing arrangements for taking forward this important agenda.
The event is the opening sentence in an important dialogue as we consider how we work together to improve standards for all children and young people across Welsh schools. Reducing the impact of deprivation on educational attainment is critical for all schools but particularly so for our Pathway to Success schools; this is why I have chosen this important event to launch the Welsh Government’s Programme to tackle the impact of poverty on educational attainment : Rewriting the Future: raising ambition and attainment in Welsh schools.
Rewriting the Future evidences the inescapable need to address the impact of poverty on educational attainment levels. It recognises the gap in attainment between e-FSM and non e-FSM learners, and focuses on the serious underachievement of pupils from deprived backgrounds. The statistics clearly illustrate the harsh reality that attainment of learners from deprived backgrounds in Wales is far too low and progress to improve outcomes is far too slow.
Rewriting the Future sets out Welsh Government commitments and expectations around four main themes:
- Family and Community Engagement
- The Early Years
- High Quality Learning and Teaching
- High Expectations and Aspirations
A key theme running throughout the Deprivation Programme, and one that underpins Schools Challenge Cymru, is that it is not good enough to use poverty as an excuse for underachievement. High expectations should be set for all pupils, irrespective of background.
Pathways to Success schools serve learners who live in some of the most deprived areas of Wales. Collectively they are educating more than 8,000 pupils who are eligible for free school meals. That’s 8,000 pupils who, because of their background are likely to be doing less well than their counterparts.
Rewriting the Future is a call to action. It lays out what the Welsh Government is currently doing and will do to address the impact of poverty, but it also makes it clear that schools and the regional consortia have a role too, and that this is a shared objective. The document sets out commitments for the Welsh Government and what actions the consortia and schools should take to ensure that every child in Wales can achieve their full potential regardless of family background and parental income.
I hope that all schools will take up the call for action and that Pathways to Success schools will lead the way in tackling this issue. Our newly appointed Schools Challenge Cymru Advisers will be on hand to provide support and challenge as they take forward this important agenda. These high quality individuals all have a proven track record of transforming education for children and young people. Working through Regional Education Consortia, and as part of a national Schools Challenge Cymru team, the Advisers will take an active role in each school’s improvement process, providing consistent leadership support and promoting a relentless message of encouragement towards improvement.
A full list of Schools Challenge Cymru Advisers, and the Pathways to Success Schools they have been matched with, is included below.