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Research helps net £90 million for schools

Research from Bangor University showing the effectiveness of extra funding to schools has enabled the Welsh Government to increase funding levels to schools in order to tackle poverty in Wales.

The collaborative research commissioned by GWE and ERW, two school improvement services providers, provided Welsh Government with evidence on which to base its decision to increase funding to schools under the Pupil Development Grant funding by a further 90 million in 2018-19.  Educationalists, psychologists, social scientists, and legal experts who have amassed vast experiences of working with schools, pupils and children, worked together to conduct a comprehensive review of how poverty could be affecting educational achievement in Wales.

Making the funding announcement, Education Secretary Kirsty Williams said:

“Reducing the attainment gap between pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds and their peers is at the heart of our national mission to raise standards. This is one of the most effective ways in which we can break the cycle of deprivation and poverty.”

Schools and other learning centres receive the Pupil Development Grant (PDG) funding for each pupil that receives Free School Meals, or is a Looked After Child. The schools can use the funding in several ways to tackle the effects of poverty and disadvantage on attainment.

The research covering 12 local authorities and the most rural areas of Wales investigated the effectiveness of this funding in tackling poverty and rural poverty in particular. It also suggests ways children’s attainments might be improved.

“A cultural reluctance to accept free school meals in rural areas hides true poverty levels, and also deprives schools of much-needed extra funding, as funding to schools is tied to levels of free school meals,” explained the principal investigator, Gwilym Siôn ap Gruffudd of the School of Education.

The research shows a number of complex social issues that combine to impact the lives of parents that make supporting their child’s education very difficult

Dr Richard Watkins, research and evaluation lead at GwE, said:

“Poverty and rural isolation affect children and young people’s education. This research, based on information from pupils, head teachers and key local authority staff, showed that there was value to this deprivation funding and that schools were able to make effective use of this resource. We are now using the findings of this research at a planning level to form new lines of enquiry about the attainment of pupils eligible for free school meals, as well as assisting GwE officers to target funding more intelligently”.

Professor J. Carl Hughes, Director of the Collaborative Institute for Education Research, Evidence and Impact (CIEREI) at Bangor University said:

“What is so exciting about this research is that it shows that education services, schools, and teachers can have a significant impact on the learning and well-being of children who come from disadvantaged contexts, both within school and by extending out to include and support the family in the education of all of our children. The collaborative research funding from GwE and ERW is helping to show how best the PGD funding can be targeted to help all pupils reach their potential. It is fantastic that Welsh Government are committing to this approach and that they see the vital importance of impact research and evidence in guiding the use of public money to where it can be most effective.”

Professor Enlli Thomas, Head of the School of Education, Bangor University said:

“The timing of this report has been instrumental in supporting Welsh Government’s plans to tackle poverty during a time of immense education reform in Wales. Based on the findings of the report, continued financial support can help support all children to fulfil their own academic potential.”

The comprehensive research report, based on interviews with school managers, surveys with local authority officers and input from pupils, plus statistical analysis of attainment data from nearly 33,000 pupils, can now be used by the educational service consortia to inform the advice and support offered to particular schools in addressing particular issues or developing new initiatives



Publication date: 30 April 2018