IN a keynote speech to the Bevan Foundation later today (16 June), Jeremy Miles, the Education Minister will outline measures to tackle the impact of poverty on educational attainment and set high standards for all.

Some of the actions outlined will include:

exploring ways to incentivise teachers to the most disadvantaged areas, to tackle issues many schools face in recruiting and retraining teachers in challenging areas. The aim will be to pilot different approaches initially;

introducing a programme to provide peer-to-peer support for senior leaders working in the most disadvantaged areas. As part of this programme, they would receive mentoring from colleagues who have worked in similar areas and can offer practical guidance and support; and

commissioning research into the teaching of learners in “mixed attainment groups”. International evidence indicates that many of the countries that have the most equitable systems are those that adopt mixed attainment groupings for as long as possible. This will result in national guidance for all schools.

The speech will set out a series of measures as part of a whole-system approach, supporting early childhood education and care, primary and secondary education and all forms of post-16 education, training and lifelong learning.

These will be underpinned by a focus on our schools engaging effectively with their communities, providing the highest quality teaching and leadership, and a focus on health and wellbeing.

This whole-system approach will work with the new Curriculum for Wales and ensure that all learners from pre-school right through to post-16 and lifelong learning are supported throughout their education journey.

Jeremy Miles said:

“Above all else, it is our national mission to achieve high standards and aspirations for all by tackling the impact that poverty has on attainment and to create a truly equitable education system in Wales.

We know that the disruption caused by the pandemic has exacerbated the gap between learners from low-income backgrounds and their peers. Now, more than ever, is the time for us to take radical and sustained action and create an education system that is equitable for all our children and young people.

As we move towards the realisation of our new Curriculum for Wales, we need to make sure that all our learners are supported to achieve their full potential, and that’s why I’m setting out the measures we will take to address this as an absolute priority.”

The plans will also see the Welsh Government working more closely with the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), a respected charity which works to close the disadvantage gap. The two organisations will form a ‘strategic partnership’, with Welsh Government drawing on the EEF’s expertise and experience within the education sector. Plans include working with the EEF to provide professional learning and advice to teachers on evidence-based ways to raise the attainment of learners from low-income backgrounds, and to support their wellbeing.

By Gwynoro Jones

Former MP for Carmarthenshire, Gwynoro Jones joined the team covering politics in Wales. He has a wealth of experience in politics and has been a regular commentator on radio, TV and in newspapers in Wales. Email: gwynorojones@walesnewsonline.com

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