Will the Welsh Government provide an update on its response to the substantial learning losses that children and and young people have suffered as a result of the pandemic?
I recognise the impact the pandemic has had, and continues to have, on learners. It has affected learners in different ways – their educational progression and their physical and mental health and well-being in particular. This range of experiences means we must enable schools and teachers to support their learners to develop along their own learning pathway, as they return to face-to-face learning.
On 8 March I announced an additional £72 million to support schools and learners as they continue to return to face-to-face learning. That includes funding to Recruit, Recover and Raise Standards into the autumn, additional support for trainee teachers, and targeted support for schools, early years learners, disadvantaged learners and those in years 11, 12 and 13 to support transition to their next steps. This brings funding in Wales to over £239 per pupil, the highest in the UK.
I also recognise that our most disadvantaged learners are feeling the impact of COVID-19 most acutely. I am pleased to confirm that there will a significant uplift in funding for the Pupil Development Grant for this coming financial year, taking funding for 2021-22 to over £110 million. This will ensure even more learners are supported to achieve their best as they re-adjust to school life.
We will also continue to provide increased support for PDG-Access, with a total of over £10m funding next year. This additional funding will allow us to support more families affected by the pandemic and extend to further year groups.
We will continue to work with partners to develop an appropriate and effective package of measures to support our learners into the next phase, and set this out in our Learning Forward 2021 Plan. At this stage, all discussions are possible and there is no option off the table to support our learners. We are engaging widely to co-produce our approach, holding discussions through the course March with a view to collating proposals in April. After May’s elections, it will be for the new government to take a decision on next steps.