Not enough cash to fund the basics

11th July 2008 at 01:00
It is a shame that the well-intentioned RAISE funding appears to have been used for purposes other than directly attacking pupil poverty (see page 1)
It is a shame that the well-intentioned RAISE funding appears to have been used for purposes other than directly attacking pupil poverty (see page 1). But it is scandalous that almost 30,000 pupils entitled to free school meals (FSM) in Wales are missing out on any extra cash at all.

Eighteen months after RAISE was controversially given to schools with 20 per cent FSM entitlement or more, Estyn is lamenting its apparent misuse. But the inspectorate is also attacking the "negative impact" of excluding thousands of needy pupils in schools that were not eligible.

When RAISE was announced, some heads at schools with high levels of deprivation were rightly fuming because they missed out by a mere 0.1 of a percentage point in the FSM statistics.

The RAISE project was made possible after the then chancellor Gordon Brown announced more cash for schools in April 2006. Mr Brown passed on the money to the Assembly government for education, and pound;32 million over two years was sent on to 562 needy Welsh schools under the project. But if schools in Wales were getting the money they should be to begin with, surely RAISE funding would be spent more appropriately.

Who can blame them for using the cash on resources and staff when they are struggling? Poverty is playing a huge part in our flagging attainment levels. One in four children lives in deprivation in Wales.

An Assembly committee is currently trying to come up with solutions. Teacher unions have already told the politicians that there is no easy answer.

There are schools tackling pupil poverty with good projects. Porth County Community School is a good example of one that is trying its best to help pupils to break out of the poverty trap.

But the simple fact is that much more cash - way beyond that being offered by RAISE - is needed to make a real impact on childhood poverty and academic achievement. Until then, schools will keep trying to make ends meet with whatever is available.

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