Plans for 'wrap-around' childcare
Schools in disadvantaged areas could soon be expected to offer extra services such as childcare to their local communities as part of a major plan to tackle child poverty.
The Assembly government's new Child Poverty Strategy for Wales says more must be done to expand the "important" role of community-focused schools.
The plan, currently out to consultation, says community-focused schools improve the learning and well-being of the most disadvantaged pupils and allow low-income families to benefit from extra services.
It says such schools should be helped to build on their existing provision and consider what extra services they can offer, particularly "wrap- around" childcare.
There will also be an increased emphasis on integrating other public services, such as adult education, libraries, health and social services within schools as part of the recently launched 21st Century Schools capital investment programme.
Similar work in disadvantaged and rural areas will also be promoted through the School Effectiveness Framework, which is set to be rolled out across Wales from September.
Reducing educational inequalities is a central theme of the new strategy, which has been drawn up to help Wales meet the ambitious UK-wide target of ending child poverty by 2020.
Speaking at Wales's first ever Child Poverty Conference in Cardiff last week, Huw Lewis, deputy minister for children, said the continued existence of child poverty in a modern country such as Wales was "unacceptable" and that tackling the problem was a "shared responsibility".
"No one body has been able to deal with child poverty, and that includes government," he said.
"It's a problem for the country as a whole. Our ability to succeed economically, socially, educationally and morally is at risk. We must redouble our efforts over the coming decade to meet the historic 2020 commitment."
The strategy says every child should have access to a comprehensive range of education and training opportunities to prevent them falling into poverty.
Pam Boyd, executive director of the educational charity ContinYou Cymru, welcomed the strategy, but warned that it must come with proper funding.
"We need to make clever use of our existing resources, but I want to ensure that extra money is set aside for community-focused schools.
"We know funding will be tight for everyone in the coming years and there is the risk that more children will be left disadvantaged and fall into poverty."
Recent statistics from the Department for Work and Pensions showed that the number of children living in poverty in Wales remained at 200,000 for the second year running. However, according to figures released in April, the Assembly government is making good progress with its six educational indicators.
Five of the indicators, which relate to achievement, have shown an improvement in recent years, but one, relating to the number of young people not in education, employment or training, has remained the same.
Mr Lewis revealed that three areas of Wales would soon be earmarked as pilot schemes where "living, breathing" examples of the new strategy would be created.
The conference, organised by the Welsh Local Government Association and the charities Save the Children and Children in Wales, brought together a number of organisations from across Wales to give their views on the strategy.
Original paper headline: Bid to beat child poverty by 2020 sets out plans for `wrap-around' childcare