An Assembly committee has criticised a Welsh Government decision to cut funding for gypsy and ethnic minority learners.
In a letter from the Chair of the Children, Young People and Education Committee, the Education Secretary – Kirsty Williams – is warned about the impact of the removal of the Education Improvement Grant (EIG).
Research shows that Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children have the lowest attainment rates of any ethnic group in Wales. The EIG is designed to support their learning and raise attainment.
Under plans announced by Welsh Government in draft budget, the money ring-fenced for EIG will be removed in 2018/19 (accounting for some £13m) and made available to local authorities through the Revenue Support Grant (RSG) – a funding stream which accounts for 80% of all local authority spending.
The removal of the EIG could be worth some £22m to local authorities over two years.
The letter expresses disappointment with the Welsh Government’s decision – stressing that it “goes against the direction of travel set out” in the Cabinet Secretary’s response to the inquiry.
It warns of “considerable concern” that cuts to the EIG could lead to councils significantly scaling back learning support for gypsy/traveller and ethnic minority pupils – or discontinuing them altogether.
Commenting on the letter, Shadow Education Secretary – Darren Millar AM – said:
“This is powerful evidence that the Cabinet Secretary’s cuts are putting Wales’ lowest achievers at an even bigger disadvantage.
“Despite strong representations from Local Authorities, Assembly Members and teachers, the plug has been pulled on vital funding designed to bridge the attainment gap for these kids.
“It’s simply not good enough.
“Gypsy/Traveller and ethnic minority learners can be found in local authorities across Wales, so it is baffling as to why Kirsty Williams has deemed it acceptable to make up for her cuts by extending financial support to just three Labour-led local authorities in South Wales.
“These cuts must be reversed and local authorities the length and breadth of Wales must all be reimbursed for the money they’ve lost so that services can continue to support the educational needs of our pupils.”