I have recently called on the First Minister to commit to extending the Pupil Deprivation Grant to under-5s. This follows the announcement in the Liberal Democrat pre-manifesto for the 2015 General Election that the party will more than triple the existing Early Years Pupil Premium in England to £1000 per child.
From April 2015, the £50m Early Years Pupil Premium in England will be worth an additional £300 for every disadvantaged three- and four-year-old in nurseries.
Early years settings will have the freedom to choose how they spend the money to
best support the disadvantaged children in their care. Liberal Democrats in England want to extend this to £1000, helping to ensure that every child has got a fair start in life and is ready to learn when they start school.
In Wales a similar scheme to the Pupil Premium, created by the Welsh Liberal Democrats and known as the Pupil Deprivation Grant, is currently worth £918 for each child over the age of five eligible for free school meals.
The Welsh Liberal Democrats have been consistent in calling for more support for Wales’ poorest children. It was a manifesto commitment in 2010 and I am delighted that we have made it a reality. However, I believe we can go further.
The early years are some of the most important in our lives but sadly by the time many children start school there are already wide variations in ability. The Sutton Trust has suggested that there is a 19-month gap in school-readiness between the most and least advantaged children. If we want every child to have the very best chance in life, we need to make sure every child gets the care and attention they deserve when they are very young.
Thanks to the Liberal Democrat Pupil Premium in England, nurseries will receive extra funding to support disadvantaged children in their care. That money will help make sure every child has a fair start and is ready to learn when they start school.
The Welsh Liberal Democrats secured the Pupil Deprivation Grant for schools in Wales to give additional funding to support pupils aged 5-15, helping to break the link between poverty and low educational attainment. Last year we surveyed schools on the impact of this grant and one of the key recommendations was that the support should be extended to include pupils under the age of five.
At First Minister’s Questions today I called on the Welsh Labour Government to extend the Pupil Deprivation Grant to nursery age children, so that all children in Wales, regardless of their background, can have the best possible start to their education.
The First Minister today confirmed that he is happy to listen to plans that will help children, especially those under five and I am optimistic that the extension of the Pupil Deprivation Grant to the under-5s can soon become a reality in Wales.