Foundation Phase target 'needs to be revised' says minister

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Education Minister Huw Lewis has acknowledged that the Welsh Government's target on narrowing the attainment gap between pupils eligible for free school meals and non-free school meal pupils at the end of the Foundation Phase is not ambitious enough.

He was giving evidence to the Children, Young People and Education Committee on 6 February on educational outcomes for children from low income households.

The Liberal Democrat Aled Roberts pointed out that according to the Welsh Government's own statistics, in 2012 the percentage of pupils eligible for free school meals who achieved the Foundation Phase Indicator was 66.2%, compared with 84.5% for non-free school meals pupils, a gap in attainment of 18.3 per cent.

Mr Roberts said, "You're only targeting that the gap will be reduced by 1.83% in six years... Is that target ambitious enough given all the money that is going in to the Foundation Phase from the Welsh Government?"

Mr Lewis responded, "No, I don't believe it is. I think that target needs to be revised. The target represents 10% of the gap. that's why it's an odd figure, 1.83%. In the very nature of good targets I think we need a new one that stretches us beyond our comfort zone".

The government's Tackling Poverty Action Plan sets the target "to narrow the gap in attainment levels between learners aged 7 eligible for free school meals and those that are not eligible for free school meals, who achieve the expected levels at the end of the Foundation Phase, as measured by the Foundation Phase Indicator, by 10 per cent by 2017. The difference between e-FSM and non-FSM attainment in 2012 was 18.3 per cent".

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