Plaid calls for “plan of action” to help children falling through net

“Damning” new research from the University College London which has revealed incredibly low engagement figures between Welsh pupils and their schools is “incredibly disappointing” according to Plaid Cymru.

The research shows that only 2% of children in Wales receive four or more daily on-line lessons (the lowest figure in the UK), compared to 12.5% in London and 7% as a UK average. When it came to offline work, the figures showed that only 14.6% of Welsh children received 4 or more offline lessons a day (the second lowest figure in the UK), compared to 25.2% of children in Northern Ireland and 27.7% in South East England.

Wales’ figures fared badly particularly in comparison to South East England and Northern Ireland.

Plaid Cymru Shadow Education Minister Siân Gwenllian MS said the research had highlighted how “ineffective” home schooling measures had been and that the attainment gap between those from the most advantaged backgrounds and most disadvantaged backgrounds was widening.

Ms Gwenllian noted that although this is one survey with a limited sample, the research illustrates a very concerning picture of education is Wales during lockdown – one which is reinforced by anecdotal evidence.

She went on to say that the Welsh Government needs to “act fast” to mitigate the effects by collecting further data to ascertain the full scale of the problem and to plan “suitable interventions”. She said that collecting this data is crucial to establishing a full and reliable representation of education in Wales during this time, and was stunned that this sort of data hadn’t already been collected in order to set effective targets.

The Shadow Education Minister added that thorough research should be carried out by the Welsh Government looking into digital connectivity, contact between pupils and their schools, and the time pupils spend learning from home. Ms Gwenllian said that this data should inform bespoke interventions, both short term and long term alongside targeted support for the “most deprived communities” to tackle the issues the UCL research had exposed.

Siân Gwenllian MS, Shadow Minister for Education, Culture and the Welsh Language said,

“The results of this research paints an incredibly disappointing picture and has highlighted how ineffective home schooling measures have been on the whole. Thousands of children are being left behind and the attainment gap between those from the most advantaged backgrounds and those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds has only widened.

“The First Minister admitted himself last week that for many children there had been no contact with their school and their experience of remote learning “may have been mixed.” If he knows the full extent of the problem – why doesn’t he act, rather than brush the problem under the carpet?

“Scotland has invested far more in ensuring pupils have access to digital equipment compared to Wales and recently committed an extra £30 million on top of what they’ve already invested - compared to the £3 million set aside in Wales. The priorities of the Welsh Government’s connectivity program should be looked at urgently to ensure digital connectivity is not a barrier for disadvantaged children and their education.

“We urgently need more data, more research and more transparency. It beggars belief that the Welsh Government isn’t already collecting data and setting targets. We need to know how many pupils don't have a personal laptop or proper internet access. We need to know how many pupils are logging on to their education - and how many have no contact at all. Proper data on these aspects is a matter of priority so that a robust plan of action can be put in place by the Welsh Government.”