Draft budget to help vulnerable children

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The most vulnerable children in Wales will be helped by a draft budget that protects funding for schools and skills, Education Minister Leighton Andrews has announced.

The minister says some spending has been 're-prioritised' to pay for the Scandinavian-inspired foundation phase which teaches three to seven-year-olds through play.

His department's revenue will take a cash cut of £21 million, or 1.3%, next year. After inflation it will shrink 5.9% over three years - the smallest reduction of any portfolio.

Higher education will get a reduction over the next three years of £51 million, some 11.8%. But commitments on the University of the Heads of the Valleys project and on providing more courses through the Welsh language will remain priorities.

Wales's biggest teaching union said the budget had "made the best of a bad job’’ after cuts imposed in Westminster by last month's comprehensive spending review.

Further education will be cut by £6.5 million next year.

Capital funding for the department will reduce by £10 million next year, and by £12 million and £17.5 million in the following two years.

Free breakfasts for primary school pupils - a policy criticised by the Conservatives - will stay.

Priority areas which have been protected in the budget include:

  • The continuing roll out of the pioneering Foundation Phase for 3 to 7 year olds will be supported through additional funding over three years from 2011 – 12
  • Flying Start – the early years programme and Cymorth will receive indicative funding increases from 2012 – 13.
  • The government’s commitment to the health and wellbeing of school pupils continues. This includes provision of free primary school breakfasts and future year increases to funding for school based counselling.
  • Increased opportunities and choice for young people provided by the 14-19 Learning Pathways is being maintained, as is support for those with additional learning needs with an additional £6.5m per year for post 16 SEN. 
  • Additional funding of £1m will be made available in 2011-12 to enhance school staff Continuing Professional Development (CPD), targeted to improve basic literacy skills through effective teaching. 
  • The commitment to increase apprenticeship opportunities will continue through the Pathways to Apprenticeship programme with a special focus on youth engagement and employment and tackling long term unemployment. Indicative skills budgets will increase over the two years 2012-13 and 2013-14 by some £14m, (2.3%).