RCT 's Labour Cabinet will today meet to discuss, amongst other things, a report on educational attainment at Foundation Phase and through the Key stages 1 to 4.
It shows RCT still behind the Welsh average across the board, but with the current proposed cuts in Nursery education from full to part time attracting massive opposition it is the outcomes of the Foundation Phase that will be of interest to many parents.
With RCT ranking 19 out of 22 local Authorities overall and 21st with regard to 'Personal and social development, well-being and cultural diversity' it is difficult to see just how taking away full time education for under 5s can be justified.
A report went to Cabinet on 21st October which was approved, kicking off a consultation period on a range of cuts including day centres, meals on meals, libraries and youth provision. It contained the statement :
"There does not appear to be any evidence to show that our current arrangements are having a positive impact upon attainment levels."
How can they be so sure, however, that they are not? Just how much further off the mark would RCT be if children were not afforded the opportunity of full time education at the age of 3 as has been customary in the area for many, many years?
Surely the Authority should be doing everything in its power to help raise levels of achievement, not just to meet some arbitrary target, but for the good of our children and their future prospects?
Director of Education Chris Bradshaw in the report to Cabinet today tries to excuse the low attainment levels by stating:
"it is important to contextualise the data to take into account the socio-economic factors across the 22 Welsh local authorities. Whilst poverty and deprivation are not excuses for educational underperformance, they are factors that influence educational outcomes. In comparing the position of Rhondda Cynon Taf with the other local authorities, in terms of pupils eligible for free school meals, Rhondda Cynon Taf has the second highest level. Therefore, if the indicators are compared based on free school meals, you would "expect" Rhondda Cynon Taf to be 21st in the comparative indicators."
This Mr Bradshaw is exactly why the current system needs to be kept and improved upon. We are in an area that has patches of extreme social deprivation where there has been generations of under achievement in some cases. Where a substantial number of parents do not have the skills to help their children to achieve and send them to school hoping for something better for them. Where there are a significant proportion of children staring school with no social skills, who are unable to speak properly, and who do not know basics such as colours.
When looking at cutbacks the Council should first consider what is nice, before what is necessary. Our nursery education is necessary.
Campaign Manager RCT Welsh Liberal Democrats