Aled Roberts AM talking with pupilsCommenting on the announcement by the Welsh Government that it is to provide £20 million a year for a Schools Challenge Cymru support programme to under-performing schools, Aled Roberts, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Minister for Education in the National Assembly, said:
"At present it is unclear how the new system will operate. It is coming just one week after the announcement of the Central South Wales Challenge, which is directed at more than 400 schools, there I'm keen to see how the two new schemes will work together.
"The Central South Wales Challenge has no money and all schools are included. There is a danger that, as a result of this piecemeal approach, some schools are given two sets of challenges.
"Similar schemes have been implemented in England, and I would suggest that it is only this type of approach, which calls for concerted efforts from all interested parties, that can lead to the necessary improvements.
"Currently we also have inconsistency between local authority provision and too much of a variation between children on free school meals and their counterparts. This new system needs to be able to be flexible enough to address these issues of inconsistency if it to be as successful as its English predecessors.
"School improvement in Wales is often characterised by a large number of initiatives, which can easily lead to confusion. I hope that the Welsh Government will provide clarity as to the positioning of the new national programme against existing consortia initiatives and priorities.
"I acknowledge the need for a collaborative approach to education in Wales which would involve schools, local authorities, consortia and the Welsh Government working together to raise standards.
"We also need reassurance that the required professional resources are available and that school leaders are willing to get fully involved in this new proposal.
"The Welsh Government in issuing the challenge to schools and local authorities has to remember that its own performance will be under the spotlight. The buck has to stop somewhere."