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Senedd sketch: a ‘catastrophic’ numeracy programme and fewer pupils getting additional help

10 May 2023 5 minute read
Mark Drakeford and Tom Giffard. Picture by Senedd TV

Siân Williams

A drop in the number of pupils identified with additional learning needs and Rishi Sunak’s “catastrophic” numeracy programme were debated in this week’s Questions to the First Minister

For some bizarre reason Tom Giffard MS for South Wales West chose the Senedd as his platform to sing the praises of the UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

“In the UK people tend to write off the importance of mathematics and I’m glad that is something the Prime Minister correctly identified as a problem that makes us less competitive internationally,” gushed Mr Giffard.

Ah yes, Mr Sunak’s non funded plan to make maths education until the age of 18 compulsory.

Circling the Tory wagons around Mr Sunak makes one suspect that the third Tory Prime Minister since July 2022 needs all the help he can get.

Do the maths Mr Giffard – your party got a hammering and lost 1,000 council seats in last week’s local elections in England.

“Given that education in Wales is devolved (well spotted) and the PISA results show maths attainment in Wales is the worst of the UK nations, what can the Welsh Government do to turn the situation around?” asked Mr Giffard.

Multiply programme

The UK Government’s Multiply programme is intended to help adults to improve their numeracy skills with free courses.

In Wales however it has been a huge failure Mr Drakeford told the Senedd.

“Unfortunately, the Prime Minister’s actions don’t match the rhetoric that we hear from him. He was responsible for the catastrophic Multiply programme when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer.

“A £100 million top sliced out of money meant to come to Wales for a national programme, which I’m afraid has been a huge failure on the ground. Certainly, it has not delivered what was promised here in Wales.

“I’m afraid the Multiply programme just demonstrates the difficulties when ministers in Whitehall believe they are able to design things on the ground in a part of the UK where they have no reach at all.”


Mr Drakeford started to looked like he was quite enjoying getting something off his chest whilst Mr Giffard practised a stiff upper lip look.

Turning around to look directly at him, Mr Drakeford continued: “They designed their Multiply programme without a single word of discussion with Welsh Government or the local authorities that are expected to deliver it.

“I’m afraid that I cannot agree that the way the UK Government has gone about this has demonstrated a success, in fact it is the opposite. As a result, it has not been possible to spend the money that was allocated to Wales.”

That money, concluded Mr Drakeford, is yet to be released to local authorities so that they can do useful things with it, including helping people improve their numeracy skills.

Additional Learning Needs

Andrew RT Davies told the Senedd there’s been a drop in the number of pupils identified as having additional learning needs in Wales.

Whilst supporting government plans to reform the system which supports pupils with additional learning needs, Mr Davies voiced his concerns:

“The additional learning needs numbers out by Welsh Government indicate there are has been a drop of 18,000 young people identified as having additional learning needs in Welsh schools over the past 12 months.

“Unless young people get that additional learning needs assessment undertaken, obviously that support cannot be put in place.

“There is a perception among parents that the bar is being lifted so that there are fewer people getting the support they require in schools.”

The leader of the Welsh Tories wanted an assurance from the First Minister that the budgets are in place to support the roll-out of the individual development plans which will be fully implemented come 2025.


According to Mr Drakeford the purpose of the new system is to make it easier for young people to get the help they need.

He said his government wants to move away from a system where parents felt they had to fight a battle to get help for a child with additional learning needs.

“Part of that was to move away from the idea that the only way you could get help was by having a label attached to the child,” said Mr Drakeford.

“I can give the leader of the opposition an assurance that there is money there in the system.”

Legal rights

The government’s individual development plan replaces the Statement of Special Educational Needs – a legally enforceable contract between a child and their local education authority.

I’d like to remind Mr Drakeford that doing away with that contract may make it harder for parents to ensure their child gets the correct provision to meet their needs and reach their full potential.

Parents are hoping that the new system will preserve the legal rights of children to get what they need.

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Alwyn Evans
Alwyn Evans
1 year ago

I’ll tell Mr Giffard what can be done. Reduce the pressure of ‘jump-through the hoops’ examination systems that test children before they come into schools, at 7, at 11, at 14, at 16, at 17, and at 18. Persuade teachers that they no longer need to coach and prepare children for examinations as the major ( and often only!) focus of their teaching. Instead, use all the time available ( and maybe more!) to enable children from the start of their time in school to make decisions on their own learning and teaching, and take responsibility for group and individual… Read more »

1 year ago

Welsh Labour once again refusing to accept any responsibility for the dire state of education in Wales. As an example for you all, I moved from England with my young children and when they joined the local primary they were 2 years ahead of their new peers…. 2YEARS!!!
Never mind attacking Westminster Mr Drakeford – sort out your own mess!

1 year ago

Maybe Mr. Drakeford would like to identify exactly where that funding is being spent for children with additional learning needs. My youngest son has autism, yet to be officially diagnosed after a 2.5 year wait and counting, another area where Mr. Drakeford claims he has invested in and improved but has only got worse. Trying to get him into school but guess what, there’s no funding for one to one assistance in mainstream schools and no direct route to a special needs school. I honestly think Mr. Drakeford is living in a parallel universe because no one else sees what… Read more »

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