A Timely Reform by Ian Ridley

Blog & web site of Ian Ridley

The Pupil Premium must not be used to paper over education cuts

School signSarah Teather (Lib Dem Minister of State for Children ad Families) is rightly publicising the “Pupil Premium” policy of the coalition government. The policy is a Lib Dem manifesto commitment that forms part of the coalition agreement.

The premium is a (as yet unspecified) sum of money that will be attached to individual pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds. These funds will be allocated to the school where each pupil is taught and the Headteacher will be able to decide how best to spend the money to help the pupil’s education.

Sarah Teather has stressed that the funding for this policy will come from outside the schools budget. So it should be additional money for schools with pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The Pupil Premium has the extra refinement of being attached to the pupil wherever they go to school.

However there are several initiatives already in place that direct money towards these and other pupils struggling in school. Examples include “One to One” tuition for pupils that need extra help with English and Maths and the more broad-brush allocation of funds to local authorities based on deprivation.

The “One to One” funding has not been guaranteed beyond March 2011 and other budget cuts are already beginning to be felt. For example, in Leicester there will be £50,000 less in the Educational Psychologist budget this year.

It is likely that Head Teachers will have full discretion on how the Pupil Premium is spent. So it very probable that any extra funds that schools get this way will be used to make up for cuts elsewhere.

There is a real danger that the Pupil Preimum will not improve the lot (relative to the pre-election situation) of the children it is targeted at. Instead it will be used to paper over the cuts across the school budget.

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