Wednesday, 12 October 2011

The Pupil Premium

One of the biggest achievements of the Liberal Democrats in this government is pushing through the introduction of the "Pupil Premium". Whilst this was in both party's manifestos, the Tory commitment was much less specific than the Lib Dem's policy as I discussed here.

Today the Department for Education announced that next year a total of £1.25bn will be available for the programme, partly due to a reduction in the number of pupils claiming free school meals, with the figure increasing to £2.5bn in 2014-15. This is important as £2.5bn was the commitment in the Liberal Democrat's manifesto.

But what does £2.5bn mean in practice? Too often we hear governments and others bandy around large figures out of context in the hope that their size alone will impress. In my constituency (Bristol South) the Premium will amount to £1.84m - again hard to assess given the size of the constituency and number of schools involved.

Fortunately, the government is being open about the funding formula: an extra £488 for every pupil on free school meals, aggregated and paid on a per-school basis.

This money can be spent as the school feels fit but there is no doubt that this measure is a real attempt to target funding at those areas of need - a point addressed in this letter to party members from Sarah Teather MP, Minister of State for Children and Families (pictured above):

"Dear Andrew,
Liberal Democrats have always believed that education is the engine of social mobility, now we are making it happen.
Today the Government released the final Pupil Premium figures for every English local authority, constituency and school. I am delighted to announce that every school this year will receive an extra £488 for each child on free school meals they have on their roll.
Schools in your constituency of Bristol South are getting an extra £1,840,000 from the Pupil Premium to improve the education of the most disadvantaged children. You can find out what each school in your council area is getting by clicking here.
This is a real milestone for our party. The Pupil Premium is a policy we devised and campaigned for, and put at the heart of our Coalition negotiations. Now it is more than good policy, it is a reality making a difference to the school down your road. It goes directly into classrooms and will benefit all pupils.
It is also a milestone in breaking the link between poverty and achievement, tackling Labour’s shocking legacy where the richest 16-year olds are three times as likely to get five good GCSEs as the poorest.
This is just the start. We know that some families eligible for free school meals don’t claim them, for example, because some don’t know they can, and so their schools are missing out on funding. We also need to find out what schools are doing that’s really making a difference.
If you’d like to help, you could contact your local school to find out how they are using their Pupil Premium funding, and how they are making sure they are reaching every child.
Together, we can ensure every child is able to fulfil their potential.
Thank you

Sarah Teather MP
Minister of State, Department for Education"

This is a major achievement of being in coalition - and deserves to be shouted from the rooftops for the next 3 and a half years.