Pupil Premium is extra funding that is given to schools by the government to help disadvantaged children and those living in poverty that attend both primary and secondary schools.
Schools receive Pupil Premiums for pupils that claim free school meals. It is currently paid at £935 per child for secondary school pupils and £1320 per child for primary school pupils.
According to data submitted last January there were 1.44 million pupils registered to receive free school meals therefore enabling schools to receive this essential funding for their pupils.
By October 2020 the number of children claiming free school meals had risen to over 1.6 million which is already an extra 200,000 children living below the Universal Credit threshold resulting in them being entitled to free school meals.
As a result of the pandemic and despite the governments furlough schemes the e number of people claiming Universal credit has increased dramatically, which has resulted in the amount of children needing to access free school meals drastically.
These numbers are set to rise due to more parents becoming newly unemployed and the eight week wait for Universal Credit claims to be processed.
On December the 17th, the government made changes to their data collection. It was announced that the government would calculate pupil premiums for schools using the October census and not the January census.
This means that any pupil that became eligible for free school meals after the first week of October 2020 would not receive any Pupil Premium funding until they appear on the census next October. Previously these payments would have started in January.
If free school meals eligibility continues to rise as it has been predicted to this could mean that up to 200,000 pupils will miss out on the pupil premium for a whole school year.
This will potentially put schools at risk of loosing around £250,000,000 in extra funding that schools would have received from pupil premiums..
This will inevitably hit the most deprived communities and schools the hardest. Many depend upon the pupil premium funding to fund school activities and other school activities for their children.
Meanwhile the government argued that “The move to the October census simplifies the school funding system, and provide both schools and the Department with greater certainty around future funding levels earlier in the year”
Meanwhile the government continues to use January data for alternative provision schools.
Call me cynical but this appears to be a move to suppress Pupil Premium spending during a period when it is needed the most. The government clearly hasn’t taken the pandemic and the rising unemployment and poverty that is drastically increasing every day.
The government imposed these changes just before schools closed for the Christmas holidays. No notice was given to schools from the Department Of Education so therefore there has been no opportunity for schools to budget for these changes.
Schools are already struggling to find the funding for school activities and even much needed equipment.
The fact that the government has chosen effectively take away £1/4 billion in funding when poverty is rising whilst in the midst of a pandemic demonstrates is despicable. Their lack of care about our children’s education is all too clear.
Whilst the government talks about their ‘concerns’ about children’s education, and their rush to re open schools fully, they openly take away the funding that is needed for schools to do this.
The poorest children and schools will be hit the hardest by these changes and it is obscene that the government has done this when this essential funding is needed the most.
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