Dan Rogerson MP writes: the Pupil Premium is launched

Yesterday the Government announced the details of the brand new Pupil Premium which will make available £2.5 billion a year to children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds by the end of this Parliament. In doing so the coalition is delivering one of the key Liberal Democrat manifesto policies.
Schools will now be able to work out exactly what they will be receiving from next April and how they will be able to use this to help their most disadvantaged children.

I have three young children and care passionately about fostering children’s potential early on. I know that there has been an unacceptable, avoidable and yet demonstrable link between children who qualify for free school meals and underachievement. By sixteen, a pupil who has not been entitled to free school meals is more than three times more likely to get five good GCSEs. In a wealthy society which should aspire to giving all children the best start in life, this cannot be right.

Labour’s record is weak and they cannot bring themselves to admit that our party is going where they failed to go. The coalition Government’s Spending Review protected school funding at flat cash per pupil, before adding the pupil premium. (Flat cash per pupil means that as pupil numbers go up, the overall budget goes up in line). The pupil premium is totally in addition to this, and will amount to £430 for each child eligible for free school meals.

In line with our desire to free our education system from overbearing central government control, it will be entirely up to schools how they choose to spend the Pupil Premium, but the emphasis will be on raising the attainment of those children who need support and extra help the most. Parents will be able to see exactly how this money is being spent as schools will be required to publish information online to demonstrate how they are using these funds.

In the first year, the funding is being assigned by a Free Schools Meal indicator but the aim is to extend the Premium to those children who have previously been eligible for FSM even if they currently are not. Total funding for the premium will be £625m in 2011-12 and will be built up over time amounting to £2.5bn a year by 2014-15. This contributes to an overall increase in the schools budget by £3.6bn in cash terms by 2014-15.

Difficult economic times bring the need for necessary and painful cutbacks. However, Liberal Democrats have always set education at the heart of our policy programme and so we have made finding this money, even now, non-negotiable.

The last few weeks have proved extraordinarily difficult for the party and there are further challenges ahead which we must face together. With the Pupil Premium we are putting into practice something which has the potential to make a very real difference to millions of disadvantaged children up and down the country. Being in government is undeniably challenging, involving tough decisions as we’ve all observed over recent weeks. It is even more testing when that government is a coalition of two very different parties and the country is recovering from a state of economic turmoil. However with it comes the opportunity to implement important elements of our Party’s policy. The Pupil Premium was central to our campaign in April and thanks to our role in coalition Government it is becoming a reality; it will deliver a new beginning, a fairer start for those who need it most.

Dan Rogerson is the MP for North Cornwall and co-chair of the Lib Dem backbench Education, Young People and Families committee.

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7 Comments

  • Dan. I am hugely disappointed by this watered down policy.

    Why?

    – The promised small “real terms increase” for schools has now evaporated
    – some individual schools will not only fail to get a real terms spending increase, but may get an absolute cash terms cut
    – the Liberal Democrat manifesto promised a pupil premium worth £2.5bn from day 1. There was no mention in the manifesto of it being phased in slowly like this.
    – The original intention was for a geographical variance. This has disappeared
    – The intention was that free school meals was too crude a measure to implement this – yet it is your measure
    – The Early intervention grant is being cut 11% cf the grant it is replacing

    All in all – whereas the party can celebrate the term “Pupil Premium” entering the national educational consciousness – the policy itself is a huge disappointment, at the expense of a multitude of good ideas.

  • Sorry to spoil your piece, but …this is now a far cry from the pre-election pledge of investing £2500 million. The first year the amount will only be £625 million – and its not new investment.

    The pupil premium is the same money that is simply being re-allocated. Some schools will receive less. It’s recycled from one budget to another – robbing Peter to pay Paul, Call it what you will. The pupil premium is now just a funding formula to determine budget distribution, not a new investment. It’s true the amount rises as the years progress, but as this announcement illustrates the devil has been in the detail. The headline announcement always sounds very rosy, though, I grant you that.

    .

  • “The coalition Government’s Spending Review protected school funding at flat cash per pupil, before adding the pupil premium. (Flat cash per pupil means that as pupil numbers go up, the overall budget goes up in line). The pupil premium is totally in addition to this, and will amount to £430 for each child eligible for free school meals.”

    This is a bit of clever wordsmanship. The overall Schools funding is not going up, therefore the Pupil Premium i snot additional money, more an internal redistribution. Some schools will lose money, the Education Secretary admits this.

    This is better than it could have been, but it isn’t all it’s being sold to be. I accept that the premium could not be as per the manifesto, but let’s not pretend it is. Shout from the rooftops this is as good as we could get, we would have like to get more but the Tories stopped us…..

    Also, Labour’s record was not that poor. I have two children 18 and 6. My son started school under the Tories. His school buildings were a disgrace, funding was too tight. Over the course of his schooling this improved dramtically (and in a relatively poor area). When my daughter started things were much better. Now I accept that there is still some distance to travel but the current opposition left the country’s education system much improved than that left by the current major party in Government.

  • dave thawley 14th Dec '10 - 5:53pm

    I take it you removed my last post because I went slightly off topic rather than pointing out the fact the pupil premium is a con so I’ll try again.

    The pupil premium is a con. It is not the policy that we agreed and the implementation is not what is being advertised. There is no extra money for this at all by the sounds of it. The money is going to come from other kids. We are in fact steeling some kids education to support our policy. This policy was wheeled out a couple of days after we have just destroyed the chances of thousands of kids by effectively stopping them from going to university. The idea which was sold to us was that we would support a net increase in funding. The truth is that in working class areas where most parents work the schools will lose money which will seriously affect these kids. This is disgraceful. It is also (in my opinion) dishonest not to tell people the full truth. Instead of the truth we are presenting with half the truth which paints a completely different picture to reality. I would ask anyone who reads this in our leadership why are you doing this – i.e. not telling the truth to the members of our party? The truth has a tendency tocome out and when it does it tends to make those not telling it look bad.

  • dave thawley 14th Dec '10 - 5:55pm

    mod – sorry about y last comment – my first comment didn’t appear so I thought you had zapped it. Please accept my sincere apologies in thinking that you would do this.

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