LibLink: David Laws – Why I’m proud of the pupil premium

Over at the Guardian’s Comment is Free, David Laws writes of the importance of delivering the Pupil Premium – a key Liberal Democrat election pledge.

He corrects two misconceptions. First, that the pupil premium is not additional money:

This is nonsense. Without the pupil premium, I suspect that the budget for schools would have been based on a per pupil cash freeze for the period up to 2015. That would have meant a real cut in schools funding over the next few years. Instead, schools funding will rise by 0.1% (above inflation) each year until 2015.

The second misconception:

It would, however, be a terrible mistake to think that the main purpose of the pupil premium is to protect schools from cuts. Its real purpose is to help lift the educational performance of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, so closing the shameful gap in life chances in our country.

Laws goes on to describe two beneficial effects of the pupil premium:

First, because the extra money follows the child, it will ensure that deprivation funding is far better targeted than it is now. Second, the premium will deliver extra money to the schools with the highest level of challenge – giving them an opportunity to combat disadvantage. Too few schools facing real challenges currently have the money to make a difference, for example with more one-to-one tuition, a longer school day, holiday classes, or paying more to attract the best teachers.

He warns against schools using the money to make efficiency savings, but says that they should target it at the children who need it the most. He also urges accountability, without micromanagement, with support and advice available to schools.

Read the full article here.

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34 Comments

  • Jeremy Dunn 25th Oct '10 - 6:47pm

    1. He needs to ensure that the money really follows the child, whether in school or educated otherwise than at school.
    2. There needs to be a proper audit trail, you cannot assume that schools will use the funding for the purposes intended as we have seen with special needs funding (School Action, and School Action Plus)

  • “Without the pupil premium, I suspect that the budget for schools would have been based on a per pupil cash freeze for the period up to 2015.”

    Why does he “suspect” this? It’s totally spurious. You can’t claim that something is additional money just because, in a non-existent hypothetical world, the budget has been cut.

  • Sunder Katwala 25th Oct '10 - 7:17pm

    It’s a good policy aspiration – but Laws doesn’t “correct” the misconception that it isn’t new money. It isn’t new money.

    In my view, a better idea now would be to come up with ideas to fund the premium as new money.

    Through the day of the Clegg speech (Friday 15th) there was very clear official briefing that the money was coming from outside the entire DFES budget. This seemed quite an important gain for Clegg – and is why he used the word “additional” so often that day, and why this was stressed to anybody reporting on the premium.

    Eg: A senior No 10 aide said: “The money for this will come from outside the education budget. We’re not just rearranging furniture – this is real new money from elsewhere in Whitehall.”
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/oct/15/nick-clegg-pupil-premium

    As Michael Gove said on Sunday, this hasn’t happened: “At the moment we’re consulting on how the people premium, which is the additional money, the additional £2.5bn that we’ve made available for the poorest students, will be allocated, and it depends precisely on whether or not we allow the people premium to go to slightly more children, or we target it very narrowly on the very poorest. Depending on that, you can then make a calculation about which schools will find that they’re actually losing funding, and which schools will find that they’re gaining funding.”
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2010/oct/24/michael-gove-pupil-premium

    Moreover, Laws’ claim of an overall real terms 0.1% increase in schools funding (including the premium) simply isn’t true either. That is current spending. Capital spending is down 60%. And the increase is less than the demographic increase in pupil numbers, so per-pupil-funding is cut This Public Finance report summarises the overall picture clearly, using the IFS analysis showing overall funding per pupil will fall 2.25% in real terms once the pupil premium is included.
    http://www.publicfinance.co.uk/news/2010/10/real-terms-funding-per-pupil-will-fall-warns-ifs/

    “Luke Sibieta, an economist at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, told PF that when inflation is factored in, spending per pupil will decrease by 2.25% over the Spending Review period.

    ‘Ignoring the pupil premium and inflation completely, Osborne does increase schools spending enough to meet the increase in pupil numbers,’ he said. ‘In other words, before the pupil premium the government just about maintains spending per pupil in cash terms.’ However, when inflation is factored in, this represents real-terms cuts of 10% over the four-year period, he said. ‘But the pupil premium then limits the real-terms cut in spending per pupil to about 2.25%,’ he added”.

    That surely shows how Laws entirely contradicts himself in the “two misconceptions” …

    Laws claims that the pupil premium is additional money by hypothesising that there would have been a 9% real terms schools budget cut without it (despite the separate pledge to protect the schools budget), and he then claims that the schools budget is pretty much exactly the same (a smidgeon higher) in real terms.

    This is supposed to support an argument that the purpose of the premium is not to protect schools from cuts, at the same time as arguing that this is precisely what it has done. (In fact, it has not been enough to do that either, as the IFS school spending analysis sets out).

    Instead of defending that rather creative accounting, LibDems might instead support Simon Hughes in arguing that it should be new money. Hughes has been reported saying: “He said: ‘I’m clear that we wanted a pupil premium that was an add-on. If it’s not an add-on, there’s clearly work to be done.’

  • It is a good article and I am really glad that we are a) investing more in early years education and b) that the poorest pupils will see an increase in funding. The essence of the Pupil Premium is great, and whilst I doubt the full £2.5 billion is all ‘extra money’ – Laws will not be contradicting himself if some of it is and some isn’t.

    Sunder, we should wait for a few more consultation conclusions before we know exactly what is going on with the capital budget, as you rightly say capital spending is very different from revenue spending. And arguable that is a very different debate. We are still awaiting new funding for a number of particular projects, both revenue and capital.

    In addition, the poorest pupils, those form disadvantaged backgrounds will see real investment – especialy those who previously missed out for not living in a deprived area. This policy will therefore reduce socio-economic division, encourage schools to take on poorer children, and reduce the post-code lottery of performing, funded schools.

    On top of this, suppose the IFS analysis is correct, and the middle-class families using state education see a slight fall in funding per pupil, it is nevertheless the case that the disadvantaged, poorest, and those most at risk of rapid inequality increases, will see an increase in funding. This is definitely a progressive policy and a good one at that.

    Finally, Laws is able to ‘suppose’ because he was at the negotiating table. Hypotheticals are going to be used in a coalition, just as we all use them. If you don’t allow hypotheticals in political debate then you hardly allow debate.

  • Tony Dawson 25th Oct '10 - 7:46pm

    I remain severely sceptical, from long periods as a Governor of various educational institutions, that this policy will have any particular effect whatsoever, wherever the money originates. Far too many head teachers in ‘disadvantaged areas’ have policies and priorities which seem to start with getting the governors twisted round their fingers to pay themselves oversized salaries. But at least this money is not wasted like the Gove money is. Total madness at a time when we are reducing funds from valuable projects elsewhere, both in and out of education.

  • “whilst I doubt the full £2.5 billion is all ‘extra money’ – Laws will not be contradicting himself if some of it is and some isn’t”

    To be fair, whilst Laws has this dark cloud hanging over his head with regards to his integrity and his expenses scandal, I don’t think he is the best person in the party to be promoting the Pupil Premium, when there are so many questions doubting the fact that it is New Money.

    I am struggling to make heads or tails with this one. I wish people would speak more clearly and decisively instead of the usual mish mash which is spun to confuse people.

    “He corrects two misconceptions. First, that the pupil premium is not additional money”:

    “This is nonsense. Without the pupil premium, I suspect that the budget for schools would have been based on a per pupil cash freeze for the period up to 2015”
    “That would have meant a real cut in schools funding over the next few years”.
    “Instead, schools funding will rise by 0.1”

    Am I being totally thick or something, I would be happy to be corrected if I am lol, But the way I am reading that is.

    Without the Pupil Premium, that would have meant a real cut in school Funding over the next few years.
    But because of the pupil premium, school funding will rise by 0.1%

    Yes or No lol, I am so confused

    If yes, then How is this additional money

  • Anthony Aloysius St 25th Oct '10 - 8:11pm

    “At the moment we’re consulting on how the people premium, which is the additional money, the additional £2.5bn that we’ve made available for the poorest students, will be allocated, and it depends precisely on whether or not we allow the people premium to go to slightly more children, or we target it very narrowly on the very poorest.”

    Apart from the issue of whether it’s extra money (which it obviously can be only when compared with an even bigger cut in real funding per pupil!), surely this is the other danger to the principle of the pupil premium.

    They will be deciding whether to target it only at the poorest – thereby entailing bigger cuts in funding for middle-class pupils – or whether to spread the benefit more widely – and spare the middle classes some pain.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 25th Oct '10 - 8:14pm

    “If yes, then How is this additional money”

    It’s additional in the sense that funding is higher than it would have been if it had been lower.

  • It’s quite simple. Imagine your boss* says everyone in the company needs to take a 20% pay cut, and then you complain to his boss, who reinstates your salary at its previous level but decides to describe the additional bit as a ‘performance bonus’.

    Clegg (and Laws) are arguing that this ‘performance bonus’ is new money, whcih they have got out ot the Treasury. This is not wrong, especially if everyone else in the company is facing a 20% pay cut. What is wrong is then to say that you have kept you salary, and got a peformance bonus (which i think they are coming a bit close to saying).

    * Or A boss, if you are independently wealthy.

  • Btw, this doen’t take into account the capital/current bit Sunder mentions.

  • But without the pupil premium the schools budget would have taken a real term cut in spending?

  • Sorry I must have sounded really thick lol, I have only really started to pay attention to Politics in the last month or so.

    And my god, they way everything goes round and round the rounder bout to make a political point or argument, It is so hard to keep up.

    It doesn’t help install trust either when politicians waffle to throw you off scent.

    Anyway, thanks for clearing that up for me lol.

  • Mike(The Labour one) 25th Oct '10 - 8:38pm

    http://www.fullfact.org/articles/?catid=&id=188&sel=articlelist

    1 out 5 means ‘The claim is not true. It is not supported by the facts or evidence. It is false, inaccurate or erroneous.’

    Anyway, we seem to have one of the very few situations where Laws doesn’t agree with Osborne- write it in your diary.

    http://blogs.channel4.com/factcheck/michael-gove-admits-pupil-premium-recycle

  • Mike(The Labour one) 25th Oct '10 - 8:40pm

    Ha, completely messed up my snarky comment. Gove, not Osborne.

  • There are a number of reasons why the pupil premium is a con, but David Laws actually undersells it here when he says:

    “Second, the premium will deliver extra money to the schools with the highest level of challenge – giving them an opportunity to combat disadvantage.”

    This is rubbish. Schools in urban areas with a lot of pupils from deprived backgrounds are the best funded in the maintained sector. What the pupil premium does is ensures that individual pupils from deprived backgrounds in schools where they are a minority receive the appropriate level of support. This is about a third of the pupils entitled to free school meals and they get a very poor deal. The premium, if used properly, could make a real difference.

  • Simple really – the pupil premium is in the budget – thus the spending increase takes place. The problem is that either the pupil isn’t acutally extra money or that the schools budget isn’t actually going to rise (in real terms) over hte next five years…. now which is it?

  • Anthony Aloysius St 25th Oct '10 - 9:38pm

    “This is rubbish. Schools in urban areas with a lot of pupils from deprived backgrounds are the best funded in the maintained sector. What the pupil premium does is ensures that individual pupils from deprived backgrounds in schools where they are a minority receive the appropriate level of support. This is about a third of the pupils entitled to free school meals and they get a very poor deal. The premium, if used properly, could make a real difference.”

    I don’t follow that argument at all. Surely schools with fewer than the average percentage of pupils entitled to free school meals are bound to end up with less money under these plans. And hasn’t the plan always been to let schools decide how to spend the money, not somehow to force them to spend it only on those from deprived backgrounds?

  • Anthony

    There are a number of issues about the premium. One is that it is likely to be targeted at all pupils who are entitled to free school meals – regardless of whether they are underachieving. This may mean taking money (e.g. one to one tuition funding which is currently ringfenced and targeted at underachieving pupils) away from pupils who need it and giving it to pupils who don’t. This is why the decision to end the ringfencing for 1:1 is unfortunate.

    However, the reason for my comment is that many schools with a lot of these pupils actually do well with them. Schools with one or two often do very badly – and there are a lot of schools which fall into this category. I don’t expect these schools will be told how to spend the money but I do expect them to be required to spend it on the pupil.

    There is a particular problem with the rural poor. These pupils often underachieve very badly and are often in the worst funded Local Authorities. Unless the pupil premium is a very significant sum (and therefore a very large proportion of the school budget), I don’t expect these schools will lose out overall and the pupils may gain ‘personal funding’ through the premium.

  • So what schools are going to benefit from this pupil premium?

    It certainly not going to be any schools south of Watford..

    Changes to housing Benefits will ensure that families are moved out of London and as far North as possible.

    Their will be no kids who get free school meals in the area.

    Take rent prices in Cambridge alone

    http://www.rentright.co.uk/cambridgeshire/cambridge/3_rrpi.aspx

    Property Type: 3 bedroom properties and flats in Cambridge
    Average Rental Prices for August 2010: £1002
    Average Rental Rates for September 2010: £1053
    Average Rental Prices for October 2010: £1115

    rental prices have increased 11% in the last 3 months alone

    So if the Pupil Premium only follows disadvantaged children, from poorer backgrounds (those on free school meals.

    And all those families have been moved up North.

    What happens to funding for school’s in London and the South East?

    I am guessing once London and the south east has been cleansed of it’s social reprobates,

    The Rich and well off will have socially engineered the south East, so there will be no more need for public school’s down there as they can all afford to privately educate their children

  • It isn’t additional money

    By any ‘fair’ definition of the word

    To say it is, is just another reason why people distrust politicians

    The only thing worse than some measures taken by the coalition is the spin put on them by Lib Dems who a few months ago would have shrieked in horror at the very thought of these measures

  • “it’s fairly simple to see how and why this is termed additional money”

    It’s fairly simple to see how and why almost anything can be termed additional money!

  • I don’t really care if it is additional money or not I just see it as a far better and fairer allocation of the schools budget.

  • richard heathcote 26th Oct '10 - 4:31am

    it just looks like they are taking with one hand redressing it as a premium and giving it back its pointless they might aswell have just ringfenced schools and not bothered with the expense of bringing this into parliament.

    when you take into account the administration costs for creating this premium how much will actually get to the kids and how much will just be wasted with bureaucracy.

  • Oh my lord. I thought the hilarious rhetorical twisting over the Lisbon referendum was going to be tough to beat, but this pupil premium “new money” has done it.

    So… just to get this straight: it’s not new money in comparison with last year, it’s new money in comparison with the cuts you would otherwise have made to the education budget – the same education budget you were telling us was ring-fenced all along?

    Armando Iannuci would be proud of a line like that, but the Lib Dems should be ashamed of it.

  • Is Stephen W’s comment meant to be sarcastic or not – I can’t tell.

    It’s either a) additional money for the pupil premium but the current schools budget has been slashed or b) it’s not additional money and the current schools budget has a small real terms increase*

    * Again ignoring other aspects of the education budget.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 26th Oct '10 - 9:46am

    “There is a particular problem with the rural poor. These pupils often underachieve very badly and are often in the worst funded Local Authorities. Unless the pupil premium is a very significant sum (and therefore a very large proportion of the school budget), I don’t expect these schools will lose out overall and the pupils may gain ‘personal funding’ through the premium.”

    Surely we know how big the pupil premium is going to be – £2.5bn by the end of the 4 years. The IFS has already done calculations on this and has concluded that “87% of secondary pupils and 60% of primary pupils are in schools where funding will fall.”
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-11607269

    As I said, given the way this is being done, schools with more than the average number of deprived pupils must gain, and those with fewer must lose. This seems to be exactly what you’re saying _shouldn’t_ happen.

    And perhaps I’ve missed it, but I haven’t seen anything about “personal funding” or a requirement to spend the premium on deprived pupils. After all, during the election campaign Nick Clegg kept telling us how much it could achieve in terms of an _overall_ reduction in class sizes (wildly unrealistic though his figures were).

  • The pupil premium will not put clothes on children’s backs or feed them. The Orange Tories cuts will destroy the lives of so many poor and oppressed people, and then you insult them with a pupil premium once you have socially cleansed them. You are beneath contempt.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 26th Oct '10 - 10:29am

    Stephen W

    The trouble is that what _would_ have happened is purely hypothetical, so it all becomes rather meaningless.

    Would you describe the health budget as having benefited from “additional money” because it hasn’t been cut by 25% like some departmental budgets? Or the defence budget? Perhaps you would.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 26th Oct '10 - 12:19pm

    “What I like about the pupil premium is, not just that it’ll increase spending on poor pupils, but that it gives schools which do well in school league tables an incentive to recruit pupils from poor backgrounds.”

    I don’t know much about the School Admissions Code, but I find it difficult to believe it would be legal for schools to select pupils on the basis of parental poverty.

  • @George Kendall

    “@matt “Take rent prices in Cambridge alone”

    “I think you’re exaggerating the effect of the housing benefit cap.
    “£250 for a one-bedroom property, £290 for two, £340 for three, and £400 for a four-bedroom property”
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/osbornes-cap-on-housing-benefits-will-drive-poor-families-into-ghettos-2024372.html

    So that’s a cap of about £1470 (340*52/12) per month for a 3-bed. That’ll be a massive issue in central London, but, unless they’re in a very expensive 3-bed, not in Cambridge.”

    I gave the examples of rents in Cambridge as it is significantly more North than Watford, which has been used by others as examples.

    Rents in Cambridge have been increasing month on month and by 11% in the last 3 months alone.

    The Government say the cap on a 3 bedroom House would be £1470 but they also propose to reduce Housing Benefit by 10% for people who have been on JSA for 12 months or more, which would reduce entitlement down to £1323.00 a month.

    As you can see by the steady increases of average rents in Cambridge, which currently stands at £1115 a month, it is not unreasonable to fear, that overcome April 2011 when the new Housing Benefit rules comes in, people could have already seen their rents rise by £200.

    This would then push people claiming Housing Benefit further North still.

    it looks like a very slippery slope to me

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