Pupil Premium: New research estimates £118m wiped off funding

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

There is no sign of a government backtrack over changes to Pupil Premium funding as yet more research shows that schools are to miss out on tens of millions of pounds.

An “administrative change” to how the Pupil Premium is allocated means that the Department for Education (DfE) is using October 2020 census data – and not the usual January census – to decide on Pupil Premium eligibility for the 2021/22 financial year.

It means that any children who became “eligible” between October and January have not attracted Pupil Premium funding from April 2021. Instead they will have to wait a year.

A new survey conducted by the Local Government Association (LGA) has estimated that the move has seen £118m wiped off school budgets.

The findings break down to a loss of Pupil Premium funding of around £93 million for primary schools and £25 million for secondary schools.

Previously, Freedom of Information requests by the Labour Party have suggested that as many as 120,000 pupils have fallen into this between-census black hole. However, when shadow education secretary Kate Green raised the issue in Parliament, education secretary Gavin Williamson accused her of “moaning and complaining”.

State schools in England get Pupil Premium funding to help them improve the attainment of their disadvantaged pupils. It amounts to £1,345 a year for every eligible primary-age pupil, or £955 for every eligible secondary-age pupil.

While Labour has previously estimated that the lost funding amounts to £133m, the new LGA analysis puts the figure at £118m.

The LGA figure is based on survey responses from 72 out of 151 councils in England. The 72 councils reported that around 43,500 pupils are set to miss out on the Pupil Premium funding (33,405 primary pupils and 12,141 secondary).

Extrapolated to cover all England’s councils, this would mean that around 70,000 primary pupils and 26,000 secondary pupils will miss out – 96,000 in total.

Teresa Heritage, vice-chairman of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: “Councils and schools want to work with the government on education recovery and share concerns about the needs of disadvantaged children who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

“There will be many schools with children who will have become eligible for Pupil Premium between October and January who will now not qualify for this extra funding for a whole year. Pupil Premium is vital to support the government’s levelling up agenda and education recovery plans. It is imperative that the government ensures that no school loses out in receiving this vital funding this year and that no child is left behind.”

The LGA findings are the latest to emerge on this issue. Back in March, the National Association of Head Teachers estimated that the changes would wipe-out the £6,000 Covid recovery premium for its primary school members. Its survey found that two-thirds of primary schools were worse off due to the change. Furthermore:

  • Sixty-two per cent of 1,316 respondents said they had five or more pupils who had become eligible between the two censuses. Five primary pupils would normally attract £6,725 in Pupil Premium funding.
  • Thirty-three per cent of respondents had 10 or more pupils missing out (at least £13,450 in lost funding).
  • One in 10 respondents had 20 or more pupils missing out (at least £26,900).

Commenting on the new LGA figures, NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman said: “The government has made bold claims about their ambitions for recovery and said that no child will be left behind. But by implementing this Pupil Premium change in the middle of the pandemic the government has actively removed support for children who are most in need of help. The government is failing to back their words with action and is leaving schools without the funding and resources they need for the job ahead.

“A significant number of children have become eligible for help via Pupil Premium but they will now not receive any additional funding for another whole year. This must be put right. Government must come clean about how much they have saved with this change, and they must put that money back into school budgets immediately.

“The government can no longer ignore the concrete evidence that is coming through from councils, nor can they try to explain it away as a ‘technicality’. This is real money, affecting real children’s lives.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said the funding change was “inexplicable”.

He added: “All schools will have seen financial loss as a result of this administrative change but it has been most keenly felt in our primary schools due to the larger amount available per disadvantaged pupil. With budgets already severely stretched by Covid-19, the last thing schools needed was the double whammy of being hit in the pocket in this way.

“It was clear from the outset that school budgets would be negatively impacted because the pandemic has particularly badly affected disadvantaged families and has meant the number of children qualifying for Pupil Premium has grown significantly. Excluding those who qualified for funding between October 2020 and January 2021 has left schools counting the cost.

“The government is very keen to promote its levelling up and education recovery agendas and one way it can easily demonstrate its commitment is by ensuring schools are recompensed for the Pupil Premium funding they have been so cruelly denied.”

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