Pinching pupil premium – the Williamson war on poor kids continues…

Short thread on how DfE sneaked out a £250 million cut to school budgets in the middle of a pandemic and how it will impact the poorest and most vulnerable pupils.

No publicity, no great public announcement as @educationgovuk cut a quarter of a billion pounds from its Pupil Premium budget.

Pupil Premium (PP) is extra funding to help disadvantaged children & those living in poverty. It’s funding to help with levelling up & social mobility

Schools receive extra money for pupils claiming free school meals (FSM). It’s currently £935 for secondary school and £1320 for primary school children.

The funding was calculated based on the second annual school census which is in January, the first census being early October. This gives schools time to encourage FSM registration & check everything before the dataset is used.

As of last January’s census there were 1.44 million pupils registered to receive Free school meals.

Then we had Covid-19.

Despite the government’s furlough scheme & other support, we saw a huge increases in job insecurity and a rise in numbers claiming Universal credit. By October, the number of pupils claiming free school meals had risen to over 1.6million. That’s an extra 200,000 pupils below the UC threshold & entitled to FSM

It seems highly likely the numbers continued to rise, especially with a 2 month lag between UC claims & eligibility.

For those who don’t know, schools have been working tirelessly throughout the pandemic, filling in for the failings in social care, becoming beacons in their communities. They’ve opened food banks, testing centres, provided laptops to vulnerable families, effectively never closing. [Not even in school ‘holidays’. Ed]

Then, on December 17th, the last day of term for many, the government sneaked out a tiny change to their data collection. A change that will have huge implications for schools.

@educationgovuk announced they would calculate PP using the October census data rather than January’s.

What this means in practice is that anyone who becomes eligible for FSM after the first week of October 2020, will not receive any Pupil Premium funding until they appear on the census next October, whereas previously PP would have been triggered in January.

So assuming FSM eligibility continued to rise at a similar rate, that’s 200,000 pupils missing out on PP for a whole year.

This deprives schools of around £250,000,000 in extra funding, hitting the poorest communities the hardest.

Ministers argued
“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”

Of course that’s utter claptrap:

Thangam Debbonaire Shadow Secretary of State for Housing

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, for what reason his Department’s policy is that from April 2021 pupil premium allocations will be calculated based on the number of eligible pupils recorded by schools in their census in October 2020 and not the January 2021 census.

Nick Gibb Minister of State (Education)

On 17 December 2020 we confirmed that the pupil premium will continue in 2021-22 with the same per pupil funding rates as in 2020-21. This is expected to increase pupil premium funding to more than £2.5 billion in 2021-22 as more children have become eligible for free school meals.

For mainstream and special educational needs schools, we will base eligibility for the 2021-22 pupil premium funding on the October 2020 census. In previous years, we have used the January census to determine pupil premium eligibility. Moving to the October census brings the administration of the pupil premium in line with the rest of schools’ core budgets (most notably the national funding formula, and local school funding formulae), which calculate schools’ budgets for the coming year on the basis of the October census. 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.

Alternative Provision and Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) will continue to be funded based on the January census, since there is no census for alternative provision in October, and the October census is not representative of the number of pupils in PRUs across a full academic year.

@educationgovuk undermine their own argument by continuing to use the January data for alternative provision schools. They could have given notice of the change, used this January’s data and then gone to October next year.

This looks like a cynical move to suppress Pupil Premium spending during a period when poverty is rising and free school meal eligibility would have sky rocketed

@GavinWilliamson saved himself £1/4 billion by taking PP away from thousands of vulnerable children.

It’s hard to see this as anything other than a cost cutting exercise. @educationgovuk didn’t give any notice, it was simply imposed.

Schools will know FSM numbers & will budget accordingly, they will have spent money expecting to receive PP.

Again, it’s the poorest hit hardest.

Here’s the kicker: just imagine if @educationgovuk had been ADDING an extra £250 million to school budgets rather than taking it away. We’d see announcement after announcement, @GavinWilliamson doing the rounds of every TV studio, whimpering on about helping disadvantaged pupils.

Perhaps I should add that I can see this government ending the Ever 6 PP funding as soon as it feels it’s politically convenient. They may hang on until there is a review of FSM, but my view is they will stop this funding at some point

Originally tweeted by Andy Jolley 🌹 (@ajjolley) on 24/01/2021.

Are you concerned by this news or does it affect you and your child/children? What can you do? Talk to your school to find out what their position is. Email your MP with a link to this article and ask them just what is going on. You can find out who your MP is here or customise a message using Hey-MP. Post the article on your local social media to raise awarenesss. Email Gavin Williamson and demand that he reverses the decision.