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The pupil premium – a con policy in more ways than one

As virtually anyone involved in education will tell you the pupil premium is a con – it’s not extra money in the schools budget but has been funded from redistributing money from elsewhere in the education budget.

However Liberal Democrats have until now been pointing to it as a saving grace of their role in proping up a Conservative government.  It’s been argued that it prioritises funding to the poorer children. Figures out last week ought to change that for good. 

As a well meaning former Liberal Democrat voter may well have liked the idea of the pupil premium:  it sounds fair that those pupils in poverty would attract greater funding.  No doubt we will shortly be told by the Liberal Democrat press office and blogs about the increase in the pupil premium for next financial year.

All sounds good so far if we ignore the fact that it’s recycled money from elsewhere and that schools don’t have to spend it on their poor pupils.   As a general trend, which areas of Berkshire would you expect would see the biggest increase in the pupil premium this year?  The ones with the highest levels of child poverty or the ones with the lowest? No cheating and looking at the table below.  

Lets look at the data published last week.  Full data for across the country is available here, and respected MP, David Lammy has blogged on the national picture.   I’ve used % increase as the base figure needs adjusting for number of children being educated and the 2009 for child poverty is what has been published.

Area Indicative main pupil premium Change (%) Under 16s in poverty (2009) (%)
Windsor and Maidenhead 102 11
West Berkshire 99 12
Bracknell Forest 98 12
Wokingham 98 7
Slough 82 24
Reading 67 23
The arguments about why Slough and Reading have greater child poverty than Wokingham are well rehearsed – the question here is will the government’s policy make things better or worse for children living in poverty.  Remember the pupil premium is money that has been ‘recycled’ from elsewhere in the education budget, and the money isn’t ring fenced for poor children, it’s just added to schools’ budgets.

If I was a Liberal Democrat I would be seriously questioning what the point of the coalition is – their MPs have sold their members and supporters down the river.

It’s not just a con but a Con(servative policy)

Update: it’s now being reported that libdem cabinet members ‘banged the table in celebration’ of the Health and Social care bill being passed.  If I was a grass roots libdem I would be starting de selection procedures.  Or else joining the Labour party of course…

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