Schools’ Covid-19 recovery

Department of Education (@EdcuationGovUK) data shows schools could be losing out on pupil premium funding for 103,900 pupils. Data also reveals that DfE did save money on Pupil Premium this year despite claiming otherwise.

Department for Education statistics confirm that the number of pupils eligible for free school meals has risen from 1,633,698 in October 2020 to 1,737,598 in January 2021 – an increase of 103,900

Pupil Premium is the mechanism by which schools get extra government funding to help them improve the outcomes of pupils classed as disadvantaged (including pupils eligible for free school meals). Schools receive £1,345 for every primary age pupil, or £955 for every secondary age pupil who claims free school meals or who has claimed free school meals in the last 6 years, and £2,345 for every pupil who has left local authority care through adoption, a special guardianship order or child arrangements order: 

The government have moved the date for calculating pupil premium eligibility back from January to October, meaning schools are missing out on additional funding for any child who started claiming free school meals for the first time after 1st October 2020.

Using £1,150 as the average of the disadvantage pupil premium rate for primary and secondary, the total impact of the cut is as follows: £1,150 x 103,900 = £119,485,000 (£119.5 million)

Waiting this to account for higher numbers of primary age pupils on free school meals this cut could be up to £129millon, Labour has repeatedly warned about the stealth cut to Pupil Premium funding, but these warnings were dismissed by the government.

A poll of NAHT's members conducted this month highlighted increased Pupil Premium funding as one of the top three most important actions to take to help schools to help pupils recover from the effects of the pandemic.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders' union NAHT, said: 

"This data shows that the government’s previous claims that schools would not lose out as a consequence of the changes to Pupil Premium this year were, at best, disingenuous.

“The stark reality is that we now know that the change to how the pupil premium is allocated has led to a £90m stealth cut to school budgets. Worse still, it means over 60,000 pupils won’t get the vital support they should have been entitled to this year.

"There is simply no justification for this change, and the government must reverse this decision immediately. A failure to so will completely undermine its claims to be ‘levelling up’ and ‘leaving no child behind’. It is hard to think of a worse possible time for the government to be withholding support for tens of thousands of disadvantaged pupils.”


Latest DfE stats confirm pupil premium change will dent funding for low income pupils 

17th Jun 2021: Commenting as the government publish pupil characteristics data that shows a big rise in the number of children eligible for free school meals and pupil premium funding,

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said:

“As we expected, there has been a big rise in the number of children eligible for pupil premium this year – and a worrying number of them will not be receiving any additional funding due to a change in reporting date implemented by the government.

“We warned them that making this change during the pandemic would have this consequence, as families have been hit hard financially by Covid-19. But our warnings fell on deaf ears.

“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 they have actively removed support for those children who are most in need of help.

“The government is giving with one hand while knowingly taking away with the other. This must be put right. Government can no longer ignore the concrete evidence of the rise in children eligible for free school meals, nor can they try to explain it away as a ‘technicality’. This is real money, affecting real children’s lives.

“They must come clean about how much they have saved with this change, and they must put that money back into school budgets immediately. We aren’t asking for additional money. Only for what schools would have received if this census date change hadn’t been implemented. If the government doesn’t take action, they will be abandoning those children most in need at the most critical time.”

Peter Kyle MP, Labour’s Shadow Schools Minister, said:

“This data confirms warnings from Labour, school leaders and teachers that the government are wilfully cutting support for those children who are most likely to have struggled with learning during the pandemic.

“The Pupil Premium stealth cut will see schools losing out on an estimated £119million in funding which should be providing extra support to over 103,000 children, helping them achieve at school.

“Stripping away funding to support the kids who need it most is unacceptable – doing so during a pandemic is a disgrace. Unlike the Tories, Labour will do everything it takes to make this country the best place in the world to grow up in. Labour’s recovery plan commits to reversing this cut and delivering the opportunities every child needs to bounce back from the pandemic.”

Jenna Julius, Senior Economist at the National Foundation for Educational Research, said:

“These latest statistics confirm that recent government changes to how Pupil Premium funding is allocated will leave many schools with less funding to support their low income pupils from April this year.

“Given the extra financial pressures the pandemic has placed on schools, anything which reduces potential funds, particularly money which schools had been expecting to receive, will make their jobs even tougher.”


How much money for disadvantaged pupils could be lost from school budgets this year? 

21th May 2021: The Local Government Association (LGA), has published a new survey showing how much money for disadvantaged pupils could be lost from school budgets this year due to a government change in how Pupil Premium funding is calculated.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, 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. A recent NAHT survey showed that the amount of money lost is more than schools are being given for education recovery. The government is giving with one hand while knowingly taking away with the other. 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.”

Responding to new data showing a quarter of pupils in receipt of pupil premium are not in education, training or employment five years after leaving school,

Peter Kyle MP, Labour’s Shadow Schools Minister, said: 

“This data shows that under the Conservatives young people on free school meals are being held back compared with their better-off peers.

“Education should be our most effective weapon for combating inequalities, but real-terms cuts to school budgets and 16-19 education have taken opportunities away from the young people who need them most. 

“As we rebuild from this pandemic, children and young people should be at the heart of our recovery, yet the Government has delivered a stealth cut to pupil premium funding, and is failing to deliver the early careers information, advice and guidance needed.” 

Department for Education statistics show 26% of pupils classed as disadvantaged – those in receipt of pupil premium– were not in employment, education or training (NEET) five years after leaving school. This is seventeen percentage points higher than the same figure for other pupils and an increase of 4% on the previous year. 

Poor outcomes for pupils on pupil premium were even worse in Alternative Provision, where 62% of pupils on pupil premium were NEET five years after leaving school (up from 55 per cent the year before). 

School spending per pupil in England fell by 9% in real terms between 2009–10 and 2019–20. This represents the largest cut in over 40 years.  

Expenditure on 16-19 education fell from £6.39 billion in 2010-11 to £5.68 billion in 2017-18, a reduction of 11.1% in cash terms and 21.0% in real terms. 

Source: House of Commons Library 16-19 education funding in England since 2010   

The Conservatives have delivered a ‘stealth cut’ to school budget reducing the number of children eligible for pupil premium funding – additional funding allocated to children on free school meals or who are looked after to help them achieve at school.


Schools’ Covid-19 recovery funding ‘wiped out’ as a result of changes to pupil premium 

18th March 2021: School leaders’ union NAHT have released data that shows that the £6,000 average funding allocated to primary schools through the recently announced ‘recovery premium’ has been entirely wiped out for many schools because of a change in how the government calculates the number of children eligible for pupil premium funding.

Normally schools report the number of pupils they have who are eligible for pupil premium in January. But for the 20/21 academic year the government changed the date for this census to October. This means that any children who became eligible during the intervening time will not receive any extra funding until next year.

In a survey of NAHT’s school leader members last week, which received 1,316 responses, we asked ‘how many pupils in your school became eligible for pupil premium between the October and January census, and will therefore not receive pupil premium for 2021?’

62% of respondents had 5 or more pupils that had become eligible for pupil premium between the October and January census.

Currently, primary schools receive £1,345 for each child eligible for pupil premium, so the lost funding for 5 pupils is £6,725 – more than the £6,000 ‘catch-up’ funding allocated to primary schools on average.

That means almost two thirds of schools surveyed have been left worse off due to the change even after the latest education recovery funding is taken into account.

Speaking as the findings are presented at NAHT’s School Leaders’ Summit today, Paul Whiteman, NAHT general secretary, said:

“These figures suggest that a large number of schools in England have lost more funding due to this date change than they are being given in the government’s so-called education recovery package.

“The government is giving with one hand while knowingly taking away with the other.

“A 3 month gap may not seem like it would make a big difference but, given the volatile financial situation for many families due to Covid-19, it is an exceptionally bad time to implement this change. A significant number of children appear to have become eligible for help via pupil premium during that time and these children will now not receive any additional funding for another whole year.

“Worse, the children who are losing out are exactly those children most in need of additional support as they return to school.

“The government may say ‘no child left behind’, but with this simple ‘administrative tidy-up’ they have found a way to snatch back funding from schools and to further entrench educational disadvantage for the poorest families.

“We warned them that this could be the unintentional consequence of making this change during the pandemic, and we have raised our members’ concerns about the situation they now find themselves in repeatedly. But our warnings have fallen on deaf ears.

“In stark contrast to their promises to put children and young people at the heart of the pandemic recovery, the reality is that the government is taking funding away from schools, leaving them worse off at a time when they need every possible resource available to them to help the children that most need it.

“The government must put this right. We aren’t asking for additional money here. Only for what schools would have received if this census date change hadn’t been implemented. If they don’t they will be abandoning those children most in need at the most critical time.”

Cllr Judith Blake, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said:

“It is imperative that no school should lose out in receiving Pupil Premium funding as a result of this administrative change, particularly in the context of the pandemic and the need to ensure pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds are supported to recover lost education.

“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.

“Schools need certainty that they will not lose out as soon as possible to ensure that no child is left behind.”

Kate Green MP 100x100Kate Green MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, said:

“Ministers have failed to protect family finances from the impacts of the pandemic, but as more children have become eligible for extra funding to help them achieve at school, the Government is changing the criteria and making it harder for schools to support their pupils.

“Disadvantaged children are missing out on the Government’s tutoring programme which was only reaching 1 in every 200 students last month, and Ministers are compounding this failure with the risk that disadvantaged pupils will be left behind by the Government’s failed response to this pandemic."

Pupil premium is extra funding provided to schools in England to help them improve the attainment of their disadvantaged pupils. Traditionally pupil funding from 1st April is calculated by a census of pupils taken in January that year. 

The Government has announced changes to this: “From April 2021, pupil premium allocations for mainstream and special schools will be calculated based on the number of eligible pupils recorded by schools in their census in October 2020.” Meaning that schools will not receive pupil premium funding for any pupil who became eligible between October 2020 and January 2021.

An NAHT survey with 1,316 responses found 62% of respondents had 5 or more pupils who become eligible for pupil premium between the October 2020 and January 2021 census.

Currently, primary schools receive £1,345 for each child eligible for pupil premium, so the lost funding for 5 pupils is £6,725 – more than the £6,000 ‘catch-up’ funding allocated to primary schools on average.

The National Audit Office has found that in February 2021: “Of the 125,200 children allocated a tutoring place, 41,100 had started to receive tuition, of whom 44% were eligible for pupil premium. This raises questions over the extent to which the scheme will reach the most disadvantaged children.” 

33% of respondents had 10 or more pupils that had become eligible for pupil premium between the October and January census. 10% of respondents had 20 or more pupils that had become eligible.

NAHT’s School Leaders' Summit 2021 is an all-day conference being held virtually on Thursday 18 March. Entitled ‘A Brighter Future for Education’ it looks at how education might emerge from the current pandemic. Keynote speakers include NAHT deputy general secretary Nick Brook, Steve Munby, David Weston and Liz Robinson.

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