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Pupil Premium should be doubled and eligibility extended because of “deep poverty” experienced by pupils

Lee Elliot Major, Professor of Social Mobility at Exeter University and author of The Good Parent Educator

The Pupil Premium should be doubled and eligibility extended because pupils are living in “deep poverty”, a leading social mobility expert has said.

Reports by teachers that children are stealing basics such as food and tissues and they are having to fund essential items for parents shows there is an urgent need to review the benefit, Lee Elliot Major has said.

The Professor of Social Mobility at the University of Exeter has called for all the Conservative Party leadership candidates to set out how they would tackle disadvantage and reduce learning loss caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Professor Elliot Major, who spoke to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Mobility this week, said: “It is vital there is no policy paralysis created by political instability at the very time leadership is needed to address unprecedented challenges currently facing schools and universities. Failure to act now could mean a generation being scarred by the Covid pandemic.

“It’s disappointing that there has been little mention of levelling up, social mobility, or improving opportunities so far among candidates for the new Conservative party leader. 

“Teachers on the frontline are seeing children turning up to school hungry, tired and anxious- with many still missing school altogether. Pupils are stealing basic items like tissues, they can’t pay for the bus to get to school, some are missing out on sixth form because they’ve started working to help their families. This year will also see the toughest university admissions round in living memory. Not enough money has been spent on helping teachers repair the damage caused by the pandemic, and the money spent so far has not been implemented well.”

Professor Elliot Major wants Pupil Premium funding given to schools to double and for the benefit to be given to more of the “working poor”. There should be a focus on combatting disadvantage and inequality during Ofsted inspections and teacher training.

His research shows coronavirus has led to average learning loss among children of three to four months, with the impact particularly acute among younger pupils. The pandemic will likely lead to a 4 to 12 per cent decline in income mobility. He is campaigning for a national university-led tutoring service to help pupils catch-up on their lost learning.

Professor Elliot Major said: “Progress made in schools in narrowing gaps in achievement between different groups of children has gone back a decade, but this can also be an opportunity to prioritise social justice in education policy.”

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