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Poor Families (Assistance)

Volume 513: debated on Monday 12 July 2010

4. What steps his Department is taking through the education system to assist children from poor families. (6959)

We have made a clear commitment to narrowing attainment gaps between children from disadvantaged backgrounds and their peers through our recently announced pupil premium. This will help us to give more support to the children who are most disadvantaged and who need it most, and to their schools. We will announce more details of our proposals in due course.

I would like to push the Secretary of State for greater details on the pupil premium and on where the extra funds will be allocated.

I thank my hon. Friend for promoting me, but it is a little premature.

We will be announcing more information about the pupil premium in due course. However, to quote the Prime Minister, it will involve a “substantial” extra sum from outside the education budget. We are determined, in particular, to tackle the pockets of deprivation that have not been dealt with by other forms of deprivation funding, ensuring that the funding follows the students and that schools then have the freedom to decide how best to spend the money.

Sandwell is home to some of the poorest families in the country. Last week, officials confirmed that school cuts in the borough were made because the outline business case for their wave 5 bid was not signed off until after 1 January. Can the Minister confirm that no school that retained funding missed that deadline? Does she think that the criteria used for the funding is fair given that children in Labour-controlled Sandwell lose £140 million of support while those in the neighbouring borough, Conservative Wolverhampton, gain £360 million?

I appreciate the particular difficulties with Sandwell. However, I remind the hon. Gentleman that BSF was set up by his Government, and it is because of the slowness and inefficiency of BSF that schools in Sandwell were so late in getting anything from the bid at all.

Children from poorer areas of Hull have rightly had additional funds come to their local authority to help with their education. However, when those children travelled across the border to be educated in East Riding, the money that was given to support their education in Hull did not follow them. Ministers in the previous Administration, despite repeated representations, refused to make that change. Will the pupil premium follow the child wherever they go to school?

The hon. Gentleman makes a very good point. It is precisely for that reason that we need a funding system that follows the student and reflects their individual needs. We see widely varying levels of deprivation funding from one area to another.

Does the hon. Lady believe that cancelling new schools in the most deprived areas of my constituency will assist poor children with their education? Did she have any discussions with Warrington borough council about deprivation in the borough before cancelling those building projects?

Simply because some projects under BSF have been cancelled does not mean that schools will not be rebuilt or renovated in the future. That is precisely the reason why the capital review is happening—to ensure that we have enough money to rebuild and renovate schools in the future. Unfortunately, BSF is such an inefficient way of doing that that there would not have been any money left.