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School Funding

Volume 514: debated on Monday 26 July 2010

Today I have launched a consultation on our proposals for school funding in 2011-12, including more detailed proposals for a pupil premium as announced in the document “The Coalition: our programme for government”.

A good education is the key to improving young people’s life chances so that they go on into adulthood with the skills and confidence for success. This is particularly important for pupils from a deprived background yet it is these pupils that are being let down the most by the school system.

Over the past decade, the gulf in achievement between the rich and the poor has widened, while the attainment gap between fee-paying schools and state schools has doubled. Just two out of 57 countries now have a wider attainment gap between the highest and lowest achieving pupils.

Young children who are in the bottom 20% of attainment in the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile are six times more likely to be in the bottom 20% at key stage 1 than their peers. For disadvantaged pupils, a gap opens at KS1 and increases over time. Pupils entitled to free school meals (FSM) are only a third as likely to achieve five good GCSEs as their peers.

These gaps persist through to higher education. A pupil who has been entitled to FSM is less than half as likely to go on to study at university as their peers. In the last year for which we have data, out of a cohort of 600,000 pupils, 80,000 pupils were eligible for free school meals, and of those, just 45 made it to Oxbridge.

Addressing this disparity is a top priority of the coalition Government and it is for this reason that we are implementing a pupil premium, to ensure that extra funding is targeted at those deprived pupils that most need it.

The coalition document specified that this will be:

“a significant premium for disadvantaged children from outside the schools budget”.

The consultation sets out our proposed methodology for allocating the premium, including options on the best deprivation indicator to use. This money will not be ring-fenced at school level as I believe that schools are in the best position to decide how the premium should be used to support their pupils.

We are also using this consultation to set out our proposals for possible additional support for service children, as set out in “The Coalition: our programme for government”. Furthermore, I have included proposals for additional support for looked after children, who have consistently low attainment but are often not picked up by deprivation indicators and so would not benefit from the pupil premium.

The consultation document also outlines our intentions for school funding for 2011-12. We will continue with the current methodology for the distribution of school funding to allow for a clear and transparent introduction of the pupil premium, but we also recognise that the funding system could be more reflective of pupil characteristics and so we intend to review the system for funding schools beyond 2011-12.

In addition, from April 2011 we will require all local authorities to implement the early years single funding formula, in order to improve fairness and transparency in the system and to support diversity of provision.

Copies of this publication have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.