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Pupil Premium

Volume 518: debated on Monday 15 November 2010

4. What assessment he has made of the likely effect of his proposed pupil premium on children in (a) Reading East constituency and (b) England; and if he will make a statement. (23519)

We have made no assessment of the effect of the pupil premium in specific constituencies. We are considering the responses to the consultation on school funding, which ended on 18 October, including the question of which deprivation indicator to use. We expect the effect of introducing the pupil premium across England to be one of raising the attainment of those children who are eligible for it.

As somebody who wrote about and championed the pupil premium back in 2005, may I welcome the Minister’s answer? The pupil premium will not be enough in itself to break open social mobility, as only 45 pupils on free school meals went to Oxbridge in the last year for which figures are available. What further measures can the Minister promise, and how do the Government undertake to make things better for poorer pupils?

I recognise the hon. Gentleman’s long-standing interest in this issue. He is right that the pupil premium alone is not enough to break open social mobility, but that is exactly why we extended the free entitlement for early-years education for three and four-year-olds to 15 hours, and why—crucially—we have extended such education to all disadvantaged two-year-olds. By ensuring that we narrow the gap before children get to school, we ensure that they are in a much better position to make the best of the offer that we provide for them when they start primary school.

We are told that the Secretary of State cracked open a bottle or two on the day of the spending review to celebrate the “Schools Protected” headline that was running. His journalistic ability to get a good headline is not in doubt; it is his grip on ministerial detail that we worry about, and whether the reality that head teachers face when they see their budgets in a few weeks’ time will match the fine words that he used on that day.

Let me quote what the Secretary of State told the Daily Mail on 27 May:

“we will have a pupil premium, a sum of money from outside the existing schools budget which will come on top of what we currently spend on schools, in order to help children in disadvantaged circumstances.”

I ask the Minister a simple question: have the Government delivered in full on that commitment?

The pupil premium will provide £2.5 billion on top of the baseline for schools by the end of the comprehensive spending review period. Let me remind the right hon. Gentleman that that is £2.5 billion more than a Labour Government would have been prepared to put in.

I am afraid that the Minister is wrong. The coalition agreement said that the pupil premium would be funded from “outside the schools budget”, but the spending review document said that it

“will sit within a generous…settlement”.

Whatever the Minister says today, the truth is this: a pupil premium that is on top of a protected schools budget has not been delivered. However—and what is worse—the pupil premium is not what it seems. It will create winners and losers, and scandalously, the biggest losers are set to be schools in the most deprived areas of England. Let me share with the House new analysis from the Commons Library, which states:

“The impact is likely to be—

Order. The shadow Secretary of State must bring himself to a question, and I am sure he will now do so.

The Library note states:

“The impact is likely to be a shift in funding from generally more deprived to less deprived local authorities.”

At this time, how can the Minister possibly justify taking money off schools in those deprived parts of England?

The right hon. Gentleman knows full well that there will be a real-terms increase in school funding over the course of this comprehensive spending review period. I wonder whether it is perhaps the height of his political career to stand in the House of Commons to oppose our spending £2.5 billion extra on the poorest children in this country. Is that really what he came into Parliament to do?

The words do not match the reality. The reality of the Government’s spending review is this: a pupil premium con, where funding is recycled to the most affluent areas; a real-terms cut per pupil of 2.25%; a whopping 60% cut to the school building programme; Sure Start cut by 9%; and the education maintenance allowance scrapped, despite promises from the Secretary of State to protect it. Is this not the truth: he has made a mess of the education budget and while he celebrates his headlines, children and teachers are counting the cost of the Government’s broken promises?

Is it not true that the right hon. Gentleman’s Government left a legacy of the poorest children doing significantly worse than the wealthiest children right across the country, and of children on free school meals failing at every level to meet that of children from wealthier backgrounds? That is their legacy; that is the truth. His Government would never have implemented the pupil premium, and I am proud to say that we are implementing it.

Order. I just emphasise at this point that we must now return to questions and answers. That is what we need and that is what the public expect.