The pupil premium represents a significant investment of £1.875 billion since its introduction in April 2011. We are keen to ensure that schools’ use of the premium leads to real improvements for disadvantaged pupils. We have two evaluations under way—a study we have commissioned from Ofsted and our own external evaluation of the premium’s first year. The findings of both reviews will be available next spring, and will further support our drive to promote best practice.
I welcome the Minister to his position and thank him for his answer. Fifty-six per cent. of the children at Newington primary school are on free school meals. In the headmaster’s view, the pupil premium has doubled key stage 2 attainment and improved maths and English scores by 41%. Will the Minister give a commitment that the money will be in the hands of the head teacher and not ring-fenced in future?
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her kind words and am delighted to hear of the success of the pupil premium in her local school. I can confirm that we are not going back to the days under the previous Government, who sought to micro-manage each piece of education expenditure.
The right hon. Gentleman has a long tradition of passion for and commitment to the early years in education. We are constantly keeping schools and early years funding under review, and of course we will do what we can over time to ensure that youngsters, at whatever stage of their education, have an opportunity to fulfil their maximum potential.
The pupil premium is an excellent coalition policy to assist children from disadvantaged backgrounds, as is the free school policy. Can the Minister advise us on what efforts he will make to push forward with the free school policy to target areas with a high proportion of students on the pupil premium?
My hon. Friend makes a very good point. It is right that free schools are being concentrated in many parts of the country where there is disadvantage and where traditionally the performance of the school system has been weak. That will ensure that many disadvantaged youngsters can attend schools producing an outstanding or at least good performance.
The SK5 8 postcode in my constituency is the 162nd most deprived neighbourhood out of almost 32,500 in the UK. Children attend three different secondary schools where they significantly under-achieve, and not all are entitled to the pupil premium. The Brinnington educational achievement partnership set up in 2009 has helped to increase the number of children attaining GCSE A* to C from 33% to 75%—quite an achievement. Funding has now ended, but would the Minister look favourably on its bid to the education endowment fund?
I am delighted to hear about the progress in the hon. Lady’s constituency, and she has ingeniously managed to keep her question in order. If she would care to write to me on that subject, I will certainly look at the issue further. In the light of what she has said about disadvantage in her constituency, I hope that she will welcome the pupil premium, which must be helping schools enormously in her area.