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Pupil Premium

Volume 635: debated on Monday 29 January 2018

As with all policies, we continue to monitor the pupil premium for effectiveness and value for money. Through the Education Endowment Foundation, we seek to ensure that schools are confident in using that evidence.

Wiltshire teachers consistently stress their concerns that many parents fear the potential stigma of registering for free school meals, meaning their children do not get the pupil premium. I have stressed that for years. Will the Minister consider introducing an automatic link between the pupil premium and the benefits system, to ensure that all children who need additional funding get it?

Let me be clear: we should not allow any stigma to get in the way of parents seeking the best for their children. We will continue to highlight effective practice by schools that have made a great effort to get children registered for free school meals and share that practice with all schools and local authorities.

I share the opinion of the hon. Member for Chippenham (Michelle Donelan). In rural areas, there is still stigma, and people will not put their children forward for free school meals and, therefore, for the pupil premium. Will the Minister look again at the criteria, to ensure that those children are not losing out?

We want to make it as simple as possible for schools and local authorities to determine eligibility for free meals, and we are exploring opportunities to make the registration process more efficient.

In my constituency and across north Northumberland, the pupil premium and the service pupil premium for my military children are valuable additions to the school budget, as targeted interventions for those pupils. However, they are used more effectively in some schools than others. Will the Minister tell the House what plans the Department has to get Ofsted to look more closely at usage and drive best practice across our schools?

There are unique challenges for servicemen and women who move around, and the Education Endowment Foundation is looking at that very seriously.

The pupil premium is there to support children from disadvantaged backgrounds and to address poor attainment. Is the Minister as concerned as I am that the Northern Powerhouse Partnership has identified that there is a growing north-south divide, which is impacting on attainment, too?

I also welcome the new Secretary of State to his place. I wonder whether he will join me in getting a copy of the Conservative party manifesto from the Library, where it is filed under “Political fiction”. He will notice, under the heading “Fairer funding”, a pledge to protect funding for the pupil premium. Instead, it has been cut by more than £100 million in real terms this spending period. Will he now act to keep that promise?