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Pupil Premium

Volume 670: debated on Monday 20 January 2020

The pupil premium ensures schools receive extra money to benefit disadvantaged pupils who need it most. Schools are helped to make effective decisions and good use of the grant by the Education Endowment Foundation’s research and guidance. The Government remain convinced of the effectiveness of the pupil premium in helping to narrow the attainment gap and are committed to this policy.

The House of Commons Library has confirmed to me that there has been a £220 million real-terms decrease in the total amount of spending on the pupil premium since 2015. Schools in my constituency have together lost about £1 million, with the worst-affected losing almost £40,000 a year. In its recent manifesto, the Conservative party did not repeat its previous commitment to protect the pupil premium. So can the Minister tell the House today what the Government’s policy actually is? Will they retain the pupil premium and restore it, or will it simply be left to waste away?

The pupil premium is for any pupil who has qualified or has been eligible for free school meals in the last six years. It is £935 for pupils in secondary schools and £1,320 for pupils in primary schools—some £2.4 billion a year. Since 2011, we have allocated more than £15 billion to schools to help to narrow that attainment gap. We have the lowest level of unemployment for over 40 years, so there will be different eligibility for free school meals, which depends on the benefits system. When there is a higher level of employment, fewer people are eligible for the benefits system.

A recent survey by the Sutton Trust suggested that 30% of headteachers were using the pupil premium for general funding in their budgets. What studies are the Government doing to ensure that the end result of the pupil premium is good outcomes for students?

The Education Endowment Foundation has produced a very good guide for schools on how to use the pupil premium in the most effective way to narrow the attainment gap. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State spelled out the fact that we have closed the attainment gap by 13% in primary schools and 9% in secondary schools. Between 2011 and 2018, there was an 18 percentage point increase in the proportion of disadvantaged young people taking the EBacc combination of core academic GCSE subjects; the subjects that provide the widest opportunities in later education, training and career choices.