High school pupils in classroom

£118m for disadvantaged pupils could be lost from school budgets

A total of £118m for disadvantaged pupils could be lost from school budgets in England this year due to a government change in how pupil premium funding is calculated, a new survey by the Local Government Association (LGA) has revealed.

The LGA said councils stand ready to help the government prioritise disadvantaged pupils in its education recovery plan to prevent the attainment gap between disadvantaged children and young people and their peers widening further as a result of Covid-19.

They are urging the government to ensure no school will lose out on pupil premium funding this year.

Publicly funded schools in England get extra pupil premium funding from the government to help them improve the attainment of their disadvantaged pupils.

It amounts to £1,345 a year for every eligible primary age pupil, or £955 for every eligible secondary age pupil.

However, for the 2021/22 financial year, this funding will be based on the October 2020 census of pupils instead of the January 2021 census.

As a result, schools with children who have become eligible for this funding, which pays for free school meals and academic support, during the pandemic, will not receive any additional funding for another whole year.

An LGA survey of councils and analysis of government census figures shows that this change could result in: 

  • A loss of pupil premium funding of around £93m for primary schools and £25m for secondary schools.
  • An average loss of around £600k in primary school pupil premium funding per local authority area.

Not only have schools reported significant increases in costs during Covid-19, they now face worrying funding reductions in pupil premium funding, the LGA said.

They also said that by changing the date of pupil premium reporting, the government can ensure that schools receive pupil premium funding for all eligible pupils this year.

Commenting, Vice Chairman of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, Councillor Teresa Heritage said:

“Councils and schools want to work with the government on education recovery and share concerns about the needs of disadvantaged children who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

“There will be many schools with children who will have become eligible for pupil premium between October and January who will now not qualify for this extra funding for a whole year. 

“Pupil premium is vital to support the government’s levelling up agenda and education recovery plans.

“It is imperative that the government ensures that no school loses out in receiving this vital funding this year and that no child is left behind.”

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