It’s a devastating fact that, after thirteen years of splashing money around, Labour left behind a country where the best way to predict how well a child will do in school was to look at their parent’s income.
No one can be happy with this state of affairs, least of all those of us in places like Camden where there are schools (including the one where I am a governor) where over 80% of the children are on free school meals.
So, it’s a big deal that, from April next year, every school in England will get an extra £430 for each child in their school on free school meals. Based on latest estimates this will mean at least an extra £2,504,320 for schools to spend on the students who need it most in Holborn & St Pancras.
Many of our teachers do a great job in difficult circumstances, and richly deserve the extra support this money will bring. What’s more, the government has enough trust in their professional expertise to let teachers spend it in the way that will make the most difference for children in their school. This could mean one on one lessons, or extra catch up classes after school.
The pupil premium policy was on the front page of the Liberal Democrat manifesto and was a red line in coalition negotiations. It is to the Tories credit that, unlike Labour, they were willing to take the idea on board.
Some in Labour are already moaning (conveniently ignoring the fact that their party preferred to walk away from government rather than having to agree to such a radical, progressive idea). Yet the pupil premium embeds an important principle into our schools system: that poorer children need extra help at the early stages of their education. We all benefit from this, and it’s great that for the first time ever good schools have a financial incentive to take poorer pupils, rather than squabbling over their middle class friends.
Investment in early years and primary education is the best way to turn around a child’s life chances. This extra money will help protect local schools and, in the long term, give a leg up to those who need it most.