CEO’s Blog: SHINE backs calls for a review of decision on Pupil Premium funding

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A change to the reporting of students eligible for Pupil Premium means many schools in areas of severe disadvantage will miss out on badly needed funds as they look to recover from the pandemic. SHINE supports calls to the government to review this decision, so that students from low-income homes are not disadvantaged even further.

The Pupil Premium has long been a valuable mechanism for ensuring that the needs of the most disadvantaged students can be met within the education system. The additional funding assists schools in delivering the support and resources needed for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. It helps these young people to engage with their education and make the most of the opportunities available to them.

In the long term, we know that maximising educational potential for all students provides the most significant opportunity to change life chances and create a fairer society.

We also know that disadvantage is not uniform, nor evenly distributed geographically. Research has shown that schools that serve communities with the highest levels of long-term, entrenched disadvantage face tremendous challenges. SHINE has called previously for increased funding, targeted geographically, for the schools that serve the most deprived communities.

Many of the challenges faced by families and students in these communities have been amplified and exacerbated by the pandemic. And increasing numbers of schools have reported that they are using their Pupil Premium funding to plug budgetary gaps.

It is hard to see how this decision is fair, or how it will support recovery in the areas that most need it.

Dr Helen Rafferty

It is essential that schools are supported to provide for the needs of their students and families as we recover from this crisis, and additional funding is especially important in the most disadvantaged communities that have been hardest hit. Support for education must be absolutely central to any levelling up agenda.

It is therefore incredibly disappointing that the Department for Education (DfE) has, exceptionally, moved the date for calculation of the number of pupils who receive free school meals, the metric on which most Pupil Premium funding is based. Whereas previous calculations have been based on the numbers reported in January, this year the DfE has decided, retrospectively, to use the figures from October 2020. This places schools at a huge financial disadvantage, with minimum notice for planning or preparation, and amounts to an unacceptable funding cut for schools in the areas that have been most affected by the pandemic.

It has been estimated that more than 105,000 students will miss out on funding due to this change in date, a shortfall of up to £130 million in school budgets (1). And this comes at a time when schools need more funding, not less. Analysis by the Education Policy Institute (EPI) has shown that a multi-year support package of £10–15 billion is required to make up the lost learning experienced by pupils as a result of the pandemic. 

It is hard to see how this decision is fair, or how it will support recovery in the areas that most need it.

SHINE supports those who are challenging this decision, and firmly believes that schools should be provided with the resources needed to support their most disadvantaged children, particularly in this time of recovery. This means is it essential that schools are provided with uplifted Pupil Premium funding targeted to the areas of greatest need.

It is only through this support that the expertise and commitment of schools can be fully utilised to realise better outcomes for children and students in the long term, and close the disadvantage gaps in the North.

Dr Helen Rafferty, Interim Chief Executive, SHINE