Monday, 13 December 2010

The Pupil Premium

On this post on Lord Bonker's blog he laments the lack of publicity given to the announcement of the Pupil Premium even amongst Lib Dem bloggers. This will give schools an additional £430 for each of the poorest pupils and can be spent at the discretion of the head teacher. In my area - Bristol South - this will amount to £1,490,810 p.a.

Some of the responses he received to this have been churlish, suggesting that as this was a Conservative policy too, the Liberal Democrats cannot claim it as a triumph. This led me to look back at the manifestos and see what was promised in each. First from the Tory's "Invitation to Join the Government of Britain":
"Education’s real power lies in its ability to transform life chances, but we can’t go on giving the poorest children the worst education. That is why we will introduce a pupil premium – extra funding for children from disadvantaged backgrounds."
and now from the Liberal Democrat Manifesto 2010:
"Increase the funding of the most disadvantaged pupils, around one million children. We will  invest £2.5 billion in this ‘Pupil Premium’ to boost education opportunities for every child. This is additional money going into the schools budget, and headteachers will be free to spend it in the best interests of children.
The extra money could be used to cut class sizes, attract the best teachers, offer extra one-to-one tuition and provide for after-school and holiday support. This will allow an average primary school to cut classes to 20 and an average secondary school to introduce catch-up classes for 160 pupils."
It was, indeed, part of one of the four key commitments of the manifesto and the promise of a fair chance for every child. 
Finally, for completeness, from the Coalition's Programme for Government:
"We will fund a significant premium for disadvantaged pupils from outside the schools budget by reductions in spending elsewhere."

Now, the policy as implemented is at a much lower level than the Lib Dems proposed, and isn't, yet, "a significant premium" although it will increase through the term of this parliament.

The point of reproducing the above, however, is to show the difference in approach. The Liberal Democrat policy was thought through, costed and a major part of the manifesto, whereas evidence of this is lacking in the Tory plans which didn't even quote a ball-park figure.

So, whether or not it was in both manifestos, Liberal Democrats should be trumpeting that the pupil premium as a major piece of Lib Dem policy being implemented by the coalition - and detailing how much further we could have gone.


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