Schools could see recovery money ‘wiped out’ by funding allocation changes

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Covid-19 education recovery money could be “wiped out” for many schools as a result of changes in how funding for disadvantaged children has been calculated, a school leaders’ union has warned.

Schools in England will not receive any pupil premium funding for children from low-income families who became eligible between October and January until next year, according to the NAHT school leaders’ union.

A survey of more than 1,300 school leaders suggests that more than three-in-five schools have been left worse off due to a change in how the Government calculates the number of pupils eligible for pupil premium funding – even after the new education recovery fund for schools is taken into account.

This means schools will not receive any extra funding this year for the disadvantaged children who became eligible for additional support during the three-month gap, the union said.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT, warned: “The Government is giving with one hand while knowingly taking away with the other.”

Last month, the Government announced that schools in England would be offered a new £302 million Recovery Premium to support disadvantaged pupils as part of its catch-up package for children.

The Department for Education (DfE) has said that the average primary school will receive around £6,000 extra, and the average secondary school around £22,000 extra, as part of the one-off fund.

Department of Education sign
The Department for Education said the average primary school would receive around £6,000 extra (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

The poll found that 62% of heads said they had five or more pupils who had become eligible for pupil premium between the October and January census.

Of these, a third had 10 or more pupils who became eligible for the funding during the same period, and 10% had 20 or more pupils who became eligible.

Currently, primary schools receive £1,345 for each child eligible for pupil premium, so the lost funding for five pupils is £6,725 – more than the average £6,000 recovery funding allocated to primary schools.

Schools can use the Recovery Premium fund to run additional clubs and activities in the summer, or for evidence-based approaches to help the most disadvantaged children from September.

Speaking ahead of the union’s virtual School Leaders’ Summit on Thursday, Mr Whiteman said: “These figures suggest that a large number of schools in England could see their education recovery funding wiped out as a consequence of this date change.”

“A significant number of children appear to have become eligible for help via pupil premium during that time and these children will now not receive any additional funding for another whole year.

“Worse, the children who are losing out are exactly those children most in need of additional support as they return to school.”

Mr Whiteman accused the Government of finding a way to “snatch back funding from schools” and “further entrench educational disadvantage for the poorest families”.

He added: “In stark contrast to their promises to put children and young people at the heart of the pandemic recovery, the reality is that the Government is taking funding away from schools, leaving them worse off at a time when they need every possible resource available to them to help the children that most need it.

“The Government must put this right. We aren’t asking for additional money here, only for what schools would have received if this census date change hadn’t been implemented.

“If they don’t, they will be abandoning those children most in need at the most critical time.”

Councillor Judith Blake, chairwoman of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said no school should lose out in receiving pupil premium funding as a result of this administrative change.

She said: “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.

“Schools need certainty that they will not lose out as soon as possible to ensure that no child is left behind.”

A DfE spokeswoman said: “We moved to using the October census to calculate pupil premium allocation so that schools know their budget earlier in the year, helping them to plan ahead.

“We expect pupil premium funding to increase to more than £2.5 billion in 2021-22, reflecting an increase in the number of eligible pupils.

“We are taking steps to make sure every pupil gets an excellent education, no matter their background.

“That’s why we continue to allocate pupil premium funding to schools at unchanged per-pupil rates, in addition to the significant new catch-up and recovery funding we have introduced, which is targeted towards schools most in need to support disadvantaged students’ attainment.”

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