Poor pupil cash will not be ring-fenced
Critics claim premium scheme money will be used to plug gaps in
Andrew Grice has been Political Editor of The Independent since 1998. He was previously Political Editor of The Sunday Times, where he worked for 10 years, and he has been a Westminster-based journalist since 1982. His column, Inside Politics, appears in The Independent each Saturday.
Tuesday 15 May 2012
The Government will not ring-fence the £2.5bn a year to be
handed to schools for the most disadvantaged pupils to ensure all
of it is spent on them, Nick Clegg admitted yesterday.
The Deputy Prime Minister said it would be wrong to "micro-manage" every school from Whitehall by dictating how money allocated under his "pupil premium" scheme is spent. He dismissed criticism that it could be used to cover spending cuts.
But Alan Milburn, the Government's independent reviewer of child poverty and social mobility, is to investigate how and where the money is being spent. "It is opaque," said the former Labour cabinet minister. "That is a real problem. I will be looking into it."
In a speech yesterday, Mr Clegg offered schools a new deal under which they enjoy the freedom to spend the scheme's £1.25bn this year, rising to £2.5bn by 2015, in return for them redoubling efforts to close the gap between their poorer pupils and the rest.
He said the Coalition would not copy the previous Labour government by trying to hold the hand of every teacher in every classroom. He is confident teachers will innovate and spend the money well in different ways – such as one-to-one tuition, catching-up classes, breakfast clubs or counselling.
"This is a major change," he said. "We are saying, unlike ever before, that school excellence is not simply about great overall results. The best schools must be engines of social mobility too."
The Liberal Democrat leader insisted that schools would be held accountable and could not just spend the money on other things. Ofsted, the schools inspectorate, has been ordered to look "forensically" at how schools spend the money and to what effect. He said: "If a school's pupil premium population is failing, more likely than not the whole school will be judged to be failing. At that point ... Ofsted will take a much closer interest in how that school's pupil premium is spent."
He went out of his way to praise teachers, striking a different tone to recent criticisms of poor performers by Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, and Ofsted.
"When all the odds are stacked against a child – hardship, low confidence, parents who can't cope – it is teachers who step in and make the difference, teachers who go above and beyond the call of duty," said Mr Clegg.
But Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "The Government needs to be honest. The pupil premium is simply being used to plug gaps in schools' budgets because of other funding cuts by the Government."
Answering questions after his speech, Mr Clegg fired a warning shot at the Chancellor George Osborne by saying the Liberal Democrats would not allow him to bring in regional pay in the public sector. He insisted the Government was considering only "localised" pay in specific services and accused unions of "ludicrous scaremongering" about pay freezes in the North while wages went up in the South-east.
Pupil premium: Clegg's big idea
* Nick Clegg became interested in the "pupil premium" idea of directing extra money for disadvantaged pupils to schools when he visited the Netherlands 10 years ago as an MEP.
* It became a key pledge in the Liberal Democrat manifesto.
* Under the Coalition's scheme, schools currently receive £600 for each of the 1.8 million pupils on free school meals at any time in the past six years.
* It will cost £1.25bn this year, rising to £2.5bn by 2015.
International Women's Day 2014: The shocking statistics that show why it is still so important
Feminist quotes to inspire you on the International Women's Day
Belle Knox: How the porn star student from Duke University became bigger than Justin Bieber
International Women's Day 2014: Mothers and daughters describe their hopes and dreams in touching photographs
Liam Neeson on death of wife Natasha Richardson: ‘When I hear the door opening, I still think I’m going to hear her’
Apple's Tim Cook: Business isn’t just about making profit
Thousands of young people forced to go without food after benefits wrongly stopped under 'draconian' new sanctions regime
Ukraine crisis: New navy chief 'defects' and surrenders Crimean HQ as Putin claims ultranationalists forced intervention
Britain's top vet sparks controversy with call for ban on slashing animals' throats in 'ritual' slaughters for halal and kosher meat products
Ukraine crisis: Russia dismisses '3am ultimatum' as 'total nonsense'
If you're horrified by a flame-roasted dog, you should be shocked at a hog roast
- 1 International Women's Day 2014: The shocking statistics that show why it is still so important
- 2 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 3 Orgasm machine to deliver climax at the push of a button
- 4 Too upsetting? Academy members voted for Oscar-winning 12 Years A Slave 'without watching it'
- 5 Liam Neeson turned down James Bond role to marry Natasha Richardson
Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education is the largest ed...
£120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Experienced English Teacher in Gr...
£110 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Group: Year 5 and KS2 Teachers wanted ...
£120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: SEN English Teacher - Southend-On...