Leading Article: Three cheers for the Liberal Democrats

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The Independent Online

The Liberal Democrats have seized on the findings of last week's National Equality Report and decided they would give each poor child a pupil premium of £2,500. They should be commended for doing so. Last week's report showed that the richest 10 per cent are more than 100 times as rich as the poorest 10 per cent and that government spending on deprivation is not going to those most in need. Much of it is going to schools in inner-city areas. As a result there is a big gap between poor children in different parts of the country. In Kensington and Chelsea, 59 per cent of poor children get five good GCSEs whereas in Rutland only 14 per cent do.

The Liberal Democrats are promising to put £2.5bn into a "pupil premium" programme that would iron out these geographical disparities and ensure that children in rural areas are as well provided for as those elsewhere. The money would be spent on reducing class sizes and giving extra help to children who are struggling. If we are serious about reducing inequality – and there are good economic arguments for doing so, as the Conservatives acknowledge too – we should support this policy. It is a big public spending commitment but it should be achievable and its benefits are clear. Ensuring that more children do better in GCSEs will ensure that more people from disadvantaged families go to university, as last week's Higher Education Funding Council report showed.