£100m extra for summer school funding

 

The Government has announced £100 million of extra funding to pay for summer schools for disadvantaged youngsters.

In the first keynote speech of the Liberal Democrat conference, Education Minister David Laws also confirmed the Government will increase the pupil premium for children from poorer backgrounds to £900.

The summer school funding will pay to help pupils cope with the transition between primary and secondary schools and will fund the programme until 2014.

Last year, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced an initial £50 million for the project, and Mr Laws said it had been a major success.

Mr Laws said: "All too often pupils who have made big progress through the school year fall behind over the long summer holiday, particularly if they are changing schools.

"Over 2,000 secondary schools took part in that programme this summer and the feedback we received was fantastic, so I am announcing today that we are allocating a further £100 million to continue this project in 2013 and 2014."

In his first Liberal Democrat party conference speech after making a frontbench comeback in the reshuffle, two years after being forced out over the misuse of taxpayer-funded expenses, Mr Laws hailed the success of the pupil premium scheme.

Next year's rise to £900 - up from £619 per pupil this year - will see £1.8 billion allocated to the premium with the Government on track to allocate £2.5 billion a year in 2014/15, or around £1,200 per pupil.

This meets a pledge included in the general election manifesto, and Mr Laws said it was an indication the party was able to deliver its policies in government.

In the build-up to the conference, Lib Dem leader Mr Clegg issued a video apology for breaking a pre-election pledge to oppose any rise in tuition fees.

As the party sought to draw a line under the issue, Mr Laws said: "People have complained, and rightly, about what happened over tuition fees. And we in the parliamentary party have rightly apologised. But let us not forget the pledges we are delivering.

"Not just our £2.5 billion Pupil Premium. The £10,000 tax free allowance. The Green Deal. Restoring the link between pensions and earnings. We do have a record of action and delivery in government.

"We should shout about it. We should build on it. We should be very, very proud of it."

Under the pupil premium scheme, schools get extra cash for every child registered as eligible for free school meals (FSM) and children in care.

Mr Laws called for parents, teachers and governors to monitor the way schools were using the pupil premium money to ensure it was delivering results.

"You cannot micro-manage 25,000 schools from Whitehall. It would undermine innovation and undermine the informed decisions of heads and teachers," he said.

"But I will hold schools to account. They must use the pupil premium money to help disadvantaged pupils to catch up. And you can help make this happen."

Sir Michael Wilshaw, Ofsted's chief inspector, said there was real concern that funds were being used simply to "plug the gap" in school budgets as more than half of schools surveyed said it was making "little or no difference".

Sir Michael said the watchdog had been surprised by the survey results. Only 10% of schools surveyed said it was having a "significant" effect, all of which were in the most deprived areas.

The DfE said latest statistics show that in 2011, 35% of pupils on free school meals achieved five good GCSE grades, compared with 62% of other pupils, while 58% of pupils on free school meals achieved the expected level in both English and maths by the end of primary school, compared with 78% of other pupils.

It said while schools have freedom to use the funding in innovative ways, they should use it to boost results for the most disadvantaged pupils and will be held to account by Ofsted.

Mr Laws said: "Let me be clear that while I do not wish to be heavy handed with schools, the pupil premium has to deliver, for the sake of individual children and the country as a whole."

PA

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