Education plans unfit for the purpose of education

Education Secretary Michael Gove has not completed his austerity plans for the future of the statutory sector of education which is the period of compulsory school attendance from 4 to 16 years old. However, it is already possible to see some of the tricks that will be used to take finances out of schools. The ConDem government has boasted that the schools’ resource budget which covers the day-to-day costs of educating pupils will rise by 0.1%. In fact, the predicted rise by 2.7% in the number of pupils in school in Britain over the next year will mean current spending per pupil will be cut by 2.25%.

Pupil premium card trick

The budget of most schools will also shrink because of changes to the way money is provided to support poor children. The ‘pupil premium’ is money given to schools for each pupil who is eligible to receive free school meals (FSM), a widely-used indicator of poverty. The average primary school has 17% of ‘free meals’ pupils and secondary schools have 14%. However, the new ‘pupil premium’ will be distributed not on the basis of the numbers of individual children in each school but on the proportion overall of FSM pupils of the school’s total numbers. In future a secondary school will need to have 25% of its pupils eligible to receive the pupil premium to qualify for funding. It has been estimated that 62% of primary school children and 84% of secondary pupils are in schools that will have budgets cut as a result of the new plans for distribution of the pupil premium.

Susan Davidson

EMA abolished

The ConDem government will abolish the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) from the end of 2010. EMA provides 16-19 year olds from low-income families with £30 a week to stay on in education. If pupils or students are absent or do not do the work set, they miss out on the payment. For many of the 660,000 young people receiving EMA, it is the difference between studying and getting qualifications or becoming NEETs (Not in Education, Employment or Training). EMA costs the government £550 million a year; it will be replaced with a fund of £50 million.

Removal of EMA is a further cut in income for the poorest families on top of the benefit cuts. The £30 a week pays for food, for travel to school and college, for books, paper, pens and software. Take it away and many families will not be able to afford these basic things.

Trevor Rayne

FRFI 218 December 2010/January 2011


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