Funding intended to boost the academic performance of the UK’s most disadvantaged children has been cut in real terms by nearly half a billion pounds in seven years, it is claimed.
Anti-Brexit campaign group Best for Britain published figures showing that since 2015, pupil premium funding for primary and secondary-age schoolchildren has fallen by more than £467m, when accounting for inflation.
The pupil premium system, which is additional to main school funding, was set up in 2011 to fund initiatives to support disadvantaged children.
Best for Britain says more than 1.9 million pupils need the premium funding, but its analysis found that the cash has increased by only 4.92 per cent for primary children and 5.35 per cent for secondary-school pupils in the past seven years.
Rising inflation means the actual funding is down by £340 and £241.50 per pupil a year respectively.
This equated to an average of at least £21,000 per school, already facing other inflationary pressures, according to the organisation, which describes itself as “the UK’s leading cross-party advocacy group upholding internationalist values”.
Ministers say the increased sums they are putting in mean pupils this year are receiving more than ever.
This week the Institute for Fiscal Studies said in a report that education funding in England had become “less progressive”, with efforts to target cash at poorer pupils diminished by demographic changes and government policy.
The government had failed to close the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their more affluent peers, according to the IFS.
Naomi Smith, CEO of Best for Britain, accused the government of limiting children’s life chances “because of their continued economic incompetence and all while touting their ‘levelling up’ agenda”.
Niamh Sweeney, deputy general secretary of the National Education Union said: “By any measure this is startling and shocking, and unacceptable for schools, pupils and parents.”
A government spokesperson said: “We are boosting the pupil premium to more than £2.6bn this year, meaning that per-pupil funding rates will be the highest, in cash terms, since this funding began.
“We recognise schools are facing rising costs, and core school funding is rising significantly – by £4bn in 2022-23 compared with the previous year – helping to meet those pressures.”