The DfE has announced that the amount of money schools receive to support their poorest pupils is to increase for the first time in five years.
DfE announces an increase from April 2020
The Department for Education has announced that the pupil premium rate will increase from April by £25 for primary pupils (from £1,320 to £1,345) and £20 for secondary pupils (from £935 to £955).
Pupil premium is paid for all pupils who claim free school meals, or who have claimed free meals in the past six years. The rises represent an increase of around 1.8 per cent, in line with inflation.
However, there is no increase to address real-terms cuts to the rate in recent years. The last time the rates rose was 2015-16, but the cost of supporting pupils has risen in that time. This year, pupil premium payments for around 2 million eligible pupils cost the government £2.41 billion. This rise is expected to cost just under £50 million a year.
It is understood the funding for the increase will come from the already-announced £2.6 billion increase in the school budget for 2020-21. The pupil premium plus, which is paid for every pupil who has left local authority care through adoption, a special guardianship order or child arrangements order, will also rise by £45 (£2,300 to £2,345 per pupil). And the service premium, for every pupil with a parent serving in the forces or who is retired on a Ministry of Defence pension will rise from £300 to £310.
The announcement comes after the DfE finally officially admitted that per-pupil funding is currently 1.9 per cent lower than it was in 2010 in real-terms. New statistics published this week lay bare the extent of real-terms cuts to school budgets over the past decade. In 2019-20, schools received on average £5,940 per pupil.
The amount they received in 2010 based on today’s prices was £6,050. And if a recent grant paid to schools to cover increases in their contributions to the teachers’ pension scheme is excluded from calculations, per-pupil funding is actually £5,820 this year, 3.8 per cent lower in real-terms than it was in 2010-11.
The new statistics have been released to coincide with the introduction of new legislation which will force councils to pass on new minimum per-pupil funding rates for schools. They are also a response to a demand from the UK Statistics Authority that the DfE publish a “comprehensive set” of official figures on school funding.
It also comes as the DfE prepares to pump an additional £2.6 billion into the schools budget next year. Overall spending will then rise again by a further £2.2 billion in 2021-22 and another £2.3 billion in 2022-23, an increase in total school spending of £7.1 billion over three years.
This week, the department heralded the announcement as “the biggest funding boost for schools in a decade, giving every school more money for every child”. But the Institute for Fiscal Studies has warned that the government’s plans will still result in an “unprecedented” 13-year real-terms freeze.