£11.4 million present for Sheffield schools

Gift: Sarah Teather MP with councillors Shaffaq Mohammed and Colin Ross.
Gift: Sarah Teather MP with councillors Shaffaq Mohammed and Colin Ross.

DISADVANTAGED Sheffield youngsters have been given an early Christmas present after the Government anounced it is almost doubling the amount paid to the city’s poorest school pupils next year.

Children’s Minister Sarah Teather has revealed Sheffield’s Pupil Premium payment will increase from £6.5 million this year to £11,414,000 in 2012/13.

The extra cash has come from an increase in the value of payments and widening of the numbers of children eligible.

In Sheffield, 19,040 children are expected to be eligible for extra funding, which is increasing by £112 to £600 per pupil.

During 2012/13, the Pupil Premium will be extended to cover an extra 5,600 children in Sheffield that have been registered for free school meals in the past six years, as well as those currently receiving free meals who are already eligible.

But there has been concern from some schools they are not receiving as much money through the scheme as they should because of parents’ reluctance to claim free school meals - which pupils must have received or receive now to qualify for the premium.

Ms Teather said: “We are seeing across the country how these extra funds are making a difference. Additional tuition, better IT resources and closer work with parents are all examples of how the Pupil Premium is being used to support the most disadvantaged pupils.

“That’s why I’m so pleased that, next year, we’ll be extending the Pupil Premium to another half a million children nationwide, and increasing the money that schools get to £600 per pupil. This means that, as a result of Liberal Democrats in government, more children will get a better start in life.”

Ms Teather addressed concerns about the link between the Pupil Premium and free school meals - as some parents whose children would qualify for free meals do not claim, partly due to stigma.

She said: “The Government has a rough idea how many people are eligible for the premium. But there is currently no other recognised way of assessing eligibility for specific pupils in schools than registration for free meals - although this issue could be ironed out when we change the benefit system so there is a universal credit system for all claimants. My message to Star readers is to urge them to fill in a form at their child’s school if they think their children may be eligible for free school meals to make sure schools maximise their income from the Pupil Premium and their children do not miss out on what it could bring.

“It would be such a shame if schools do not receive all the support they could have.”

Ms Teather said next year’s payments are due to double by the end of the current Parliamentary term, in 2015.

Deputy PM and Hallam MP Nick Clegg, who came up with the idea of the Pupil Premium in 2002, said: “It is so important to Liberal Democrats that we put it on the front page of our manifesto. I am very proud that we are now able to deliver this in Coalition. It will help to improve the life chances of children across Sheffield, benefiting not just those from deprived backgrounds but all their classmates too.”