Under-secretary of state for children and families, Nadhim Zahawi, was questioned today about whether the government will extend pupil premium funding to cover 16- to 18-year-olds and children with mental health problems.
The pupil premium, introduced in 2011, is an additional payment of £1,320 for each primary pupil and £935 for every secondary pupil who has received free school meals in the last six years.
There is also a £1,900 pupil premium payment for any pupil who has ever been in care – and £300 for service children.
Plans for pupil premium
At a Commons Education Committee hearing this morning, Labour MP Emma Hardy asked Mr Zahawi, minister for children and families, whether the government had any plans to extend pupil premium funding, now that pupils are expected to stay in education, employment or training until the age of 18.
She said: "As you know, children up to age 18 have to be in compulsory education or training or work, but pupil premium funding for schools stops at 16. Does the government have any plans to revisit this and look at sixth form colleges, sixth forms or children still staying in school still receiving pupil premium money?"
She added: "And also one thing we’ve been investigating is apprenticeships and employers, and incentivising employers to take on children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Could there be an opportunity for the department to look into pupil premium funding taking on an early apprenticeship?"
Mr Zahawi said that the question was outside his area of responsibility, adding: “But at the moment there are no plans to extend pupil premium.”
Mental health problems
Ms Hardy also asked whether there were any plans to extend the criteria for which pupil premium funding was given.
“We have been discussing problems that children are having with mental health,” she said. “Could that be an area, children who have a diagnosed mental health condition, where the school could get pupil premium for them?
“Pupil premium is only given to pupils with certain criteria. Are the department thinking about reviewing this criteria, extending criteria or consulting on this criteria, to make sure that children who need additional resources get it?”
Mr Zahawi said that the department was “constantly looking” at how to make pupil premium work better and focus it on the most disadvantaged children.
“But at the moment there are no plans to change,” he repeated.
Narrowing the gap
Michelle Donelan, Conservative MP for Chippenham, argued that the pupil premium was not working – and said a major review was needed.
But Mr Zahawi replied that, while it was right to constantly improve and review how the pupil premium was working, it had helped to reduce the attainment gap at ages 11 and 16.
An Education Policy Institute Report published in August 2017 found there had been progress in narrowing the gap between disadvantaged pupils and others – but that the pace of change was slow, estimating it will take 50 years for the gap to close.