Schools are having to use pupil premium funding to buy uniform and clothes to help disadvantaged families, a multi-academy trust leader has warned.
Chris Tomlinson, the new director of Co-op Academies, highlighted how not all pupil premium money can be spent on children’s education because schools are having to use it to buy basic items such as clothes and shoes.
Government guidance says the funding should be used to improve disadvantaged pupils’ academic attainment.
Mr Tomlinson was speaking at a Northern Powerhouse Partnership fringe meeting at the Conservative Party conference today on how to tackle the education and skills gap to close the North-South divide.
Quick read: Pupil premium failing to target the poor
Background: MP calls for unbranded school uniforms
Appointment: Tomlinson takes over at the Co-op
He has just taken over as the head of the Co-op Academies Trust, which runs schools in deprived parts of Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire.
He said: “Pupil premium funding per pupil is £935, the average cost of uniform can now be £270 and more and more schools are using some of the pupil premium just to get kids in school in a uniform.”
Speaking to Tes afterwards, he added: “If you are asked by a parent who has four children, can you help them with the school uniform or a pair of shoes then of course, as a head, you are going to.
“That is done with pupil premium funding so it means schools are spending some of that just supporting families to help pupils be ready for school.”
The funding, which gives state schools extra money to help disadvantaged pupils, was introduced by the coalition government.
The pupil premium is worth £1,320 for primary and £935 for secondary pupils who have been registered as eligible for free school meals during the last six years, and rises to £2,300 for those who have been in care.
Department for Education guidance says: "School leaders are best placed to decide how to use the pupil premium to improve disadvantaged pupils’ academic attainment."
It adds: "When taking decisions on how to spend the grant we strongly encourage school leaders to consider evidence on what will have the most impact for their pupils.
"Some of the most effective spending will be on whole-school strategies, including improving the quality of teaching, which have the potential to impact positively on all pupils."
Mr Tomlinson said it was a good policy but highlighted how schools were having to use for costs outside of their pupils’ education.
Before this Mr Tomlinson worked for the Harris Federation, where he has been leading London schools for the past 17 years.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We have invested an extra £2.4 billion this year alone through the Pupil Premium and schools have flexibility over how they use this funding to improve the progress and attainment of their disadvantaged pupils.
“Schools may offer individual clothing schemes, such as offering second-hand uniform at reduced prices.
"Schools can also choose to use their pupil premium funding to offer subsidies or grants for school uniform – this would be a decision for the school to make."