Back story - It was a 'key sticking point' in Labour talks

24th September 2010 at 01:00

Labour's flat refusal to back a pupil premium was one of the main reasons that Coalition negotiations between the party and the Liberal Democrats broke down after the general election, a minister claimed this week.

Children's minister Sarah Teather said that talks between her party and Labour failed to gain any kind of foothold due to Labour's refusal to consider the policy.

The premium provides an additional sum of money to schools if they take on a pupil from a more disadvantaged background, and was a key concession the Lib Dems forced from the Conservatives.

Speaking to The TES from her party's conference in Liverpool this week, Ms Teather said Labour's negotiating team, which included shadow education secretary Ed Balls, refused outright to consider the policy.

"The Conservatives did have a pupil premium policy but the Lib Dems argued for extra money - we fought for it to be additional money that came from outside the schools budget," she said.

"The pupil premium was one of the key sticking points with our negotiations. I was astonished that a policy that should be targeted at bringing up the attainment of kids from poorer backgrounds could be something Labour would reject. They were not interested before the election and they were not interested during the negotiations."

But Mr Balls said talks between the two parties never got off the ground because the Lib Dems insisted on public spending cuts this year, despite, he claimed, both parties believing cuts would be bad for the economy.

"At one point the Lib Dems said they got a promise from the Conservatives of a pupil premium on top of Labour's plans for rising schools funding over the next three years," Mr Balls said. "We said we would have to get the Chancellor's agreement to further spending over and above the 0.7 per cent real-terms rise agreed in the pre-Budget report. A meeting was set up between (shadow chancellor) Alistair Darling and (business secretary) Vince Cable, but was cancelled by the Lib Dems."

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