Pupil premium is failing the working poor

6th May 2011 at 01:00

It is not only Travellers who "fall foul of pupil premium rules" (29 April). Schools are also being deprived of money for children whose family income puts them well below the poverty line, but whose circumstances mean they are not eligible for free school meals, and by extension, the pupil premium.

Free school meals are only available to non-working families. The children of those who work and claim working tax credit, however low their income, are not eligible. Thus we have the invidious situation where non-working families can earn up to #163;16,000 a year and still be eligible, while working families with half that income are not eligible.

The Government says it will address this situation by introducing universal credit to pinpoint poor families more accurately, but that will not be until 2013 at the earliest. In the meantime, schools serving some of the most disadvantaged communities will lose out. So will families who are struggling to get by on very low wages, yet find themselves ineligible for not only free school meals, but also all the other benefits - subsidised music lessons, money for extracurricular activities, cheaper course fees - that use free school meals as a marker of entitlement.

Andrea Needham, Hastings.

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