5th Dec, 2016

Primary schools could be missing out on vital funding

Stratford Editorial 14th Aug, 2016 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016

PRIMARY schools across the district could be missing out on hundreds of thousands of pounds in vital funding.

That is the fear of Lib Dem councillor Jenny Fradgley, who is concerned at the drop in pupil premium claims being made.

Introduced by the coalition government in 2011, pupil premium is extra funding designed to raise attainment levels of youngsters from poorer families.

Originally, it was based on the number of parents claiming free school meals for their children owing to low income or being on benefits.

But since last September school meals have been provided free-of-charge for all children – leaving schools to try and access how many pupils would still be eligible for free meals in order to calculate pupil premium.

Coun Fradgley is concerned it means schools were not getting all the funding they were entitled to.

Latest figures show the number of Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 pupils claiming pupil premium in Stratford town schools has dropped from 89 in 2012 to just 50 this year, while across the district, the figure has almost halved from 335 pupils to 186.

This year, schools will receive around £7,920 per pupil, which Coun Fradgley maintains could amount to hundreds of thousands in lost funding.

But Coun Fradgley says the system has become problematic and is calling on Stratford District Council to do more to help make it simpler.

She said: “Our schools are losing large sums of money – the automatic free school meals scheme means parents no longer have to claim and the school doesn’t get pupil premium for that child.

“I’ve asked the council to make it possible for parents who are on benefits to automatically claim free school meals and pupil premium at the same time as they claim benefits but unfortunately, the current electronic systems don’t allow this.

“We’ve been urging the council to introduce a manual system while the electronic systems are updated but they say this is too labour intensive.

“If an updated electronic system is not available, a manual system must be used. Not to have a system in place for September is unacceptable.”

A district council spokeswoman said they were aware of the issue and revenues managers had been talking with the county council for some time over a way forward.

She added: “Discussions have since taken place with the council’s suppliers to develop software to enable the alignment of free school meals to benefit claims.

“The timescale for implementing this change is being agreed but the aim is to have something in place by the start of the new academic year.”