Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Business
  2. Economics
30 October 2010updated 27 Sep 2015 2:10am

The pupil premium: don’t celebrate just yet

Michael Gove wasn’t the “winner” in the Spending Review many proclaimed him to be.

By Jonathan Derbyshire

The Browne report’s recommendation that the block grant to universities be nearly completely withdrawn has aroused widespread consternation and criticism.

Stefan Collini’s article in the latest edition of the London Review of Books is a clear-eyed (and thoroughly terrifying) assessment of the likely effects, were the proposal to be implemented. But it’s not just higher education that teeters on the edge of a financial precipice.

Conventional wisdom has had it that the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, was a “winner” in the recent Spending Review (SR), having elicited from George Osborne £2.5bn for the “pupil premium” (a scheme devised by the Liberal Democrats that disburses money to schools for each pupil eligible to receive school meals) and having overseen an increase in the schools budget from £35bn to £39bn.

However, research carried out by the Financial Times, and published in that paper today, shows that, in the words of Luke Sibieta from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (which has corroborated the FT‘s number-crunching), “most schools will see real cuts in funding per pupil over the next four years”.

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. Your new guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture each weekend - from the New Statesman. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

First, the FT‘s analysis shows that although the “schools resource budget” will rise by 0.4 per cent in real terms, a demographic bulge means that the school population is likely to rise by 2.7 per cent over the period covered by the SR, with the effect that current spending per pupil will actually be cut by 2.5 per cent.

Then there’s the pupil premium itself:

A primary school would need to have more than one-fifth of its pupils [eligible to receive free school meals] to avoid losing money, according to the most likely model for implementation. At the average primary school 17 per cent of pupils are eligible . . . Financial Times research suggests 62 per cent of primary school children are in schools that will not meet that bar, and whose budgets will be cut in real terms.

A secondary school would need to have one-quarter of its students receive the pupil to maintain a rising income. The average FSM rate for secondary schools is 14 per cent. FT analysis suggests 84 per cent of secondary school pupils are in schools that will experience cuts in real terms.

All of which suggests that Gove’s “victory” in the SR was mostly pyrrhic.