‘Beggars belief’: Southwark politicians hit out at £1.2m ‘stealth cut’ for disadvantaged pupils

Katherine Johnston (09 April, 2021)

892 primary pupils will not receive pupil premium funding in Southwark this year

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Southwark politicians have hit out at the government’s ‘stealth cut’ that will see schools in the borough miss out on £1.2 million in pupil premium funding for disadvantaged children.

In our report earlier this month the News highlighted that the change in how funding is calculated would see pupils who first became eligible for free school meals during the second wave of the pandemic would be left without extra support.

The government has decided to change the cut-off date to last October, rather than January this year as usual.

In the same period, across the country the number of people claiming Universal Credit rose by 5.5 per cent.

It is believed that as many as 120,000 children could miss out on up to £155 million in support across the nation.

In Southwark, around 892 primary pupils will not receive their pupil premium, a move that  Cllr Jasmine Ali, deputy leader of Southwark Labour and cabinet member for children, young people and education, described as ‘beggaring belief’.

“The Conservatives can afford a 40 per cent pay-rise for Dominic Cummings and billions in crony contracts for their mates, but when it comes to support for disadvantaged children in Southwark, they are cutting every corner they can find.

“The £1.2 million our children are missing out on, while this country throws billions after billions at a test and trace system that hasn’t worked, means children not getting laptops, lessons and support they need after a truly terrible year.

“Thanks to Southwark residents and council match funding we recently raised half a million pounds for children’s laptops through Laptops for Learning, but we shouldn’t need charity to make up for Conservative cruelty.

“It beggars belief that this government thinks it can use an accounting con to short change children in Southwark. 

“They have the wrong priorities and they are making the wrong decisions – time for another U-turn, and now.”

Kate Green MP, Labour’s shadow education secretary, said: “The Conservatives’ stealth cut to school budgets shows their disregard for children’s futures as we recover from this pandemic.

“Their mishandling of the COVID crisis has kept children out of school, missing out on learning and time with friends, and now they are cutting support to help children most likely to have struggled with learning over the last year.

“The Conservatives have neglected children through this pandemic and now risk leaving them behind in our recovery.”

In March Bermondsey and Old Southwark MP Neil Coyle wrote to education minister Nick Gibb asking for clarity on how the changes would affect pupils, and why they were being implemented.

Gibb’s reply said that moving the date back to October would provide ‘greater certainty around future funding levels’.

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