Suffolk: £2 million shortfall in county’s pupil premium funding
Schools in Suffolk are missing out on £2million of funding targeted at poorer families as parents aren’t claiming free school meals to which their children are entitled.
There are 1,808 parents in Suffolk whose children are eligible for free school meals but they do not claim them – meaning the schools which their children attend do not receive extra funding.
Under the government’s “pupil premium” scheme, schools can get £900 extra funding for every eligible child. Children are eligible if their parents are in receipt of certain benefits, or if they are entitled to free school meals.
The pupil premium can be used to increase teaching capacity and improve learning.
Schools in Suffolk will receive more than £10m extra funding thanks to parents claiming free school meals for their children – but they could still receive another £2m.
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At the start of 2013 there were about 5,100 young people in the county who were entitled to free school meals but not claiming them. This was twice the national average and led to Suffolk County Council launching a campaign to increase take up.
A year on, the level of under-registration has fallen to around 13% through a programme of encouraging school governors and leaders to support and drive registration, simplifying the application procedure and making it more discreet.
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However, this figure is still above the national average.
Lisa Chambers, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for education, skills and young people, said: “The number of Suffolk children claiming free school meals has increased by over 2,500 since January 2013 – meaning we’ve significantly cut the under registration rate.
“Now, around 13% of those entitled to claim don’t. At one point this was over 30% – demonstrating how far Suffolk has come.
“In the last year, we’ve worked closely with schools to make this happen. We’ve simplified the process of applying which has made it less daunting for parents.
“The whole free school meals scheme is now much more discreet for both parents and pupils.
“Whilst we’re moving in the right direction, we still need more of those entitled to claim free school meals to do so. For one it means children are getting a good, healthy meal at school which sets them up for learning.
“But over and above this, for every child that does claim, the school gets an extra £900 from the government to help improve educational attainment.”