Poorer Pupil Priority

The battle for places in schools these days is becoming more and more competitive, meaning that there are potential issues for families getting their children into a good school in their locality, particular those who have lower incomes.

Well, under consultation by the government, state schools in England could be allowed to prioritise places for poorer children, meaning that children who carry eligibility for Pupil Premium will have first choice on school places.

For those unfamiliar with Pupil Premium, it is a government grant that is given to schools for each disadvantaged children. In September, it will be worth an annual sum of £1300 per primary pupil and £935 per secondary pupil.

Under the latest proposals, published for consultation, all state schools would have the freedom to give priority in admissions to youngsters who attract the funding. This policy is already in place for Academies and Free Schools.

There could be some issues though as this latest admissions proposal may prove controversial if wealthier parents struggle to get school places for their children. I would like to see how those parents react when they get to see what it feels like to be lower down the income ladder and how hard it is to gets children into local schools in this day and age.

The consultation says: “These changes are consistent with the government’s social mobility agenda and will allow schools the opportunity to support the least advantaged in society in a practical way.”

It says there will be no legal requirement for schools to prioritise pupil premium children and that it would be up to them to decide.

The document also puts forward a proposal to allow primary schools to give priority to pupil premium children who attend a nursery attached to their school. But this suggestion caused concern among the private, voluntary and independent (PVI) nursery sector, which fears children in these settings will be put at an unfair disadvantage. Chief executive of the Pre-School Alliance Neil Leitch said: “Parents of eligible children, who might have preferred to place their child with a local childminder or at a local PVI group setting, may feel under pressure to instead opt for a school-based nursery to have a better chance of securing a place at that same school later on. We are concerned that this is yet another example of the government pushing for a more school-focused early years system at the expense of the PVI sector, and about the potentially detrimental impact this could have on children and families.”

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said: “Currently, only academies and free schools have the freedom to prioritise children eligible for the pupil premium or service premium for the children of military personnel or both. We want to extend this option to all state schools, and also give admission authorities of primary schools the option to prioritise children eligible for the pupil premium, who attend a nursery which is part of the school. These changes will improve the fair and open allocation of school places even further and ensure every child receives a first class education.”

The new admission consultation comes a few weeks after schools minister David Laws said he was encouraged to see that some grammar schools were now using the pupil premium as part of their admissions criteria when offering places to pupils. About 32 grammars are prioritising pupils on free school meals – a key measure of poverty – in their admissions, Mr Laws said in a speech, adding that the government would “fully support” any school that chose to change its admissions in this way.

I’m all for this idea if I’m honest. I’m from a deprived background myself and it frustrates me at times to see money talking. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a grammar school, but I know many people from my background don’t get such opportunities, not always due to money but still. There has to be a fair system that allows all children to have equal grounds to get into schools. Money isn’t the biggest factor in children’s possible development, the opportunity for quality education is. I was one of the lucky ones, but I would love to see more people from lesser privileged backgrounds achieving their potential

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