Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Tories and Lib Dems: if parents get jobs, schools lose money

I've just noticed that both the Tories and the Lib Dems plan that if a parent of a school age child gets a job, their child's school will lose thousands of pounds in funding.

It's the consequence of the so-called "pupil premium", which allocates extra funding to schools for each disadvantaged child which attends the school. The Tories are vague about how much the premium will be, whereas the Lib Dems have put a figure of £3,000 per pupil. Unless they are planning to set up another multi billion pound IT database to track the incomes of every parent (and what could possibly go wrong with that?), qualification for the premium will presumably be based on eligibility for free school meals.

Hence under the Lib Dem plans, if seven parents get jobs, their children's school loses the equivalent of an entire salary for a newly qualified teacher. I am sure this isn't what they intended, but I am struggling to see how this is going to help tackle educational inequality or improve schools.


At 3:13 pm , Blogger Rob said...

The premium idea is presumably based on the notion that increased parental income will boost the educational chances of the children concerned through greater access to books, higher-quality food, cultural activities, computers, out-of-school clubs and extra-curricular activities etc., making the additional school funding unnecessary. More to the point, it frees that funding up to be allocated elsewhere, where it is needed more, by other kids who don't have access to these things by dint of parental employment.

Also, the higher-level purpose of the premium idea is to make it more viable to spend lots of money on education in areas where the probability of long-term parental unemployment is high ("deprived" areas). Sure, the parents might all get jobs tomorrow, but how likely is that? It means either that a miracle has occurred, or we have an unprecedented economic recovery on our hands, tax revenues boom and we can increase education funding across the board.

I presume that what you're getting at is that schools may be unable to budget properly because the premium funding is unpredictable, dependent on factors outside of the school's control. It's not precisely predictable, but the odds must be fairly easy to calculate, and schools expect budgetary fluctuations each year anyway due to a variety of factors. In years of economic boom, when jobs are plentiful, schools will get little 'premium' funding but can expect robust budgets from tax revenues. In recession years, the premium kicks in, bumping up funding most in the areas hardest hit. Sounds fair enough to me.

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