LOCAL MP Mike Amesbury is furious schools in his constituency have lost more than £1 million in funding to help disadvantaged pupils due to what he describes as a Government ‘sleight of hand’.
Schools in Cheshire West and Chester have lost a staggering £1,355,000 while schools in Halton have been denied about £272,835.
Under the Pupil Premium scheme, extra teaching support is provided to disadvantaged and looked-after pupils eligible for free school meals.
But while numbers on free school meals have shot up due to the impact of the pandemic, this won’t be fully reflected in extra funding due to a change in the Government calculation.
Mr Amesbury, the Labour MP for Weaver Vale, said: “This is disgraceful. It’s well-documented children from disadvantaged homes already do worse at school leading to poorer life chances.
“Factor in that families have just been through the worst health crisis in living memory combined with an economic hammer-blow that has led to loss of income through unemployment and furlough.
“Many children have missed out on their normal education due to lockdown. Some will have experienced an impact on their physical and mental wellbeing.
“For all these reasons, young people, especially from underprivileged backgrounds, need more help right now not less.
“The Tory Government’s sleight of hand in the way funding is calculated gives an absolute lie to their claim about wanting to level-up and support left-behind communities. Complete and utter guff!”
Under the Pupil Premium scheme, schools get £1,345 for every primary age pupil eligible for free school meals or £955 for every eligible secondary age pupil.
But the full increase in numbers due to the pandemic will not be reflected in funding for the 2021-22 financial year after the Government only counted those eligible last October, instead of this January, in line with previous practice.
This means CWaC has lost grant for an extra 1,084 pupils and Halton Council has been denied funding for an additional 213 students.
A Conservative spokesman said: “Since 8 March, millions of children across the country have returned to classrooms, which is so important for their education and wellbeing.
“The Department for Education is working with parents, teachers and schools to develop a long-term plan to make sure all pupils have the chance to recover from the impact of the pandemic.”
“The Government has already invested £1.7 billion in ambitious catch-up plans, with the majority of this targeted towards those most in need, while giving schools the flexibility of funding to use as they believe best to support their pupils.”