Today the government has announced a new consultation on the eligibility for free school meals and the early years pupil premium under Universal Credit.
The consultation runs until 11 January and explores three main areas:
- the general principles applied in considering changes to the criteria for free school meals and the early years pupil premium under Universal Credit,
- the measures the government plans to take to protect those families who would otherwise lose entitlement to free school meals as a result of the changes
- and the government’s plans for communicating the changes to parents, providers and local authorities
The government says that it is looking for a ‘consistent, fair and simple’ way for the help to reach the most disadvantaged households.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders' union NAHT, stressed that auto-enrolment for pupil premium – a long-held NAHT objective – would be an ‘easy and obvious’ step towards the fairer system that the government says it wants to see. He said: “We welcome the announcement that the government are to look again at ensuring additional pupil premium funding is precisely targeted to support the pupils in greatest need.
"The consultation announced today sets out the new approach to free school meal entitlement as we start to see the roll out of universal credit. We welcome the protection for pupils currently eligible who may lose out under the new rules.
“The pupil premium is a vital and well-understood tool for helping children from families with lower incomes. But Department for Education (DfE) figures show that nationally 11 per cent of eligible children are missing out, close to 30 per cent in some areas. This is one of the burning injustices that the Prime Minister talks about.
"NAHT would like to see the government allow automatic registration for pupil premium. The data already exists, it just needs to be shared with schools. Automatically registering children for the pupil premium would put a serious dent in social inequality. Whilst we welcome today’s consultation, it seems a missed opportunity for a simpler system for families and schools and we’d urge the government to take this easy and obvious step."
Mr Whiteman’s comments have been reported already in the Guardian newspaper.
NAHT will be responding to the consultation on behalf of members and will continue to work towards making auto-enrolment for pupil premium a reality.
You can access the government consultation here.