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1. The Chairman welcomed the Select Committee Members and the two guests; Linda Pickles and Celia Buxton to the Select Committee meeting and she invited all those present to introduce themselves.
2. Linda Pickles and Celia Buxton gave Members a presentation which is appended to these minutes.
3. Celia Buxton explained that Pupil Premium was additional funding given to publicly funded schools to raise attainment for disadvantaged pupils and to diminish differences. It was introduced in 2011. Pupils eligible for Pupil Premium included Children in Care, Pupils eligible for Free School Meals (FSM) or who have been eligible within the last 6 years (Ever 6).
4. For a child in reception to Year 6 the school receives £1320 for each child, from year 7 to year 11 this reduced to £935.
5. Mr Booth asked why the money reduced in secondary school. The level of funding and allocation was determined by central government and it was suggested that higher funding for younger pupils could be the front loading of support available, before it was too late to diminish the differences between disadvantaged children and their peers. It was also suggested that secondary schools were larger and more financially secure than many primary schools.
6. The Chairman commented that children could be in low income families who were not eligible for Pupil Premium but could still be vulnerable and in need of additional support – the guests agreed with this comment.
7. Celia Buxton explained that the Pupil Premium funding was designed to ensure that all children had the same access to learning against the identified groups. It was confirmed that Pupil Premium funding was not for supporting children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) or with English as an Additional Language (EAL) although these pupils may be eligible for Pupil Premium funding.
8. Mr Whiting commented that there was a potential disconnect in identifying vulnerable children and targeting the correct children. This was a national problem and could he be assured that Kent were dealing with this potential problem? Linda Pickles explained that eligible pupils were identified against FSM eligibility. It was correct that there were a different number of pupils who were FSM eligible against the measures for the numbers of pupils against the FSM Ever 6 criteria. This had also been affected by the universal free school meals offer for all KS1 children and had meant that families could be going under the radar if they didn’t want to claim.
9. It was confirmed that schools were required to publish how their Pupil Premium funding was being spent and there was a pool of knowledge to allow schools to share best practice.
10. Linda Pickles explained the KS2 data for Kent. East Kent schools had the highest number of FSM ever pupils with schools in Thanet having the highest (599). West Kent schools had the lowest number of FSM ever pupils with schools in Tunbridge Wells having the lowest (206). Mr Booth commented upon the huge variances across Kent ... view the full minutes text for item 3.
Ms L Pickles remained in the meeting for this session and answered questions from the Select Committee.
1. The Chairman welcomed Mr Gough and Mrs Prendergast and asked them for an overview of the Pupil Premium, the main aims of the Kent Strategy for Vulnerable Learners and their views on the direction and work of the Select Committee.
2. Mrs Prendergast said her aims in requesting that the Scrutiny Committee support the establishment of this Select Committee had been clear, and there were two areas on which she thought the Select Committee should focus – Free School Meals and Early Years Pupil Premium. Her reasons for identifying these two areas were as follows:
3. Free School Meals was used as a tool to identify children who would be eligible for Pupil Premium. However, this was not a precise measure as only those registered for Free School Meals were counted, and there were potentially many more who were eligible but had not registered and hence were not counted. It had been estimated that, nationally, some 14% of pupils (approx. 200,000 pupils) eligible to receive Free School Meals were not claiming them. Many factors would affect a pupil’s eligibility for Free School Meals, and other vulnerable learners, eg those affected by domestic violence, would not show up as part of this cohort. Eligibility for Free School Meals was highest at the younger and older ends of the spectrum, but it wasestimated that, in Kent, 21% of eligible 4-year-olds and 22% of eligible 15-year-olds did not claim, so a large portion of Kent’s eligible pupils simply did not show up in the figures. The highest figures for eligibility were often in the more affluent areas of the county. A Bill in Parliament in 2016 had sought to introduce auto-enrolment for Free School Meals but had not been pursued due to data collection issues. Data on Universal Credit should be easier to collate but there was no trigger in Universal Credit to identify vulnerable learners.
4. For Early Years Pupil Premium, Kent scored highly against its statistical peers. However, there was a clear attainment gap between those claiming and not claiming Early Years Pupil Premium and this gap widened from primary school level onwards. The Select Committee had an opportunity to make a recommendation about Early Years Pupil Premium which would contribute to closing the attainment gap. There were approx. 1,400 pupils aged 4 – 5 who were eligible for Early Years Pupil Premium, and Kent’s Early Years Pupil Premium funding was some £400,000 or £302 per eligible pupil. The Select Committee could question the sufficiency of these sums and ask if pupils might require additional funding at some stages of their schooling. Mrs Prendergast said that, in her opinion, there was need for radical change and redistribution of Early Years Pupil Premium funding.
5. Mrs Prendergast and Mr Gough responded to comments and questions, including the following:
a) concern was expressed that there may have been no progress since 2012, ... view the full minutes text for item 4.