Parents are being urged to check whether their children are eligible for pupil premium funding, which could see schools across the city collectively benefitting from up to £3.4m of extra funding.*
The council has launched an appeal to encourage parents to find out if their children qualify for the money, which is used by schools to raise the attainment of disadvantaged pupils of all abilities and to close the gaps between those pupils and their peers.
Students who are eligible for free school meals qualify for pupil premium funding. Since 2014 all children attending school in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2, have been entitled to free school meals automatically. However, not all parents and carers of eligible children know that they still need to sign up for the pupil premium and if they don’t, the school loses out on getting this really important source of income.
Bristol has a higher number of students eligible for this funding than the England average, with significant areas of deprivation within the city. The council estimates that up to 2,200 primary aged and around 800 secondary aged children are not claiming free school meals but may be eligible to do so.*
Schools receive the money directly and can spend it on a wide range of things, as long as it benefits the pupils it was meant for. Examples include breakfast clubs, school trips, additional teachers and one to one support, as well as help with buying new uniforms.
Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, said: “In these times of austerity it is important to maximise all sources of funding available to our schools, especially money designated to closing the gap between rich and poor students. We want to poverty-proof the school day and the pupil premium can make a tangible difference, so I’d encourage all parents to make sure they know if their child is eligible and speak to their school if so.”
Councillor Claire Hiscott, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, said: “When I took up my role in Cabinet I went out to visit local schools in the Bristol area. We discussed many things, but a recurring theme was the need to increase uptake of pupil premium funding to ensure students and schools aren’t missing out on this extra funding from the government.
“We know that Bristol can be a city of contrasts and reducing inequality is our absolute priority. This funding can help with a whole range of things, so we’re encouraging parents to ask schools about this – and supporting teachers to have conversations with parents. It’s completely confidential, so no one knows which pupils are eligible for, or receive the funding. This is an important issue and Bristol’s schools could have much to gain.”
Each year the UK government allocates around £2.4 billion to state schools to support disadvantaged pupils via the pupil premium. Funds are allocated based on free school meal eligibility, with around £935 available for eligible secondary school pupils and £1,320 for primary school aged children.
As well as appealing directly to parents, the council is also encouraging schools to approach parents about this topic. A toolkit with practical advice, examples of best practice and templates is being circulated to every school in the city.
Bannerman Road Community Academy and Children’s Centre has helped to develop the toolkit. Paula Shore, Executive Headteacher, said: “We’ve used a whole host of different strategies to encourage parents in our school to sign up to the pupil premium if their children are eligible. We found that talking to parents at the school gates and ringing parents to tell them about the funding has helped. We also offered incentives for parents to complete the forms and provided support with the process where needed. The funding we’ve received has helped to pay for school trips, uniform and even music and drama lessons which contribute towards performance events; this has brought significant benefits for pupils.”
In order for a child to be eligible to receive free school meals and for the school to receive the pupil premium funding, a parent/carer must be claiming one of the following benefits:
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Support under Part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
- The guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
- Child Tax Credit (as long as you’re not also entitled to Working Tax Credit and have an annual gross income of no more than £16,190)
- Working Tax Credit run-on (paid for four weeks after you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit)
- Universal Credit
Parents are encouraged to contact their child’s schools if they think they might be eligible. More information can be found on Bristol City’s Council’s website here: https://www.bristol.gov.uk/schools-learning-early-years/free-school-meals
The funding arrangements for children who are looked after/in care or adopted from care are different. Please contact the Hope Virtual School for details: 0117 9036282 or go to www.bristol.gov.uk and search for ‘Hope Virtual School’.
*These figures are rough estimations and reflect numbers from Jan 2016