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Source: London Assembly

Government’s one size fits all approach to school catch-up funding leaving London’s poorer pupils behind

Schools in the poorest London boroughs are receiving less Government funding than those in wealthier areas of the capital to help pupils catch-up with missed education during the pandemic, new analysis shows. Labour’s London Assembly Education Spokesperson, Jennette Arnold OBE AM, has found that Tower Hamlets, which has the highest number of pupils on free school meals, only received the 16th largest share in London of the Government’s Coronavirus Catch-Up Premium. On the other hand, Bromley, with 4,876 pupils on free school meals, a third of the number in Tower Hamlets, received £600,000 more of the grant.

The Government’s Coronavirus Catch-Up Premium provides schools with £80 of funding per pupil, from reception to Year 11, leaving headteachers in charge of how it is allocated.

However, as more schools in London weigh up longer closures over the holidays, Ms Arnold is now calling for Ministers to take a more targeted approach to future rounds of funding to ensure the right amount of help is provided to the students that need it most.

Research undertaken by Unicef on the impact of lockdown upon children in the UK, shows that pupils who come from lower-income households are more likely to experience overcrowding and therefore have less access to suitable space for home learning and completing homework and revision. The latest Government figures reveal that 90,000 children in the capital are set to spend the Christmas period in temporary accommodation.

A briefing published by the Sutton Trust during the first lockdown, warns that students from poorer backgrounds are also at a higher risk of digital exclusion, which means they may have to share a computer with several family members, or have little or no access to a digital device or the internet. In October, the Government slashed the provision of laptops it promised to schools to aid home learning by 80%.

Highlighting these reasons, at Thursday’s London Assembly Mayor’s Question Time meeting, Ms Arnold raised concerns that disadvantaged pupils are at a much greater risk of being left behind as a result of the learning time lost during the pandemic so far. 

In response, the Mayor made a commitment to look at Ms Arnold’s analysis with a view to making urgent representations to the Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, over the Coronavirus Catch-Up Premium allocation process.

Labour’s London Assembly Education Spokesperson, Jennette Arnold OBE AM, said:

“Despite the heroic efforts of teachers, the pandemic has caused immense disruption to the education of our young people.

“This is why it so important to ensure the most disadvantaged pupils are given the help and resources they need to make up for lost ground. 

“Sadly, like the exams debacle in the summer, we have seen the Government make a hash of their Coronavirus Catch Up Premium. The one size fits all approach they have taken to dishing it out simply doesn’t make sense- it’s leaving poorer students, once again, worse off.

“This crucial funding should be targeted at the poorest areas whose children are desperate for support, especially after Ministers decided to pull down the shutters on their laptop provision scheme at short notice”. 


MIL OSI United Kingdom