Heads call for automatic pupil premium registration to combat child poverty

Burden should not be on parents to admit they need help, NAHT heads’ union says

Headteachers are calling for children living in poverty to be automatically registered for pupil premium funds, warning that schools are missing out on cash to support vulnerable pupils because parents do not always declare that their child is eligible.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT headteachers’ union, said today that the reform would “put a serious dent in social inequality”.

“The pupil premium has become a vital and well understood tool for narrowing the gap for children from families with lower incomes,” he said. “But the burden is on parents to come forward to register and for schools to coax families into admitting they need help.”

He made his comments in response to a report published by the Institute for Fiscal Studies today which suggests that two-thirds of children classified as poor are living in a household where at least one adult is in work. The report, Living Standards, Poverty and Inequality in the UK, says the “new poor” tend to live in households where someone is in work.

‘Beyond breaking point’

Mr Hobby said government figures showed that an average of 11 per cent of eligible children were missing out on pupil premium funds, with the figure rising to 30 per cent in some parts of the country.

The NAHT leader said schools were spending millions of pounds on food, clothes and extra support for pupils living in poverty. This was pushing some schools’ budgets “beyond breaking point”, he added.

The proportion of children living in a household where no one works has fallen from nearly one in four in 1994–95 to less than one in six in 2014–15, the report says.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We are determined to deliver educational excellence everywhere, raising the bar for all, so every child – regardless of background – reaches their potential. The pupil premium is a key part of this and we have already provided over £8.5 billion of additional funding for disadvantaged pupils, with a further £2.5 billion being invested this year. We want to make sure that pupils get the support they are entitled to, which is why we have issued guidance to help schools determine which children are eligible for free school meals and the pupil premium.”

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