The claim

“We’re not only demanding this of schools and suggesting that that schools need to raise their sights in the future. But we’re also supplying additional money… all of this money that we’re talking about today, the increase in the pupil premium is additional money that government is investing.”
David Laws, schools minister, 17  July 2013

The background

Addition is the easiest form of maths. But just how additional is the “additional money” that the coalition government has forked out through the pupil premium?

Some £1.875 billion will be given to schools in 2013/4 through the pupil premium, that’s £900 per deprived student, per year.

But is the government just giving to schools with one hand as it takes away with the other?

And are schools simply using the pupil premium to plug the gap caused by a cash freeze and real-terms decline in school budgets since the coalition came to power?

It’s a contentious point that we’ve Factchecked before. But the coalition keeps bringing it up. A key Lib Dem promise, the pupil premium focuses cash on schools with the most deprived pupils – those on free school meals.

A new report from the Department for Education (DfE) shines a little light on just how much extra cash the pupil premium gives to UK schools.

The analysis

The pupil premium has gone up. The money schools get per pupil per year will be £900 starting in September, up  from the £623 in the school year just ended.

But that doesn’t add up to a huge amount over the course of a year, said a DfE report published this month. Across the country, the pupil premium contributes an average of 1.9 per cent of a primary school’s budget, 1.4 per cent for a secondary school.

And that 1.4-1.9 per cent contribution comes at a time when the majority of schools are taking cuts bigger than that.

The flat amount of cash that schools get through standard funding has been frozen: meaning that as inflation rises, schools are getting a real-terms budget cut. Chuck in the fact that schools are having to now pay for services from Local Education Authorities that they previously got for free – and most schools have less money than last year.

That means that 77 per cent of primary schools saw their total budgets fall between 2011/12 and 2012/13, according to the DfE report. Some 45 per cent had seen their budgets fall more than 5 per cent.

The pupil premium budget may be additional to the flat amount that schools get per pupil, in that it comes from a separate pot, but for most schools – it’s not even replacing what they have lost in standard funding.

So the result, not surprisingly, is that money from the pupil premium has allowed schools to maintain programmes to help deprived pupils, but had not funded new ones.

“[Schools] generally used pupil premium money to finance existing forms of support rather than doing anything ‘brand new’”, concludes  the report.

The verdict

Would Mr Laws’ idea of “addition” get him a pass?

The government is correct to define the pupil premium as additional, in that it comes from a separate pot.

But it’s not adding to what schools can do, as this new report suggests.

According to the DfE, the Pupil Premium helps schools maintain projects for deprived kids in times of cuts. But maintaining something is not the same as “adding” to it, however the numbers are reshuffled.

By Anna Leach