15 Oct 2010

Poorest children to benefit from “fairness premium”

A £7bn “fairness premium” to help disadvantaged children through school will be included in next week’s government spending review, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has announced.

Nick Clegg has outlined a series of measures to support disadvantaged children through school to create “a level-playing field for all children”.

In a speech at a junior school in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, Mr Clegg said the government’s spending review would include free pre-school education for the poorest children and extra cash in the form of a “pupil premium” for every child who receives free school meals.

“Fairness demands that children and young people have a good start in life.We will not balance the books on the backs of the poor.” Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg

Student premium
A “student premium” will also help disadvantaged university students.

“Tackling the deficit means wiping the slate clean for future generations. Our children must not pay for our mistakes,” Mr Clegg said.

“Fairness demands that children and young people have a good start in life.

“We will not balance the books on the backs of the poor.

“True fairness is about the distribution of chances, not the distribution of cash.”

‘From 2 to 20’
He said the government would committ to helping children from “two to 20, from buying their first shoes to buying their first suit”.

Chancellor George Osborne is expected to outline up to £83 bn worth of cuts in Wednesday’s comprehensive spending review as the government aims to clear its budget deficit within the next four years.

Mr Clegg said that while the spending review will deliver cuts, it would not “fail the most vulnerable”.

“We must make sure that bright but poor children grow up knowing university is not out of reach.

“Everyone must have access to opportunities.

Social mobility
But Mr Clegg will argue that it also provides an opportunity to boost social mobility and life chances for the poorest.

“There’s been lots of talk of ‘red lines’ in the CSR process. It should be obvious from what I’ve said today that the reddest line of all is the one around our commitment to their future.”

He insisted that the Government is not willing to compromise on, or negotiate away, its commitment to “ensuring a better future for our children”.

‘Political sop’
But Chris Keates, general secretary the NASUWT teachers’ union, dismissed the fund as a “political sop” and said it would “sink without trace” amid next week’s broader cuts.

“Cutting the roll-out of universal free school meals, abolishing one-to-one tuition, pulling the plug on funding for breakfast clubs and other extended services and siphoning off money to allow the pushy and the privileged to set up schools will hit the poorest and most disadvantaged children hardest,” she said.

“This announcement is nothing to do with fairness. It is nothing to do with tackling disadvantage. It is nothing to do with raising educational standards.

“It’s a sop to Liberal Democrat backbenchers who at long last may be showing signs of rebelling as one totemic Liberal Democrat education policy after another is sacrificed to Tory ideology.”