Children in West Sussex are set to lose out on £1,440,495 in extra support for children on free school meals thanks to an administrative sleight of hand that will see tens of thousands of disadvantaged children across the country ignored.

Local authorities across the country will lose out on millions in pupil premium funding – allocated to support children on free school meals – as government funding changes come into force. Labour analysis of freedom of information requests reveals that as many as 120,000 children could be missing out on support worth up to £155 million.

The change will see children lose support as the deadline for assessing eligibility for Pupil Premium funding (awarded to schools teaching disadvantaged children), is brought forward from the usual January cut-off to October, excluding tens of thousands of children from families pushed into poverty between October 2020 and January 2021- a move widely condemned by educationalists. In that period Universal Credit claimants rose by 5.5% across the country.

According to LGA Labour analysis, the average financial impact on local authorities is 7.4% of the total allocation in pupil premium 2020 – in West Sussex that’s £1,440,495, the equivalent of 1,071 children at primary school not receiving their Pupil Premium.

It beggars belief that this government thinks it can use an accounting con to short change children in West Sussex

Publishing the figures, Labour Group Leader on West Sussex County Council Michael Jones said: “This is rubbing salt in the wounds.  We know that West Sussex schools have been struggling with unfair funding for years and now this.  The Conservatives can afford a 40% pay-rise for Dominic Cummings and £2bn in crony contracts for their mates, but when it comes to support for disadvantaged children in West Sussex, they are cutting every corner they can find. 

“The £1,440,495 our children in West Sussex are now missing out on, while this country throws billions after billions at a test and trace system that hasn’t worked, means missing out on the laptops, lessons and support they need to catch-up after a truly terrible year. 

“It beggars belief that this government thinks it can use an accounting con to short change children in West Sussex.  They have the wrong priorities and they are making the wrong decisions – time for another u-turn, now.”

Kate Green MP, Shadow Education Secretary, said:  

“The Conservatives’ stealth cut to school budgets shows their disregard for children’s futures as we recover from this pandemic.  

“Their mishandling of the Covid crisis has kept children out of school, missing out on learning and time with friends, and now they are cutting support to help children most likely to have struggled with learning over the last year. 

“The Conservatives have neglected children through this pandemic and now risk leaving them behind in our recovery.”

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