Cllr Jack Abbott: Opposition Spokesperson for Children’s Services and Education at Suffolk County Council
Cllr Jack Abbott: Opposition Spokesperson for Children’s Services and Education at Suffolk County Council

Suffolk’s schools will miss out on more than £1 million in funding for children from disadvantaged backgrounds thanks to a Conservative accounting trick.

A Freedom of Information request has revealed that schools in Suffolk will not now receive an expected £1.2 million due to a retroactive Pupil Premium deadline shift. Essex will lose out on £3.4 million and Norfolk could be hit by a figure close to £1.7 million. Labour says that the Conservatives ‘accounting trick’ will remove much-needed funding from schools at the worst possible time.

The Government retroactively moved the deadline for assessing eligibility for Pupil Premium funding (awarded to schools teaching disadvantaged children) back from the usual January cut-off to October. The shift will exclude nearly 1,000 children in Suffolk who were pushed into poverty during this autumn period, meaning that schools will not receive the funding they would otherwise expect.

The Conservative’s stealth cut has been widely condemned by educationalists, with the nationwide impact estimated to range between £133 million – £250 million. It is thought that tens of thousands of children were pushed into poverty between October 2020 and January 2021, a period in which Universal Credit claimants rose by 5.5% across the country.

Cllr Jack Abbott, Labour’s spokesperson for education at Suffolk County Council, said:

“This is about as low as it gets. The Conservatives have used an accounting trick that will see schools miss out on desperately needed funding at the worst possible time.

“For all their warm words about helping pupils catch up, the reality is that the Conservatives have essentially made a funding cut to schools, removing money that is meant to support children from disadvantaged backgrounds at a time when poverty is rising.

“Under the Conservatives, sleaze and cronyism are making a big comeback, but they have dragged their feet over feeding hungry children in the holidays, took a year to roll out laptops for remote learning, and are now removing funding from schools.

“For Suffolk’s schools, it means that about £1.2 million of funding for nearly 1,000 children will be lost. I cannot believe that the Conservatives think that this is remotely acceptable – they have the wrong priorities and they are making the wrong decisions time after time.”

Kate Green MP, Shadow Education Secretary, added:

“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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