Sunday, February 02, 2014

The Pupil Premium is hitting the middle classes

A report in the Daily Telegraph last week said:
The future of England’s grammar schools is under threat because education funding is being diverted towards deprived pupils with poor exam results, the head teacher of the country’s top-performing secondary has warned. ... 
Paul Evans, the head of Colyton grammar in Devon, said tackling underperformance in poor areas was a “laudable aim” but insisted it had “serious unintended consequences” for schools such as his.
I find myself unconcerned by this. Not because I think grammar schools are wicked, but because this is exactly the effect the Pupil Premium was meant to have.

Some have seen the Pupil Premium as rooted in the fact that children from poor families are more likely to have problems and therefore they require more funding.

That is true to an extent, but I have always seen the Pupil Premium having a different genesis. It recognises that there are good schools and bad schools, and that children from poor families tend to be steered towards the bad schools - I blogged about this theory a couple of years ago.

The idea of the Pupil Premium thus becomes to give the good schools an incentive to take more children from poor families. As I suggested back in 2009, the inspiration for this may come from higher education, where universities have always been keen to recruit students from overseas because they pay higher fees.

So the answer for Colyton grammar is to find more bright pupils from poor homes. If they cannot or will not do so, then any moral case for its continued existence as a grammar school is weakened.

The question for the Liberal Democrats then becomes, as I pointed out in that 2009 post, how we are to sell it to middle class voters when their children will not benefit from it or even suffer from it.

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