Liberal Democrats announce education funding commitment for Shropshire
By Charles West
The Liberal Democrats have announced a major funding commitment to boost education in Shropshire.
Nick Clegg has this week set out the Liberal Democrat manifesto commitment for a Pupil Premium that would invest around £9.5m of extra cash in Shropshire schools, raising the funding for disadvantaged pupils to private school levels.
The money will be invested through the Pupil Premium pledge, part of a £2.5bn manifesto spending commitment.
Dr Charles West, PPC for Shrewsbury and Atcham, said:
"It's nothing short of a scandal that children in Shropshire continue to lose out under Labour.
"We have already seen Shropshire's Tory Council threatening school closures. With the budgets proposed by a possible future conservative government we would see even more cuts in education.
"Under our plans, Shropshire schools would get a further £9.5m which they could use to cut class sizes and provide more individual support."
Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg said:
"With this unfairness in funding it's no surprise there is such a gap in achievement between children from the poorest backgrounds and those families who are better off.
"Only when we get education funding back on track will be able to give all our children the fair start they deserve."
Notes to Editors
1. The Policy in Brief
To give every child a fair start, Liberal Democrats will spend an extra £2.5bn on schools. The money will be targeted at schools taking on children who need more help, but will benefit every child in every school. The cash can be used to cut class sizes and provide one-to-one tuition or catch-up classes, ensuring every child gets the individual attention they need.  An average primary school could cut class sizes to 20. An average secondary school could see classes of just 16.
Why is it Necessary?
Performance at school is closely linked to children's background.  The poorest children are only half as likely to get five good GCSEs as other children.  Too often, the poorest children start school already struggling and fall further behind as they grow older.
Schools taking disadvantaged children aren't getting the money they need to cut class sizes and provide them with extra support.  The existing methods for distributing deprivation related funding are confusing and inconsistent.  Nearly one in three pupils entitled to Free School Meals at secondary school attend relatively affluent secondary schools.  Area based targeting therefore misses a large proportion of the poorest pupils - including in many rural areas. As a result, there is a huge gap between poor children in different parts of the country: in Kensington and Chelsea, 59% of poor children get five good GCSEs, while in Rutland, it's 14%.
The Pupil Premium would be available to the school which each disadvantaged pupil attended.  It would be attached to those children entitled to Free School Meals - the million poorest children.  The Pupil Premium would be set nationally and it would top up a national per-pupil base funding figure.  It will raise the poorest children's school funding to private school levels, with the average school receiving around £2500 extra for every child entitled to free school meals on their roll.
Figures are available for the predicted amount of money each local authority will receive, and can be calculated for individual schools.
This policy costs £2.5bn a year, and will be introduced in the second year of the Parliament after our jobs stimulus package, paid for from savings in Government such as our proposed reforms to tax credits (which will save £1.5bn) and administrative savings in the Department for Education and quangos (which save an additional £1bn).
2. Recent figures obtained by the Liberal Democrats show that:
The poorest children are only half as likely as their better-off classmates to get 5 good GCSEs including English and maths
Last year one in three children left primary school without being able to read and write properly
Nearly 10,000 5-7 year olds are taught in classes so big that they are illegal
More than half of all applicants accepted to degree courses in 2008 were from the top two social classes
3. Per pupil funding by local authority - http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200809/cmhansrd/cm090203/text/90203w0020.htm#09020362001419
4. Performance gap between rich and poor - http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/rsgateway/DB/SFR/s000900/SFR34_2009FinalUpdated.xls (table 5)
5. The Pupil Premium would invest an extra £9.5m in Shropshire