Call to register for free meals to bring in funds

Parent: Kevan Smith.
Parent: Kevan Smith.
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SCHOOLS in poorer Sheffield suburbs could see their budgets boosted by tens of thousands of pounds by the decision to increase the Pupil Premium scheme by £5 million.

But there’s a catch: to receive their full allocation schools must first know how many of their youngsters are eligible for free school meals. If pupils aren’t registered schools won’t receive their full due, depriving them of vital income.

An inner city Sheffield primary may currently expect around £40,000 from the Pupil Premium, but that could go up by more than 75 per cent next year.

It is targeted at projects to help boost the attainment of children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Huw Thomas, headteacher at Emmaus Primary on the Wybourn estate, said some of his school’s extra funding was spent on providing one-to-one support.

“If for whatever reason they are falling behind that is one way we can give them the extra help they need.

“But we do have a job on finding out how many families are eligible for free school meals as some clearly do not claim.

“We will be sending out letters explaining how it is imperative for parents to register, even if their child will continue to bring a packed lunch.

“Registering brings in vital funding for the school. If parents are somehow embarrassed by their situation, we can assure them we will handle it with appropriate tact and understanding.”

Sheffield dad Kevan Smith, a parent-governor at Pipworth Community Primary School, Manor, where his five-year-old daughter Olivia is a pupil, said: “I think the Pupil Premium is a good idea. Anything to help bring more equality for pupils is to be welcomed.”

Norton mum Lindsey Thompson, who has two children Eleanor and Joshua at Norton Free CE Primary, said news of the increase in funding was brilliant.

“It’s definitely money well spent. My children benefited last year when they were given swimming lessons,.”

Sheffield businessman and father-of-one Simon Bower, who has a five-year-old, Emily, said he welcomed the increase but had a couple of reservations.

“I hope it tries to raise pupils’ standards of attainment and doesn’t penalise the higher performers by removing funding from them. I also hope it doesn’t mean that we’re ignoring the youngsters occupying the large section in the middle.”

Cabinet member for children and young people Coun Jackie Drayton said the extra funding was welcome, especially following cuts to the early years and Sure Start budgets.

“We need to stress to parents that this money will not be available unless they come forward to help us,. We would like to urge all parents and carers who are entitled to free school meals to apply for what is rightfully theirs.

“Children can still be sent to school with a packed lunch if parents preferred, so no one needs to even know they are eligible.”

Coun Colin Ross, Lib Dem shadow cabinet member for education and deputy group leader on Sheffield Council, said: “We are thrilled with this early Christmas present for Sheffield’s most disadvantaged children. Children who have been eligible for free school meals at any point in their school career have consistently lower educational attainment than those who have never been eligible. The Coalition Government is doing the right thing by supporting schools with additional money to help children from less well-off backgrounds.”

But former Labour Education Secretary and Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough MP David Blunkett accused the coalition of ‘recycling’ the money from cuts to other education budgets.

n Sheffield parents wanting to register as eligible can find an eform at www.sheffield.gov.uk/education/information-for-parentscarers/at-school/educationschoolmeals/freeschoolmeals