Nothing more clearly sets apart Liberal Democrats from Labour than the pupil premium, money directed to the most disadvantaged children direct through our schools.
The Liberal Democrat principle is of enablement, in this case allowing the schools to directly tackle the problems that these children face in the way most appropriate to their local needs. For some that’s a decent meal at the start of the day, for others that’s additional work on their English to ensure they are able to properly understand what is being taught in the classroom, and for others it might just be getting someone to bring them into school in the morning. It’s these little bespoke personal touches that really make the difference to the education of our children.
Labour, on the other hand, believe in big all encompassing projects that treat everyone the same and give everyone the same experience, regardless of whether or not they benefit from it. Labour also like to control centrally how money is spent and services provided, whereas Liberal Democrats prefer to tailor the services to the needs of the individual.
We are letting schools decide locally the best way to spend the money they receive from the pupil premium giving them the cash and the freedom, and rewarding and celebrating their success. In return, we want schools to redouble their efforts to close the gap between poorer pupils and everyone else. We won’t be telling them what to do; but we will be watching what they achieve and disseminating best practice.
It is shameful that, despite all the promise on a four or five year old’s first day at school, or the passion of their teachers, you can all too often plot that child’s path just by asking how much their parents earn.
The £2.5billion Pupil Premium was one of the four pledges on the front page of our manifesto, and with Liberal Democrats in government, schools are using the money for things like breakfast clubs; homework clubs; or to provide one-to-one-tuition. These are the sort of experiences many middle class children take for granted but a poorer child might rarely enjoy.
The starkest difference between Liberal Democrats and Labour is that whilst we are seeing real results from the pupil premium, Labour in places Like Manchester want schools to send that money back to Government rather than spend it on local children. Manchester’s schools will be £ 10 million worse off if Labour are allowed to have their way.