Headlines: July 17th, 2007

 

As much money should be spent on the education of children from disadvantaged backgrounds as on those at private schools according to a report today from the independent liberal think tank, CentreForum. It is suggesting that teachers working with the children should get “Hard to Serve” bonuses of up to 15 per cent year linked to their performance.

The report calls for the level of deprivation funding from Central Government to be doubled to 5 billion pounds a year and for this to be delivered directly to schools through a new pupil premium, operating like a weighted voucher scheme. In this way, disadvantaged children would receive up to 8,000 pounds a year according to various criteria, including entitlement to free school meals, any Special Educational Needs and their prior attainment levels. This, the report believes, would encourage schools to compete to admit children from disadvantaged homes.

The report, ‘Tackling Educational Inequality’, has been written by Paul Marshall, the Chairman of CentreForum, who says it is designed to launch what he calls, “a much-needed crusade to reduce the unacceptable ‘tail’ of educationally disadvantaged children in Britain.” That ‘tail’, he estimates represents one child in four or about 1.7 million children in total.

Mr. Marshall believes Britain is a bastion of educational inequality. “The die is cast at an early age and rather than recast the die, the English educational system tends steadily to reinforce the advantages of birth,” he says. The proposals in the report would cost an additional 2.4 billion pounds a year, but he says this would be a more manageable and efficient use of funds than Gordon Brown’s 2006 commitment to raise the level of spending in state schools to match those in the private sector.

The report makes it clear that schools would be free to decide how to spend the extra resources, but CentreForum’s recommendations are for smaller class sizes in primary schools, ‘Hard to Serve Bonuses’ for teachers, which would also cost about 500 million pounds a year, longer school days, Saturday schools and summer programmes, with schools being able to enforce attendance.

Tackling Educational Inequality, is available at www.centreforum.org