UK Politics

Liberal Democratic Party: Liberal Democrats pledge smaller class sizes to break education inequality

Press Release   •   Feb 01, 2010 11:13 GMT

Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg today pledged to give every child a fair start in life by investing an extra £2.5bn in schools which could be used to cut class sizes, offer one-on-one tuition and provide catch-up classes.

In a speech to Barnardo’s this morning, Nick Clegg set out the Liberal Democrat manifesto pledge to introduce a Pupil Premium which would raise the poorest children’s school funding to private school levels.

Commenting, Nick Clegg said:

“One of the biggest challenges we face as a country is breaking this link between financial deprivation at home and educational under-achievement in the classroom.

“Despite all the money that has been spent by Labour, schools taking disadvantaged children aren’t getting the money they need to break this link by cutting class sizes and providing them with extra support.

“As we work our way out of this recession and rebuild a country which is fairer, we must ensure our school system gives every child a chance to fulfil their potential irrespective of their background and where they live.”

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%.

Policy Detail

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.

Costs/Savings

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).