Suffolk schools are on track to receive over £10 million extra Government funding thanks to parents claiming free school meals for their children, it was revealed today (Tuesday, January 7).
However, schools could potentially receive an additional £2 million if every parent of children eligible for free school meals claimed them. There are currently 1,808 parents missing out on this opportunity.
Under the Government’s ‘pupil premium’ scheme, schools can get £900 of extra funding for every eligible child. Children are eligible if their parents are in receipt of certain benefits, or if they are entitled to free school meals. The pupil premium can be used to increase teaching capacity and improve learning.
At the start of 2013 there were some 5,100 young people in Suffolk who were entitled to free school meals but not claiming them. This was twice the national average and led to Suffolk County Council launching a campaign to increase take up. A number of initiatives were launched with schools to try to drive down this number to ensure Suffolk children benefit from the funding.
Suffolk County Council encouraged school governors and leaders to support and drive registration. The process of applying has been simplified and made much more discreet for both parents and pupils.
Now, nearly a year on, under registration has been cut to around 13% - just above the national average. This is a vast improvement and shows progress is being made.
Councillor Lisa Chambers, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for education, skills and young people, said:
“The number of Suffolk children claiming free school meals has increased by over 2,500 since January 2013 - meaning we’ve significantly cut the under registration rate.
“Now, around 13% of those entitled to claim don’t. At one point this was over 30% - demonstrating how far Suffolk has come.
“In the last year, we’ve worked closely with schools to make this happen. We’ve simplified the process of applying which has made it less daunting for parents. The whole free school meals scheme is now much more discreet for both parents and pupils.
“Whilst we’re moving in the right direction, we still need more of those entitled to claim free school meals to do so. For one it means children are getting a good, healthy meal at school which sets them up for learning. But over and above this, for every child that does claim, the school gets an extra £900 from the Government to help improve educational attainment. That’s nearly £2 million of extra funding that could be coming to Suffolk. If we are to reach our goals set out in the Raising the Bar programme, we need everyone to play their part.”