With so many frustrating issues going on in this declining country, it is only to be expected that people often miss what’s going on right under their own nose. This morning saw one of those ‘close to home’ issues thrust into consciousness at Mind Towers, with the arrival of an email from Mind Junior’s school that read:
Dear Mr Mind
Did you know that just by registering your child for Free School Meals the school gets extra money?
For every child registered, Xxxxxx Xxxxxx School will get £600.
Registering is quick, easy and confidential. Full details are given in the attached document. Please contact me if you have any queries.
If you qualify, your son or daughter will receive a free, healthy meal at lunchtime, you could receive other financial help, and the school gets an extra £600. If your child does not want to have a school meal, the school will still get the additional funding.
Please read the attached document and make an application if you think you qualify – the additional funding will make a real difference to the provision of education for your son or daughter.
And we wonder where our tax pounds go..? A few moments of research revealed to my blind eyes that variations of this email have been sent to parents by schools up and down the country in recent weeks and that the scheme facilitating this is the Department of Education‘s ‘Pupil Premium’.
Its purpose is set out on the department’s website and explains:
The Government believes that the Pupil Premium, which is additional to main school funding, is the best way to address the current underlying inequalities between children eligible for Free School Meals (FSM) and their wealthier peers by ensuring that funding to tackle disadvantage reaches the pupils who need it most.
But the department also makes clear that:
Schools are free to spend the Pupil Premium as they see fit. However they will be held accountable for how they have used the additional funding to support pupils from low-income families. New measures will be included in the performance tables that will capture the achievement of those deprived pupils covered by the Pupil Premium. From September 2012, we will also require schools to publish online information about how they have used the Premium. This will ensure that parents and others are made fully aware of the attainment of pupils covered by the Premium.
However as experience has shown us when it comes to public spending, as always, the proof of the pudding is in the eating – if you will pardon the pun. Organisations often find ways around the rules in order to use the resources made available to them in a manner they were not provided for. The style of the emails and letters sent out by schools show that effort is already underway.
If a family has financial difficulty and cannot afford to provide a meal for their child during the school day, then I feel it is right that the taxpayer funded safety net should kick in to provide for a meal. It should always be a provision based on need.
But what we are seeing is that even if a family’s means – augmented by some form of credit or benefit that makes their children eligible for free school meals – enable them to provide a meal for their child, schools are encouraging them to register for free meals just so the school can claim more taxpayers’ money. Encouraging parents and carers to register for something they may not need – and implore them to do so even if they don’t need or want to take up the free meals – so it benefits the school, feels like fraud.
If a family is getting by without making use of free school meals, then do they really have the ‘need’ that free school meals are being used as a measure to gauge? Once again it seems the government have failed to think things through and a proportion of the £1.25bn of our money set aside for the poorest in our society will be hoovered up by schools for people who in reality do not fall into that bracket. But as always no one seems to care because it’s other people’s money and the government can always pick our pockets for more of it in the future.