The Armed Forces Covenant in Action? Part 3: Educating the Children of Service Personnel - Defence Committee Contents


4  Financial Support Schemes

Service Pupil Premium

89. In April 2011 the DfE introduced a pupil premium in England to provide additional support to children from low-income families who were eligible for free school meals, looked-after children and children from families with parents in the Armed Forces. The Service Pupil Premium is paid directly to schools in England to support Service children on their register. The premium increased from £250 to £300 per pupil per year from April 2013. Schools can spend this money as they see fit. The Premium is part of the Government's commitments made in the Armed Forces Covenant.[129] Martin Bull said:

      The Pupil Premium is there to help schools and mobility, and that is based on the number of children in the school census identified as Service children. It is there to be used to help induct that child and get that child's curriculum up to speed, so that they can go straight into class and not learn about the Tudors three times. It is there to help them with social, emotional and pastoral needs. It has increased reasonably over the years since we introduced it. There is a strong commitment for us to retain that Service Premium. The money is there per pupil: it is £300 this year, which is good news—it was £250 in the first year—and we are hoping it will rise.[130]

90. Evidence we heard from parents at the Wellington Academy at Tidworth, the Families Federations and the on-line survey indicates that not all parents are aware of the premium, or are not aware of how it is spent. Bill Mahon said:

      Our evidence is that a majority of families have not heard of the Service Pupil Premium, and do not know what it is for. A communications message and piece are required to help promote it, perhaps more so than there is at the moment.[131]

And the RAF Families Federation told us that:

      Comments have also been made about the way that the funds are being spent, with many parents asking how their schools should be using the funding to best support Service children. While many schools are already making the best use of these funds, and sharing best practice with others, we have received evidence to the contrary from other young Service family members. One told that her school had spent the funds on arts supplies while another had organised a trip just for the Service children but this then caused problems with the non-Service children, who challenged why they were being treated as a special case.[132]

The NAO told us that:

      Seven in ten (72 per cent) respondents were aware of the Service Premium. Awareness was lowest among Royal Marines families (58 per cent aware, 22 out of 38) and highest among Royal Air Force families (79 per cent aware, 151 out of 192).

      However, of the 718 respondents who were aware of the Premium, only 14 per cent (102 parents) knew how their children's school spent this additional money, 28 per cent (201) said that they did not have children at state/maintained schools since April 2011 (and hence would not have had children eligible for the Service Premium), and 58 per cent (415) did not know how the Premium was spent. Of the 102 parents who knew how their children's school spent the Premium, the majority (80 per cent) thought that the money was helpful to the Service children at the school, with 41 per cent saying that it was 'very' and 39 per cent that it was 'fairly' helpful.[133]

91. The DfE gave us a range of examples of how the Service Pupil Premium funds had been used. It also provided examples of its use on its website.[134] For example, many schools use the additional funds to provide pastoral care and support for children whose Service parent may be on operations. Martin Bull said:

    The DFE worked with the MoD and wrote to about 1,000 schools known to us to have high numbers of Service children on the roll and we gathered case studies. [...] A head teacher might offer one-to-one tuition to help the child catch up in terms of the curriculum. It might be used to help induct them and provide a smooth transition from a school abroad to the new school. There might be support for a buddy system. Another example relates to SEN and whether support is needed around SEN for a child, so there is immediate support if the child arrived really quickly and was not known about in advance. It has been used a number of different ways.[135]

EXPENDITURE ON THE SERVICE PUPIL PREMIUM

92. Schools with a significant number of Service children can receive a substantial amount of money. MoD provided expenditure statistics on the premium as follows:

    The total annual expenditure on the Service Pupil Premium since its introduction.
  • Service Premium financial year 2011-12: 45,070 children - £9,014,000 (rate of £200 per service child).
  • Service Premium financial year 2012-13: 52,370 children - £15,712,000 (introduced ever measure and increased rate to £250 per service child).
  • Total for 2011-12 and 2012-13: £24,726,000.
  • Service Premium financial year 2013-14 rate increased to £300 per service child. However, the timing of data means we do not yet have final pupil numbers for this year.[136]

    EVALUATION OF THE SERVICE PUPIL PREMIUM

    93. Ofsted told us:

      from February 2013, inspectors will report specifically on the performance in English and mathematics of pupils supported through the pupil premium compared to all other pupils in the school. Inspectors will highlight any differences between the average point scores for English and mathematics and whether gaps are narrowing for [...] children of service families and all other pupils.[137]

    94. We note that Ofsted have strengthened their inspections to report on performance in English and mathematics of pupils supported by the Pupil Premium from February 2013. But we look for more evaluation of spending on the Service Pupil Premium and evidence that this funding is used to support Service children in the particular problems they face, for example the provision of pastoral care when a parent is deployed on operations; difficulties a child may experience when they change schools part way through a school year, or where there are conflicts over the curriculum between the new and old school, and gaps may need to be filled.

    95. We support the payment of the Service Pupil Premium to support Service children. However, we are not convinced that this expenditure is adequately monitored for value for money for the taxpayer, and to ensure that it is used to the best possible advantage to the Service children themselves. The Government should introduce guidelines on how the Service Pupil Premium should be spent. It should also require schools to make more transparent how this money is spent. The Government should monitor and publish this information and share examples of best practice.

    96. Ofsted should be asked to report in more detail on the results achieved by use of the Service Pupil Premium to ensure that the funding is meeting the particular needs of Service children. The DfE and the MoD should also report on the overall level of expenditure on the Service Pupil Premium.

    97. The Armed Forces Covenant applies to all Service personnel and their families across the UK, however the Service Pupil Premium is paid only in England. Northern Ireland operates a similar scheme where qualifying schools receive an additional £405 per child (2012-13 rates) for each full-time pupil from a Service family.[138] This money is used to bridge learning gaps caused by the transient nature of Service children.[139] It can also be used for pastoral care services.[140] In written evidence, the MoD said that the Welsh DfE and Skills had not yet formally considered the option and the Scottish Service Children's Stakeholder Network, chaired and facilitated by the Scottish Directorate for Learning, have judged that such an option is not currently required in Scotland.

    98. In its contribution to this inquiry, the Scottish Government said:

      we have not implemented the Pupil Premium or the Service Pupil Premium. The distribution formula used to allocate the Scottish Government's funding to local authorities has been developed over a number of years and is based on the relative need of each local authority, including levels of deprivation (take up of Free School Meals and income support). The needs based formula for local government funding was reviewed in 2009 by a joint Scottish Government/Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (CoSLA) group. It concluded that the existing needs-based indicators were reasonable and generally a fair indication of need.[141]

    The Welsh Government said

      There is no Service Pupil Premium in Wales. However, there is support available for children of Service families in schools in Wales through our School Effectiveness Grant and the Pupil Deprivation Grant. These grants are the Welsh Government's principal means of providing financial support for our three national priorities for schools: improving standards in literacy; improving standards in numeracy, and reducing the impact of poverty on educational attainment. Responding to the challenges we face in improving our educational outcomes in Wales by taking action in isolation on different parts of the education system is counter to the aims of the grants. All Service children in Wales, including those that come to Wales in the future, will benefit from the funding available to schools through these grants, as will each pupil in Wales.[142]

    99. Evidence from Service families questioned why the Service Pupil Premium is not paid for all Service children across the UK.

      We live in Wales and the schools do not receive the Service Premium but the children at schools in Wales still face the same issues that they do when they move in England. There are not many postings in Wales but our children have to learn Welsh, the Service Premium could really benefit the children in giving them extra assistance in this new and unusual language.[...]It shouldn't matter where the child is at school, it should be all children have this premium or none of them.[143]

      Whilst we welcomed the financial support that the Premium brings to schools with Service children, many families have asked why it only applies to those in state schools in England. Those posted to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have challenged why their children do not get the same support and feel that they too are being disadvantaged.[144]

    100. The anomalies in the payment of a Service Pupil Premium across the Devolved Administrations indicates a contradiction between the Armed Forces Covenant and the practice across the UK. The Government should liaise with the Devolved Administrations to encourage the same level of support for all Service children across the UK in line with the Covenant. In its response to this report the Government should set out why the Service Pupil Premium can at the same time represent good value for money in those areas which have it and be unnecessary in those areas which do not.

    LOCAL AUTHORITY FUNDING

    101. We were concerned to hear from head teachers during the evidence session at the Wellington Academy that some Local Authorities might have taken payment of the Service Pupil Premium into account when allocating funding and removed other sources of funding. Susan Raeburn said:

      The local authority used to give us something called the Forces Protection Factor, so when the Pupil Premium came in everyone was kind of saying, "Oh, you are so lucky. You have an extra £40,000 for your school" or whatever. I think the first year the Pupil Premium came in the local authority took away the Forces Protection Factor. [...]We ended up £1,000 worse off, because we got our Pupil Premium money and then they took away the Forces Protection Factor, saying, "We are not paying this anymore".[145]

    And

      The other thing is that my understanding is when the new funding streams were being discussed in our local authority, one of the streams that Wiltshire could have chosen to fund us on was mobility. [...] they said it was too complicated to be able to put it into practice [...] so they discounted that as a possible way of supporting the funding.[146]

    Andy Schofield said:

      I think the biggest problem in terms of funding across the board for schools that have a high proportion of military families is that on most measures of deprivation we don't really register,[...] Here you do not get that core funding. It is assumed that because your free school meals level is generally low then you must be in affluent Wiltshire, and that is completely the opposite. [...]. There needs to be an additional funding element. [...]the overall level of funding is not high enough to enable us to do those longer-term things. We should not have to rely on £3,000 grants from the military to do a bit of counselling. It should be systemic.[147]

    102. We are concerned that the introduction of the Service Pupil Premium has replaced other forms of funding, so that schools with a significant number of Service children may not benefit as much as was intended. The Government should ensure that Local Authorities do not use the Service Pupil Premium to replace other funding.

    The Ministry of Defence Support Fund for Schools

    103. The Ministry of Defence Support Fund for Schools provides £3 million a year for four years (2011-15) to help mitigate the effects of mobility and deployment for schools with a Service children population. The MoD told us:

      The fund was set up to provide funding to maintained schools with Service children, (regular and reserves forces), to help them provide mitigating action where their Service community were experiencing either exceptional mobility and/or deployment and this was impacting upon the school. Any grant from the fund is paid directly to the school to implement the mitigating action which should benefit the whole school not just those Service children within it.[148]

    State schools across the UK can apply to the Support Fund for assistance. In oral evidence, the MoD and the DfE gave us examples of how this fund may be used, including supporting pupils in the Devolved Administrations in place of the Service Pupil Premium. Table 2 below shows how these funds have been allocated across the four nations of the UK.

    Table 2: Distribution of the Support Fund for Schools
    Country
    Service Children
    2011 Fund
    2012 Fund
    2013 Fund
    Numbers
    %
    Total
    %
    Total
    %
    Total
    %
    England45,000 91.11,861,185 69.51,802,830 60.11,678,983 58.9
    Scotland2,500 5.1421,627 15.7711,101 23.7588,242 20.6
    N Ireland900 1.8325,641 12.2382,982 12.8454,680 16.0
    Wales1,000 2.070,183 2.6103,079 3.4128,408 4.5
    Totals49,400  2,678,636  2,999,992  2,850,313  

    Source: Ministry of Defence[149]

    104. The figures show that Scotland and Northern Ireland receive a disproportionately high percentage of the funds based on Service children numbers. As schools in the three Devolved Administrations do not receive the pupil premium it is not unreasonable for England to receive less, but schools in Wales should be encouraged to apply for funds in line with those made in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

    105. The Government should publish figures showing the distribution of the Support Fund for Schools across all parts of the UK, and encourage applications from Welsh schools to ensure all regions get their fair share.

    106. However, it must be remembered that the Support Fund for Schools is a relatively small fund (£3 million per year over four years, compared with an average annual Service Pupil Premium payment of £12.4 million).[150] We consider the plans for this expenditure are very ambitious for a relatively small amount of money. As with the Service Pupil Premium, there is lack of evidence on the value for money of this expenditure.

    107. The Devolved Administrations have acknowledged some of the benefits of the MoD Support Fund for Schools. The Scottish Government said

      The Scottish Government has welcomed the £3M Fund and has worked in partnership with the Ministry of Defence, CoSLA and ADES to ensure it was promoted across Scotland and fit for purpose within devolved responsibilities.

      We have fully supported this fund, specifically one of my officials is the chair of the regional assessment panel here in Scotland. I am aware that there is one year funding left from this Commitment and I am confident that our work here in Scotland will draw in another good level of quality bids. It is unfortunate that this fund will come to an end prior to the movements taking place as part of the re-basing review.[151]

    And the Welsh Government said:

      I am pleased to inform the Defence Committee that generous funding from the MOD's Support Fund for Schools with Service Children is already helping several Welsh schools support Service children. [...] Welsh Government officials will be working closely with their MOD counterparts to devise a means of encouraging more Welsh schools to apply under the next funding round.[152]

    108. The Government should publish details of the ways in which the Support Fund for Schools money is spent in support of Service children, and give examples of good practice so that best use is made of this limited resource. We agree with the Scottish Government, that the Government should maintain this Fund after the planned four years to provide pastoral and other support to individual schools where needed. The need will rise as significant numbers of Service children move during re-basing and the withdrawal from Germany.

    Support for Bereaved Families

    THE ARMED FORCES BEREAVEMENT SCHOLARSHIP SCHEME

    109. The Armed Forces Bereavement Scholarship Scheme provides university and further education scholarships for the children of Service personnel who have died on active duty since 1990:

      The aim of this scheme is to give the children of those who have died in the service of their country a head start in life by enabling them to obtain a university degree or further education training. The Scheme is funded by BIS, DfE and the devolved administrations, but is administered by the MOD. To date, 95 children have benefited from the scheme.[153]

    110. The scheme pays £1,500 a year to encourage children to stay on in Further Education, and up to £13,950 (for tuition fees and maintenance) to help those children to study for a university degree).[154] The scheme is not means tested.

    SCHOOL FEES

    111. Concerns regarding the ability of bereaved families to meet the on-going costs of school fees were brought to our attention during the course of our inquiry. We heard concerns that the continuity of children's education could be endangered when families could not maintain payment of school fees. We also heard that there could be delays in the payment of pensions and other entitlements.

    112. We sought assurance from the MoD that provision was made for these families. We were concerned that these families were reliant on charities or school bursaries to maintain continuity of education in such cases. The MoD told us that:

      a.  There will be no new entitlement for any child not already in receipt of CEA when the claimant dies or is invalided, irrespective of any future parental aspirations for the education of a child.

      b.  CEA will continue to be paid up to the end of the current stage of education or for up to 2 full terms after the term in which the death or invaliding of the claimant occurred for each child, whichever is the longer extension

      c.  If the child is already studying for public examinations, CEA will continue to be paid for up to 4 years or to the end of the term in which the child takes the examination and then leaves school, whichever is soonest, e.g., for a child aged 14-16 years who moves onto A-level studies, this would normally be up to 4 further years, for a child aged 16-18 years it would normally be up to 2 further years.

    and

      Child/Children's PaymentChild/Children's Payment is an income stream paid monthly to eligible child(ren) in order to provide financial support following the loss of their parent, guardian or person on whom they were financially dependant. It is normally payable up to the age of 18 (or until the child commences full time paid employment), or up to the age of 23 if still in full time education. The Child Payment is taxable and is adjusted in respect of any benefit paid under the Armed Forces Pension Scheme.[155]

    113. We are reassured that a range of funding is available to support the education of children of a parent killed in the service of their country, though such payments need to be made promptly to avoid unnecessary hardship or worry for bereaved families.


    129   The Armed Forces Covenant: Today and Tomorrow, www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/49470/the_armed_forces_covenant_today_and_tomorrow.pdf  Back

    130   Q 451 Back

    131   Q 68 Back

    132   Ev w22 Back

    133   National Audit Office, The education of Service children: findings of an National Audit Office consultation, April 2013 paras 3.8 and 3.9 www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmselect/cmdfence/writev/941/naopart3.pdf  Back

    134   www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-service-pupil-premium  Back

    135   Q 453 Back

    136   Ev 87 Back

    137   Ev 89 Back

    138   Ev 92 Back

    139   Ev 92 Back

    140   Ev 92 Back

    141   Ev 93 Back

    142   Ev 94 Back

    143   Ev w7 Back

    144   Ev w22 Back

    145   Q 311 Back

    146   Q 322 Back

    147   Q 314 Back

    148   Ev 74 Back

    149   Ev 84 Back

    150   Ev 74, Ev 84, Ev 87 Back

    151   Ev 93 Back

    152   Ev 94 Back

    153   Ev 74 Back

    154   Ev 75 Back

    155   Ev 84 Back


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    Prepared 23 July 2013