Worthing schools search for ‘poor’ pupils to boost budgets

SCHOOLS fearing budget squeezes are trawling classrooms for poorer pupils to boost funding.

They are urging parents in households earning less than £16,190 a year to sign up their children for free school meals – even if they don’t eat them.

The government, which is cutting public spending by billions of pounds to slash the national debt, plans in part to base future funding on the number of low income pupils on the register.

A primary way of measuring this is the number of students having free meals.

But Worthing schools fear some parents who fall into the low income category are sending their children to school with packed lunches instead, which could result in schools missing out on thousands of pounds.

Parent appeal

West Park First and Middle School, Goring, has now sent a letter to mums and dads urging them to come forward.

Mandy Allwright, the school’s business manager, wrote: “School budgets over the next few years will be very tight.

“The government is looking at different ways to allocate budgets to schools and this means that where some schools gain, others lose.

“One of the ways in which the government will allocate money to schools will be based on the number of children who are entitled to free school meals.

“It is, therefore, vital to us to be aware of who is entitled as this information generates more income for West Park.

“It does not mean that your child has to have a free meal. They are welcome to bring their own if they prefer.

“At present, if your annual household income is less than £16,190, you could be entitled to claim a free school meal.”

Pupil premium

She asked parents to supply a copy of their income support book and proof of identity, which would be forwarded to West Sussex County Council, the education authority, in Chichester.

A county council spokesman said: “Funding has not been cut. However, schools will have to manage various budget pressures arising from changes in pupil numbers, inflation, etc.

“The pupil premium is a new government grant aimed at supporting disadvantaged children.

“It will be allocated on the basis of free school meal eligibility, so it is important that parents who are on a low income register, so that schools receive the new grant to support pupils.”

Schools will receive £430 for each child entitled to a free meal, which, based on the number already signed up across West Sussex, is worth £3.5 million in total.