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Monday 14th May 2012 | 07:41
Nick Clegg said the Government expected its funding for poorer pupils to be matched by extra effort from teachers.
"The Pupil Premium is basically an offer, if you like, to schools and teachers which ‘we the Government will give you, teachers and schools, extra money so that you can really do what you judge to be best, we’re going to give you complete freedom to do what you judge to be best to help these children’. It could be one-to-one tuition, catch-up classes, breakfast clubs and so on, but in return we expect teachers to redouble their efforts to close that attainment gap between children from different backgrounds."
He denied that funding cuts would reduce the effectiveness of the Premium.
"Let’s remember that the Pupil Premium as it is today is going to expand dramatically in the years ahead, last year it was worth about £488 per pupil, this year it’s £600. In total it’s about 1.25bn a year, that will double by the end of this Parliament by 2015 to £2.5bn and also it’s worth stressing that we protected the , in cash terms, per pupil, the school grant that schools get from where we found it from the previous Labour government. So, this is additional money on top of that stable school grant that we’ve given to schools."
Mr Clegg denied that the Government was guilty of attacking teachers and undermining their morale.
“Of course, I’m as alarmed as anybody to hear that, because I think teachers and good teachers are, they are the heroes and the heroines who make sure that our children get the best out of life. They deserve, and we rely on them very, very heavily, I think we should celebrate, as, indeed I’m announcing today we will, those teachers who do great things, particularly for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
“Of course, there are difficulties that teachers face elsewhere, the pay freeze, the changes to pensions; I don’t want to duck those at all. I don’t think that is right, it’s certainly not something that I myself believe, I think in many respects what we’re doing as a government is giving greater trust and putting more faith in teachers to do what we know they know best.
“In the past, you see, when these announcements were made, new pots of money were allocated by governments to schools and teachers it would come with endless strings attached and a great, big instruction manual telling teachers what to do with the money,. What we’re saying is - ‘Here’s the money, it’s an unprecedented amount, £2.5bn by the end of this Parliament and you are free to do with it what you will as along as you work hard to close that gap between children from different backgrounds.”
The Deputy Prime Minister stressed the Government was doing its best to simplify the schools inspection system.
"I think that’s probably misplaced because what we’re doing is on the Ofsted inspection system, we’re actually simplifying that, making it clearer and simpler so that teachers and schools don’t feel they’re’ jumping through lots and lots of different hoops but are focused on the core task of educating children well and, of course, we’re doing that, as well, through the English Baccalaureate, giving schools and teachers an incentive to prioritise the core disciplines that we know are necessary for a successful education for children.
He also underlined the positive effects on other pupils that helping poorer children would have.
"And, by the way, nice thing I do want to stress is that focusing as much attention and money as we are on the children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds, it doesn’t just help them, it helps all children from all backgrounds, because we know that the most successful schools are where classrooms and classes can move together as one, where you don’t have a small number of children at the back messing around or completely switched off, which then holds everybody else back."
Mr Clegg argued that it was high time to reform disability benefits to make sure they were going to the right people.
"I certainly support and I think most people do who know about the way in which the DLA system, the Disability Living Allowance system, works. I support reform because many people have received DLA, as it’s known, without any, sort of, personal, face-to-face tests for year upon year upon year without any assessment about whether their circumstances have changed.
"I think it is right to say that people who receive DLA should go through this face-to-face test which, of course, needs to be objective and fair and rigorous so that maybe some people, far from losing it, will actually receive a higher award. But, of course, it also means that others who no longer need that help will no longer continue to receive it. So, I think that is a change that most people think is merited, but, of course, we need to get the details right."
He said it would be premature to suggest that amputees might end up losing their benefits.
"I just, we shouldn’t jump to conclusions before knowing exactly how this new system will work. At the moment you have a system which has ballooned in size where some people have received DLA for years and years and years when maybe their circumstances have changed, their condition has changed and they won’t need it any more, that surely can’t be right whilst other people who haven’t been assessed, maybe…they need a higher form of benefit and help. That’s what this new change is all about and, of course, we’re still in the stages of making sure that the details are correct and got right."
BBC Radio 5live 8.10
The Deputy Prime Minister said there was no question of the UK contributing a lot of money to a eurozone bailout.
"I don’t think there’s any question of the United Kingdom putting in lots of money to a eurozone bailout."
Mr Clegg said the Government was increasing the pupil premium year on year and denied it would simply paper over the cracks of cuts in regular funding.
“Firstly, let’s remember we’re on a journey, that the pupil premium, in its full amount, won’t come about till the end of the parliament. So it was worth about £488 per child on free school meals last year, £600 this year, it’s worth one and a quarter billion pounds this year, it’ll double to two and a half billion pounds by the end of the parliament.
“We’re not, we’ve actually kept the per pupil in terms of cash allocations per pupil across schools, we’ve kept the grant to schools exactly steady compared to what we inherited. But I totally accept the question about why it’s come without guidance. That’s a very deliberate decision, it’s quite a bold decision on our behalf, because normally what governments do when they allocate new pots of money to schools is they issue great big instruction manuals telling teachers exactly what to do with the money.
“What we’re saying to teachers, and this is the subject of my speech, is that we’ll give you the money – but crucially, we will give you the freedom, you can spend it in whatever way you like. One to one tuition, breakfast clubs, counselling for children who have got real problems, whatever you think is necessary.
The Deputy Prime Minister denied the Government was cutting school funding.
“As I’ve explained, that’s not a fair assessment because the money is going to increase very substantially, in fact it will double in the course of this parliament, and we’ve kept the school grant steady in cash terms for schools across the piste.
“But it is a new thing to say to schools ‘here’s a whole lot of extra money’ but you’re going to be free to use it as you wish. Why? Because we basically think that experience shows that teachers know best how to reach out to these children subject to the pupil premium, those from poorer backgrounds who still get let down too often at school and aren’t been given the chances to get ahead compared to their classmates.”
Mr Clegg said a combination of factors let to children being let down.
“I think it’s a combination of things. We know that a lack parents engagement has an big impact on children, we know that a lack of self esteem before children even start school can have a big effect. That’s why we are increasing the amount of preschool education for the first time ever to all two year olds from disadvantaged backgrounds as of next year and to all three and four year-olds across the country. The Pupil Premium then picks up when they actually get to school.
“It’s an idea I first came across when I actually wrote a think-tank pamphlet on it 10 years ago, it’s something they do in the Netherlands. Why it’s such a powerful thing is I think it gives teachers the freedom and the resources to really focus that attention on those kids with their resources that really gives a focus on those who might otherwise fall behind quite quickly during their school years. But it actually helps the whole class because I think what everybody knows is that a class thrives best when it really moves forward as a group, where you don’t have a small number of children at the back.”
The Deputy Prime Minister said the funding system for schools was “idiosyncratic” and that the Government would eventually change the system.
“The way in which school funding is very idiosyncratic, it’s built up layer upon layer over years and we are moving towards making announcements on a more rational division of the pot. It’s a very controversial thing to do because just as much as there might be winner in Dorset there might be losers in East London, so it’s a very controversial thing to do, it’s not something we’re going to rush into, something we’re doing very carefully and methodically, but in the meantime as I explained, the Pupil Premium is additional money over and above what schools get.
“It’s trying to address something which I think has beset our education system for a long time which is that if you consider that in an average classroom one in five children are on free school means, but if you go to Oxford and Cambridge only one in hundred of the students in the lecture theatre were on free school meals. So for some reason a bright but poorer child will fall behind a less intelligent child who somehow comes from a more affluent background, that’s the cycle we’re trying to break.
Mr Clegg said the evidence showed a poor, bright child would fall behind a less bright but affluent child.
“Of course you’re right, and Michael’s right that 7% of children – like myself, I went to a fee paying school - go to fee paying schools. My own view is that all the evidence suggests what we need to do as a country that we haven’t done enough about is start early. Let me explain. In the good years when there was pots and pots of money, I won’t cast any aspersions on the good intentions the Labour government had with the money.
“But actually, even with all the money and all the goodwill it didn’t really change anything at all. I think one of the things that we haven’t done is start early enough because the evidence now shows, as I said earlier, a bright but poor child will fall behind a less bright but more affluent child by around the age of six or seven, just after the first couple of years at school.
“But we’re saying we’re going to put particular emphasis what happens to a child in his early years. Whether it’s providing parenting classes, which we’ll be making more announcements about later in the week, when it’s this new entitlement to preschool supports to two year olds, from 40% of the families in this country, never done before, if you combine that with a really good start through a pupil premium the moments they actually hang up their coats in primary school. It won’t happen overnight you’ll only see the fruits of these things 10, 15 years from now. I hope it’ll make a difference over time.”
Mr Clegg was joined on Daybreak by Britain's Got Talent winner Ashleigh Butler and her dog Pudsey. Responding to a cartoon in the Independent depicting him as Pudsey to David Cameron's Ashleigh, Mr Clegg said:
"Do you think I look like Pudsey?
"That's a new, yes, that's a new one. I don't think so."
Asked if he and Pudsey had bonded backstage, Mr Clegg replied:"We have."
Asked if Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt had his backing, following fresh revelations over his relationship with News Corp lobbyist Fred Michel at the Leveson Inquiry last week, Mr Clegg said:
"He has got my backing to explain himself at the Leveson Inquiry. I think what everybody wants is to get at the truth."
Mr Clegg denied the health service was about to "break" and said the Government did not "recognise" figures, produced by The Royal College of Nursing, of frontline jobs at risk of being axed due to spending cuts.
"I have to say we just don’t recognise those figures at all. We simply do not recognise them, we actually think the numbers are relatively stable. This year we are training about double the number of community nurses and health visitors than we did last year. Unlike other public services, we protected the spending on the NHS and increased it year on year on year. That shows our commitment to the NHS."View all On Air Today
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