Cash boost to help disadvantaged pupils


Extra cash is to be awarded to Northern Ireland secondary schools to improve the exam results of poor pupils and children in care.

A revised funding formula for schools is being developed which will include additional premiums for looked-after pupils and also students from overseas.

There are concerns at the massive gap in achievement between rich and poor. Now the Department of Education is changing the way schools are funded to better target educational disadvantage.

An additional £30 million will be targeted directly at schools teaching children from disadvantaged backgrounds over the next two years.

There will also be an extension to the free school meals eligibility criteria that will see, by September 2014, an additional 15,000 children entitled to meals and support with uniform costs. It is hoped the extra money will help break the link between social disadvantage and low educational outcomes.

Disadvantaged pupils in the North are only half as likely to achieve five GCSEs or equivalents at grades A* to C including English and maths as their more affluent counterparts.

Schools minister John O’Dowd says this “presents an education, an economic, a political challenge that we cannot ignore”. 

Children in care also massively underachieve. The most recent statistics show just 36 per cent of looked-after pupils achieved five or more good GCSEs compared to 62 per cent of general school leavers. Just 19 per cent achieved five A* to Cs including English and maths which is significantly below average.

“I intend to inject a further £30 million into school budgets, with that funding being allocated to help schools with the greatest concentrations of disadvantage to address underachievement among their disadvantaged pupils,” Mr O’Dowd added.

“I expect the interventions to link teaching and learning with the work that these schools undertake as extended schools and to involve outreach to parents and communities as well as direct support for young people themselves.”

The NASUWT says the changes are a move in the right direction towards more transparency, simplicity and fairness in school. General secretary Chris Keates added: “It is essential that school funding mechanisms recognise the importance of ensuring all pupils are supported according to their needs, particularly in areas of high deprivation.”


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