Currently, the Pupil Premium is worth £900 per eligible student and under current criteria only children who have been in care for more than six months are funded.
However, from April 2014, children in care will receive £1,000 more in Pupil Premium funding and they will be covered as soon as they enter care.
The Department for Education (DfE) hopes the move will help to close the attainment gap, which is even more stark for children in care. In 2012, 15 per cent of children in care achieved five A* to C GCSEs or equivalent, including English and maths, compared with 58 per cent of non-looked-after children.
At key stage 2, 50 per cent of children in care reached the expected level in both English and maths compared with 79 per cent.
The DfE has said that children adopted from care and those who leave care under a special guardianship order or residence order will also attract the Pupil Premium Plus.
It means 10,000 more children in care will become eligible for Pupil Premium funding, with a total of 50,000 set to qualify for the £1,900 payment from April.
In total, the government expects to spend £100 million on the Pupil Premium Plus in 2014/15.
The news was revealed by children’s minister Edward Timpson last week. He said: “Children in care face unique challenges at school and often struggle to keep up with their peers at both primary and secondary level. It’s vital that these vulnerable children are given the targeted support they need and the education they deserve to help them get on in life.”
As well as children who have been in care for at least six months, the Pupil Premium currently goes to any child on free school meals, or who has been on free school meals at any point in the past six years. The children of service personnel also receive extra funding.
This year the Pupil Premium is worth £900 per eligible child. Next year this is to increase to £1,300 for primary school pupils, and while the Department for Education has yet to confirm the rate for eligible secondary students next year, it is expected to remain at £900.
Enver Solomon, director of evidence and impact at the National Children’s Bureau, said: “We know that children in care face multiple challenges at school and often struggle to do as well as their peers. Increasing the financial support through the Pupil Premium has the potential to really improve their education, and ultimately transform their life chances.
“However, it will need to be closely monitored to ensure that the money reaches the children it is intended for and that schools do not use it for other means.”
The government also plans to make it mandatory for every local authority to have a “virtual school head” – a role that will champion the education of children in care. The provision is part of the Children and Families Bill.
The DfE wants the virtual school head to work with schools to manage the Pupil Premium Plus funding. It has cited local authorities such as Warrington, North Tyneside and Dudley, which already have virtual heads, and which in 2012 all saw higher than average attainment for their looked-after children.
A DfE statement added: “Over the coming months, we will work with virtual school heads and schools to determine how the virtual school head can help schools use the Pupil Premium to best effect.”