Addressing his party’s annual conference, Nick Clegg said that 109,000 young people would receive additional help in literacy and numeracy this academic year through a catch-up premium of £500 for every 11-year-old pupil who is falling behind.
The funding, which is being made available because of an underspend in the Department for Education’s (DfE) budget, will be allocated to schools in January and guaranteed every year for the rest of this Parliament.
Clegg, said secondary school is “a massive step up for pupils” when much bigger demands are placed on their abilities.
“Pupils who start secondary school behind their peers should be given every chance to catch up as quickly as possible,” he said. “The funding I’m announcing today will allow schools to provide intensive tuition to help pupils to get up to speed and so get the best out of their secondary school education.”
Chris Keates, general secretary of the teaching union NASUWT, said extra cash to support pupils' needs is “always to be welcomed”, but called for “far more information on how this initiative is being funded”.
“The DfE says the funding is from an 'underspend',” she said. “At a time of severe cuts to education spending how exactly has such a large underspend occurred and in which area of the budget?
“For the sake of pupils and schools let’s hope that this is not just another repackaging and recycling exercise which in reality makes little or no difference to pupils.”
Secondary schools will receive an additional £500 for every year 7 pupil who has not achieved at least Level 4 at Key Stage 2 in reading or maths. In 2012, 13 per cent of pupils leaving primary school failed to gain a Level 4 in reading and 16 per cent in maths.