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The pupil premium trapdoor

By David Higgerson on Oct 31, 10 01:06 PM

There's been a lot of talk about the pupil premium - Nick Clegg's figleaf for his party which will, apparently, see extra money spent on schools attended by deprived children.

We've already learnt that, contrary to Nick Clegg's earlier promise, it won't all be 'new money'. Education secretary came clean on that last week.

But here's something else I've discovered this week. Apparently, the money allocated will be determined, at least in part, by whether a child gets free school meals.

That shouldn't come as much of a surprise as it is an indicator which Labour was very fond of too. On one hand, there's a danger a school is unfairly stigmatised if the number of free school meals is well documented, but on the other hand it was a very good way of getting extra cash.

New dog, old tricks?

By David Higgerson on Oct 24, 10 08:28 PM

Politicians hate the phrase 'They're all the same.' There's a good reason for that - it's not true. But there's also a good reason why so many people think it's true - because so often it appears that way.

Take one of New Labour's favourite tricks - re-announcing spending commitments as 'new' news two or three times. Barely a month would pass without a big spending announcement which, when journalists probed a bit, was little more than a topping up of a previous announcement.

In hindsight, perhaps we should be grateful to Labour for such recycling announcements - just imagine the size of the deficit if each new announcement had been new money.

We all know where David Cameron stands on the idea of changing the way we vote in the UK - as he said at party conference: 'Just because we don't like it doesn't mean we should seek to wreck it.'

We also know that both Cameron and Clegg are keen to portray the coalition as a proper partnership, rather than a minor party propping up the real ruling party.

If that is the case, surely Clegg could have adopted a similar attitude towards the university reforms which Lord Browne proposed this week to that which Cameron is applying towards the alternative vote.

Tom Watson might have apologised for calling education secretary Michael Gove "a miserable pipsqueak of a man" but in the heat of the moment, the truth often comes out.

Since arriving at the Department for Children, Schools and Families in mid May, and promptly spent a small fortune renaming it before lecturing everyone who'd listen on the need for cutbacks, Gove has done little to impress.

As I've covered on this blog before, he scrapped some quangos which covered things such as maintaining teaching standards and the regulation of qualifications without actually coming up with a plan for who'd do the work in the future.

He hid behind the line that 'teachers should be allowed to teach.' The fact we learnt this week that headteachers tend not to refer bad teacher to the local council for review but instead ship them on to other schools suggests that regulation is required.

Then we had his flaky idea around free schools, so a small band of parents in Notting Hill who think schools aren't run well could come up with their own schools, and be paid to do so. Forget making existing schools more attractive to all parents, just hand over millions to create state-funded middle class ghettos.

Up next was the idea around academies. Some 900 school dashed to apply, desperate it would seem for the freedom to break away from local authority control, even if the extra money they'd get as a result would probably have to go back to the council as they were the only ones who provide the services schools need.

Less than a fortnight into the job, and Michael Gove, the education secretary with the incredibly slappable face, has unveiled his great vision for schools.

It goes like this: Any school rated excellent can apply to become an academy. In return, these schools will be 'freed of local authority control' with 'power restored to headteachers' because 'teachers know how to run schools, not politicians.'

Gove, a former journalist, should know a thing or two about being spun. He's certainly done a bloody good job of spinning.

Cut through the waffle from the newly-renamed Department for Education - note the LibCon slash and burn on waste doesn't apparently extend to the endless rebranding of government departments - and there's nothing really new here at all.

In a nutshell, we have what happens whenever a new government takes over. The education secretary criticises the previous regime and unveils his/her vision for the future. And so begins the merry-go-round all teachers will be familiar with. At the end of the day, nothing changes: Some schools are great, others are not. And there's nothing in Gove's plans which will change that.

ED BALLS and Gordon Brown as supposed to be as thick as thieves - yet they also appear to be at polar opposites on the issue of cuts.

Last week, Brown told the TUC there would have to be cuts - he used the C word indeed! - but promised to protect jobs and frontline services. It was a speech which should have handed him a bit more control in determining the public spending playing field on which the next election will probably be fought.

Then up pops Balls, offering up £2billion of savings - and instantly identifying a cull of senior teachers as a way of doing it.


David Higgerson

David Higgerson - David Higgerson has covered local and national politics for much of his career as a journalist. This blog aims to look at Westminister from the outside in, at a time when it appears very few are looking out from the inside.

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