Changes to pupil support put school budgets under pressure

There have been recent reports around how school’s budgets are going to be under increasing pressure due to the Government changing the date for counting disadvantaged pupils eligibility for extra support.

Instead of using January as the annual point for measuring the numbers of pupils eligible for free school meals the Government has used October 2020. Given the recent turbulence of the pandemic and resulting financial strain on many households, there is likely going to be a number of pupils who should qualify for free school meals – but schools won’t be able to count them due to the date change.

This will mean schools miss out on pupil premium funding; funding which is largely based on the number of pupils eligible on free meals.

In 2020-21, more than two million children were supported with pupil premium funding worth £2.4bn. This is expected to rise to £2.5bn next year.

We’re under no illusion that this will have a very real impact on schools. We’ve worked within the education sector for over 30 years and we understand all too well the financial pressures schools are under. Budgets that are already squeezed simply can’t be squeezed further. It’s an area we help them with – ensuring they are operating in the most efficient way possible so budgets are utilised in the most effective way possible.

One way in which we do this is through monitoring invoicing from services that are contracted out to ensure schools aren’t paying more than they should be.  We monitor over 600 contracts on our clients’ behalf every month. We know when numbers are in line with expectation, and equally when they are not.

In the last 12 “Covid impacted” months we have made 141 challenges and saved our clients over £278k in credits and refunds. In a normal year often these numbers would double.

Often, schools just don’t have time to check the details – and even if they do, they don’t have the specialist knowledge to know if it’s within the right region or not. It’s our job to make sure schools are paying for the service they receive – not more, and not less.

If you’d like to find out more about our monitoring service and how it could help you, then contact us here

Latest .Gov Release – Free school meals: Autumn term

This release presents data on free school meals (FSM) as collected in the Autumn school census. The number of pupils eligible for free school meals on census day (1 October 2020) and the number of pupils who have become eligible since 23 March 2020, that is since the first COVID-19 lockdown was announced, are presented.

The Litmus team