In December 2020 the DfE announced changes to the way pupil premium funding will be allocated which will have far-reaching implications for schools in England. See our news article from January 2021 for more details.

Although the decision to base future allocations on the October schools census (backdated to October 2020) rather than the January census may seem like a technicality, the result means that many schools are set to experience a significant shortfall in expected funding. For children who became eligible between October 2020 and January 2021, funding will now be released in June 2022, instead of June 2021.

The financial implications of this change have been raised in questions in parliament, and widely reported across the education and mainstream media (such as this article in the TES), but the DfE have so far refused to countenance any reversal of this decision.

While reporting of the issue has largely focused on pupil premium for children entitled to free school meals, the change will also affect children who were adopted or moved to permanence from England and Wales who all attract Post-LAC pupil premium, usually called PP+, to their schools.

What will this mean in practice?

My child was already registered as eligible for PP+ and has not changed schools since October 2020: your child’s funding should be released as usual in June 2021 as long as their eligibility was correctly entered on the October census. It may be worth checking with the school that this did happen as any omission or error on the October census, even if it was corrected for the January census, could lead to schools missing out on funding.

My child is educated at a pupil referral unit (PRU): the January census will continue to be used to allocate PP+ for PRUs. This means that as long as your child was registered as eligible for PP+ on the January 2021 census, there should be no change to the funding allocation.

My child started a new school in September 2020, or changed schools after October 2020: unfortunately, it is possible that the school will not receive the PP+ funding until June 2022. School systems were set up to collect the required information in time for the January census. As schools did not know about the change in advance, they were unable to ensure that all eligible pupils were recorded on the October census, even if the pupils were already on roll at the school. If your child was registered as eligible for PP+ at their previous school, but changed schools after October 2020, the new school will not be able to register their eligibility until the October 2021 census.

We received my child’s adoption order between October 2020 and January 2021: unfortunately, the change will have implications for your child’s PP+ funding. Children who are living with adoptive families but do not have an adoption order are still legally looked after children. Therefore, your child will not have been recorded on the October census as a previously looked after child eligible for PP+. The PP+ allocations for looked after children are calculated differently, using the children looked after data return each March. The DfE have stated that they will initially release funding to local authorities in June 2021 based on the March 2020 data return, but will revise this funding allocation in December 2021, based on the March 2021 return. Any funding released in respect of your child’s looked after status in March 2020 will go to the placing local authority, rather than to your child’s current school. We recommend contacting the Virtual School Head in the placing local authority for more information, and working with the school to ensure that your child’s status is updated for the October 2021 census so that the school can receive PP+ from 2022.

My child is due to start school in September 2021: if your child is due to start primary or secondary school in September 2021, the change makes it even more important that eligibility for PP+ is declared to the school at the earliest opportunity. The school cannot enter your child as eligible on the October census unless you have informed them of your child’s legal status, with supporting evidence (e.g. providing a copy of the adoption order, with sensitive information redacted if necessary). We strongly advise parents and guardians to contact their child’s school at the earliest opportunity to find out the school’s procedures for declaring eligibility well in advance of the October census.

What next?

If your child would have been recorded as eligible for PP+ on the January 2021 census, but will now miss out as a result of the change to using the October census, we recommend that you contact your child’s school to discuss the situation. The designated teacher for looked after and previously looked after children at the school should be your main point of contact for conversations about PP+.

PP+ funding is not ring-fenced to individual children, so schools should still be putting measures in place to meet your child’s needs. However, it is undeniable that schools may find this more difficult if they were expecting an additional £2,345 in 2021-22 in respect of your child, which they will now not receive.

Head teachers and parents/guardians who have been negatively affected by this change may wish to write to their local MP to raise the issue. The government has made bold claims about reducing the attainment gap, levelling up and post-Covid recovery. Ensuring that schools are properly funded to give the most vulnerable pupils the support they need must surely be part of this agenda.

 Author, Rebecca Brooks, Adoption UK's Education Policy Advisor and author of The Trauma and Attachment Aware Classroom.