Councillors push for £420,000 extra funding to help armed forces’ pupils
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The decision was taken at the council's education scrutiny committee held on Tuesday.
A 'Service Pupil Premium' has operated in England since 2011 and currently stands at £335 per child per annum. The money can be used for pastoral and attainment support. If it was made available to pupils from armed forces families in Scotland this would equate to £420,090 in additional funding across schools in Fife per academic year.
Councillor Aude Boubaker-Calder (Dunfermline Central, Lib-Dem) proposed writing to the Scottish Government to request that it consider a service pupil premium for students in Fife. Her move was backed in a vote. She argued that the premium is needed to support the care of armed forces families.
“We know they face additional challenges,” she said. "These include having to move frequently depending on where their parents are based or having a parent being deployed for many months abroad.”
However, others argued that the premium is not necessary in Scotland where more is spent per pupil than elsewhere in the UK.
Councillor Louise Kennedy-Dalby (Tay Bridgehead,SNP) said: “If we take money for these children, it has to come from somewhere. Is this really the best thing when money is already allocated to support students? The support is already part of the national Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) approach.”
Councillor Alycia Hayes (East Neuk and Landward, SNP) agreed: “You can’t spend money twice. Our education money is there to support all of our children regardless of what their parents do for a living. Secondly, as a cohort, they are doing really well.”
The report from education and children’s services highlighted that based on available data, Fife’s primary aged armed forces pupils are performing above the region's average for both literacy and numeracy, and are above average for attendance.
There’s no attainment data for this group of learners in the secondary sector, but the report says that attendance rates for secondary pupils are also higher than average.
“Scotland does not currently offer the Service Pupil Premium. Instead, the GIRFEC approach helps services across Scotland provide high quality support to service children and their families when it is needed,” the report explained. “This is the national approach used within Fife, which aims to ensure all people supporting a child work together seamlessly to provide the right help at the right time. Through it, work has been undertaken in our schools to ensure that all children, including armed forces children, are supported with timely and appropriate interventions.”
There was some debate about whether to address the letter to the Scottish or the UK Government. Defence is a reserved matter handled by Westminster, but education is handled by the Scottish Government. Fife Council’s legal team will be consulted before the letter is addressed.