The Welsh Government has been accused of using a grant designed to support Wales’ poorest pupils to plug a funding gap in Wales’ schools system.It follows the sending of a letter by Education Minister Huw Lewis to Welsh teachers’ union Ucac, in which he appears to confirm the Pupil Deprivation Grant (PDG) is being used to meet a manifesto spending promise.Ucac said schools were getting the “strong impression” that budgets are being cut and the PDG is helping to make up the shortfall.Pressure from the Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru secured an extra £35m for the PDG, which will be distributed among schools this year and see an additional £918 allocated to pupils eligible for free school meals.Of course the Welsh Lib Dems in particular have pushed the "Pupil Premium" as a policy sometimes making people wonder if its all they got as a idea in the Assembly.
At the time La Pasionaria leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats said:
"Giving poorer pupils a better start in life was a key pledge in the Welsh Liberal Democrat's 2011 manifesto and it is a policy that we have pushed for at every given opportunity since. We have more than doubled the amount of money going to disadvantaged pupils meaning that the education budget will benefit from an additional £35m."It is not right that a child's future is determined by their family background and not their own abilities. With this grant, we are breaking the link between poverty and attainment that has dogged our education system for too long. Sadly, schools in Wales have suffered from years of under-investment from the Welsh Labour Government. Today we are taking big steps to change that."Welsh Liberal Democrats were not elected to the Assembly to turn our backs on the desperate need to improve education funding in Wales. We may have a small group in the National Assembly, but our influence in these budget negotiations will have a big impact on children's lives.Mr Lewis has threatened to “claw back” from schools that ignore guidance on how best to use the money and the Welsh Government has been clear that PDG funding should not be used for other purposes.
But one wonders how unless there's a clear audit how we are to make sure the money has gone at least in the spirit it was intended.
“It was our understanding that the increase of £35m for the PDG was additional money over and above the safeguarded sum and the 1% increase... members have been reporting to us over recent weeks that local authorities, when setting school budgets, are using the PDG, or part of it, to fill a budgetary gap.”