Yorkshire schools are missing out on at least £650,000 pupil premium funding with foreign children ineligible for free school meals (FSM).
When families from the European Economic Area (EEA) are able to claim for certain benefits such as Jobseekers Allowance, which allow them to claim for FSM, the schools can access additional cash to benefit their learning.
If they cannot claim then schools miss out on FSM and therefore pupil premium – and Bradford Council, along with the local NHS, said it has stepped in to feed at least 700 “malnourished and destitute” children.
The council said it has a large number of families from Eastern Europe coming to the city.
With pupil premium at a minimum of £953 per child, 700 children entitled to pupil premium would bring in at least £654,500 to local schools.
The council’s education scrutiny committee has agreed to write to Education Secretary Nicky Morgan asking her to address the issue.
Ralph Berry, the council’s portfolio holder for children and young people, said it was not a new issue but had become more prevalent in the last two years. He said: “To be eligible for certain relevant benefits, children who have arrived from certain countries must be here for a year.We are running a programme using money from the clinical commissioning group to feed about 700 children who are, in effect, destitute, where their parents had fallen out of employment and then the children were ineligible for any support such as free school meals.
“Of course, the new programme [free school meals] has been a help, but it is only for children up to a certain age.”
Headteachers across the country are also concerned about the likely impact of the government’s new universal infant free school meals programme.
In Oxfordshire, headteacher Lynn Knapp, who looks after the city’s largest primary school, said that now hot meals were on offer for all children up to seven, then parents were unlikely to register their children meaning schools miss out on funding.
She said: “I just don’t think there is any incentive for parents to fill out the paperwork for free school meals if they are getting it anyway. And the families who are often eligible don’t particularly like filling out forms as it is. This is going to impact on our budget.”
A government spokesperson said: “Slovakian, Romanian, and Bulgarian nationals – whether they are Roma or from any other ethnic group – have the same rights as other European Economic Area nationals, including entitlement to benefits.
“The way in which pupil premium is calculated has not been affected by the introduction of free school meals. We know from areas that already offered universal free school meals that it is still possible to identify pupils eligible for the pupil premium.”