DfE slashes support for future talent fund by £5m

The government will only pay £18 million towards its new “future talent fund”, which is aimed at helping the brightest poor pupils in secondary schools, £5 million less than expected.

The policy was first announced last December by former education secretary Justine Greening. It formed part of her ‘Unlock talent and fulfil potential’ social mobility strategy, which included a range of old and new investments.

At the time, the government pledged “investment” in a “new £23 million future talent fund to trial a range of new teaching approaches to support the education of the most-able children from less well-off communities”.

Now the government has said that £5 million will need to be raised by whichever school, academy trust or charity takes on the project as its “fund manager”.

There was no mention of the need for additional funds to be raised at the time of December’s announcement, and details of the cut were buried in a statement released today, seeking bids from potential managers of the fund.

Schools minister Nick Gibb appealed for applications from organisations to run and evaluate at least 30 projects between January next year and July 2020.

The pilots should help schools support “their most able, disadvantaged pupils” and address the drop-off in academic performance between key stage 2 and key stage 4, the DfE said.

Universities, research groups and private schools can also apply. The projects cannot be delivered in grammar schools, must be aimed at state-funded secondary schools, and must investigate the potential of at least one of the following:

  • The curriculum: such as broadening or deepening what is covered in the curriculum
  • Pedagogy: for example, individualised teaching, the use of digital technology or feedback
  • Parental involvement: which could include aspiration interventions, engagement through technology or behavioural insight techniques
  • Mentoring and tutoring: including academic mentoring, community based mentoring, school based mentoring, one-to-one tuition, group tuition or peer tutoring
  • Transition between key stages: such as summer schools or transition practices in schools
  • Enrichment activities: which could include after-school classes, extracurricular activities or visits.

In December, Greening said she was targeting funds at the brightest pupils because they “could do with a bit of extra help”.

The focus of the policy on the so-called “bright poor”drew comparisons with the government’s botched attempt to open new grammar schools in the last parliament, and was thought to be a compromise for supporters of selection in Greening’s party.

The DfE noted research from 2012 that found 65 per cent of pupils who leave primary school with a level five in both English and maths did not reach an A* or A grade in those subjects at GCSE at non-selective secondary schools.