Halfon: ‘Cut pupil premium for schools that don’t promote apprenticeships’

Schools that fail to send pupils into apprenticeships should lose some of their pupil premium funding, the chair of the education select committee has said.

Robert Halfon, a former apprenticeships minister, told a fringe event at the Conservative Party conference that the government should consider financial incentives to encourage schools to promote apprenticeships.

At the event, where he shared the stage with his successor as skills minister, Anne Milton, Halfon repeated a story of apprentices at Gateshead College, who were refused permission to go back to their old school and speak to pupils to promote their courses.

He said the government’s long-awaited careers strategy needs to be “completely focused on skills in every way”, and that schools needed a “carrot and stick”.

This should include toughening Ofsted’s approach, he said, but also a focus on “financial grants that go to schools”.

“We should look at things like the pupil premium and whether or not certain parts of it can be based or dependent on how many students they get, especially from deprived backgrounds, to go into high-quality apprenticeships,” he said.

During the event, Milton also spoke of certain schools’ “intellectual snobbery” when it comes to apprenticeships, and admitted she was anxious about the government’s careers strategy.

The strategy has still not been published, despite being announced almost two years ago.

This July, Justine Greening became the third minister to mention it, after it was previously proposed by Sam Gyimah in December 2015 and then by Halfon in January 2017.

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  1. Pete Crockett

    Messrs Carmichael, Stuart and Sherman tended to be judicious in their comments as chairs of the commons select committee. I am unimpressed by this observation by Mr Halfon. Why suggest a cut to school premium budgets? How does that help the most deprived? How do you decide the acceptable number advancing per school to “high quality apprenticeships” when the number available tend to vary significantly within areas? Is he really so crass as to not realise schools have had, in recent years, far too much “stick” and far too little “carrot”? When politicians seek to use Ofsted as an agent of enforcement they weaken still further school staff faith that Ofsted is remotely an independent and autonomous inspectorate. The previous three chairs of the commons education select committee were thoughtful and displayed due gravitas. I only hope Mr Halfon models himself on their example.