Reduced pupil payement can still have a positive effect

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STEVE CANAVAN: The case of the 'kitchen' door is open and shut

Headteachers in Portsmouth appear to have taken a pragmatic approach towards news that a premium payment for pupils from poorer backgrounds will be less than had been expected.

That sober reaction is to be praised, although in these times of financial uncertainty there is bound to be some disappointment that the forecast figure of 2,000 a head has fallen significantly short in reality.

In fact, schools will get an extra sum of 430 per annum for each child who qualifies for free school meals.

The general reaction appears to be typified by Derek Trimmer, the headteacher of Mayfield School in North End, Portsmouth, who says: 'This figure is not as good as we might have hoped for.

'But the whole country is going through tough economic times and we are grateful for any money we get to spend on our neediest pupils.'

Two hundred pupils at his school currently qualify for extra money under the government's National Challenge Fund for deprived areas.

The cash is intended to be spent on a range of initiatives, including funding smaller class sizes, and providing extra lessons and – where necessary – one-to-one tuition for pupils who are struggling.

Some may question whether all of this is ideal in the current economic climate, but supporters of the scheme point to it making a real difference to youngsters who have not necessarily had the easiest start in life.

The simple statistics show that children from more affluent backgrounds are likely to achieve better results at school.

Education should give equal opportunity to all, not only in terms of its delivery but in results achieved.

We welcome then this extra investment, even though it is less than was originally expected.

The pupil premium will see 2.1m invested in 4,640 Portsmouth pupils on free school meals each year until 2014/15 and we hope that it will have a positive effect in raising educational standards across the city.