Changes to funding for disadvantaged children were described as ‘shameful penny pinching’ (Image: Getty Images/Maskot)

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Schools are losing out on £90 million in cash for disadvantaged children due to a funding switch, the Government has admitted.

Changes to the way pupil premium cash is awarded for poorer students mean 62,216 fewer pupils are eligible for the funding – equating to nearly £90million for schools, according to new guidance.

The Department for Education has repeatedly insisted schools won't be shortchanged by the decision to shift the cut-off date from January 2021 to October 2020 – before the second lockdown.

But Labour said ministers had finally admitted their "ill-thought through changes" would have an impact, which could hit children who have struggled most during the pandemic.

Teaching unions have also criticised the decision to shift the cut-off date during the pandemic, which has seen 420,000 pupils become eligible for free school meals since the first lockdown.

The Government quietly changed the cut-off date for how pupil premium cash was awarded to schools
(Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Pupil premium was introduced by the Coalition Government to award extra funding for kids from poorer families or looked after children.

Schools get £1,345 for every primary pupil and £955 for every secondary pupil who claims free school meals or who has claimed free school meals in the last 6 years.

They also receive £2,345 for every pupil who has left local authority care.

The DfE insists that the changes do not amount to an overall cut and children who are missed out will be included next year.

But Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green said: “The Government has finally admitted that schools are going to lose out on funding because of their ill-thought through changes to pupil premium.

“Far from having ‘no direct impact’ schools are set to lose £90 million, hitting support for the children who’ve struggled most to learn from home.

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“The Government has treated children as an afterthought throughout the last year, is severely underfunding children’s recovery, and is stripping away support from the kids who need it most. This is utterly unacceptable.”

Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson Daisy Cooper described the move as "shameful penny pinching".

“The Tories talk about the importance of levelling up in our education system, but the reality is they have cut vital funding which gives support to the poorest pupils," she said.

"This will have a devastating impact for pupils who are recovering from months of disruption to their schooling, and comes on top of the paltry education recovery package the Government have offered.

"The Government must reverse this disgraceful, short-sighted move and backdate payments to schools for the money they have missed out on.”

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A Department for Education spokesperson said: "Pupil premium funding has risen for the majority of schools, to more than £2.5 billion overall this year – an increase of £60 million compared to last year. Combined with our ambitious long-term education recovery plan, this will ensure disadvantaged children are supported.

“Using the October census for pupil premium allocation means schools will now know their full budget earlier in the year, helping them to plan ahead. Any pupil who became eligible after the October census will attract funding in the following financial year.

“We are committed to ensuring all children have access to good quality education, no matter their background.”