Education chief urges more parents to apply

WIGAN schools are missing out on key classroom grants because not all parents claim free school meas to which their children are entitled, it was claimed today.

Each pupil attracts a certain amount of money to school coffers each year and that amount increases in deprived areas when factors such as the need to claim free school meals are taken into consideration.

Today Wigan Council’s education champion Coun Sue Loudon said some parents were failing to claim for meals and this meant schools weren’t getting as much cash from the Government’s Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) as they might. She today urged all those who are entitled to make a claim.

Coun Loudon said: “There is a link between child deprivation, free school meals and results. As a council, we are trying to address this.

“The problem is that some poorer parents don’t always claim free school meals because they feel there is a stigma attached to it.

“But if we can get more people to apply for free school meals the school gets a pupil premium, which the school can spend any way it wishes to help the children. So it is really important parents in deprived areas start claiming free school meals.

“And to stop the stigma, some schools have a meal card which gets zapped, so nobody knows who is paying and who isn’t.”

Figures distributed by the Taxpayers’ Alliance show that schools with more students on free lunches produce poorer GCSE results. Coun Loudon said it was therefore even more important to maximise cash that could drive up standards.

Of the borough’s 20 secondary schools analysed, PEMBEC High in Pemberton, which is to be turned into a specialist education and skills centre for 14 to 19-year-olds, had the highest percentage of pupils on free school meals, with 49 per cent.

As a result, it attracts the highest DSG income of £11,338 per pupil. And the school had the fewest students achieving A* to C GCSEs, with only 23 per cent.

Rose Bridge High at Ince had the second highest number of youngsters on free school meals, with 39 per cent, and was the third worst performing school, revealing 37 per cent of A* to C passes.

It earned the third highest income grant, with £6,244 per pupil.

Hesketh Fletcher High in Atherton generated the second highest income, with grants of £6,643 per pupil. Less than a quarter of pupils were entitled to free school meals and 41 per cent of students gained A* to C.

In contrast, St Peter’s Catholic High in Orrell, was the best performing school, with 76 per cent of students achieving A* to C and only had four per cent of pupils taking free school meals. It has the lowest DSG income of £4,572 per pupil.

St Edmund Arrowsmith Catholic High in Ashton, was the second best performing school, with 75 per cent of students gaining A* to C, and only eight per cent using free school meals.

Each student earned the school a grant of £4,703.