HARD-working parents on a low income are being discriminated against, says a Shoreham school.
The issue has been highlighted as latest figures are released for the 2013/14 pupil premium, which provides additional funding for schools.
Shoreham Academy receives £291,300, the largest single payment of pupil premium money in the town, as well as a catch-up premium payment of £30,500.
The money, calculated by the number of pupils registered for free school meals, is specifically designed to help disadvantaged and under-achieving students.
But Jon Sale, the academy’s director of planning and resources, said there were a number of students who were not eligible, even though their parents’ income was below the threshold figure of £16,190.
“We have some parents who earn £2,000 less than that figure but don’t get free school meals,” he added. “They don’t get a free meal and we don’t get the funding.”
The reason, he explained, was that people who receive working tax credit do not qualify, even if their total income is below the threshold.
Mr Sale added: “You are discriminated against if you work. If you don’t work, you get free school meals, if you go out to work and make a effort, you don’t get any help.”
The academy has raised the issue and tried to lobby for change, without success.
“The government has said it would be sorted out with the new universal credit system in October, but nothing has changed,” added Mr Sale.
The academy has chosen to pay out of its own budget for free school meals for the students affected.
The pupil premium was introduced in April 2011 to tackle disadvantage and schools have to show how the funding is spent.
Mr Sale said: “With pupil premium, we have to factor it in as part of overall funding and then direct it, which is a very good way of ensuring a focus for an underachieving group of children.”
Amounts received by other schools in the area are: Glebe Primary School £78,300, Eastbrook Primary School £120,600, Shoreham Beach Primary School £11,700, Buckingham Park Primary School £81,900, Swiss Gardens Primary School £54,000, St Nicolas and St Mary CofE Primary School £11,700, St Peter’s Catholic Primary School £27,000, Herons Dale School £20,700 and Holmbush Primary School £52,200.
Jemima Bland, Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for East Worthing and Shoreham, said the pupil premium was part of the Liberal Democrat’s contribution to the coalition Government, designed to help disadvantaged pupils do better at school.
She added: “The pupil premium means more money where it matters – straight into the education of our children. This extra cash will help build a brighter future for our next generation.”
Pupil premium funding for 2013/14 is £900 per pupil. Anyone receiving working tax credit, regardless of income, does not qualify.
The figures are calculated using the pupil numbers from the January school census, with the final allocations confirmed for each school in the summer.