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18 February 2012, 06:00
Norfolk schools are seeing the benefits of a Government cash injection to help poorer students.
A report published today by North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb shows how schools have been benefiting from the extra money gained from the Pupil Premium program, which aims to give children from disadvantaged backgrounds the support needed to succeed.
Recent figures show that only 28% of students eligible for free school meals in Norfolk achieve 5 A*-C grades in their GCSEs last year, compared with 59% of their peers.
Mr Lamb explained, "One of the strengths of the policy is that it gives schools the freedom to spend the money how they think best, and that has been demonstrated by the variety of responses we have had.
"Critically, disadvantaged children do benefit wherever they live. In the past hidden disadvantage in rural areas could be ignored."
Schools in the area which have benefitted from the scheme include Cromer Junior School, where Headteacher Steve Godson said, "Finally after ten years of Headship at Cromer, the town and it's immediate surroundings has been recognised for the deprivation it has. In previous years so much has gone to the larger areas, leaving the smaller 'pockets' under-funded."
Northrepps Primary School Headteacher Terrie Clifft had similar praise to give, refering to the program as a "god-send" before adding, "I feel the huge strength of this Government initiative is the freedom it gives Heads to use the money in ways that will have the greatest impact on the individual children's needs."
The report has found most schools are putting the money towards extra teaching assistants, resources and the cost of trips. Some are offering counselling for vulnerable students, one to one tuiton or simply a wider range of opportunities.
He added, "It's very encouraging that the Premium is having an impact thus far. The funding available is increasing every year, and as lessons are learnt we can seek to improvehow the policy is delivered."