SCHOOLS in Oxfordshire are set to lose out on nearly £450,000 in extra funding.

Headteachers have warned they are missing out on the Government’s pupil premium as fewer children have been registered as eligible for the cash.

For the school to claim the £1,320 fund per pupil, parents on lower incomes need to tell the school their child meets the criteria for free school meals (FSM).

But with the introduction of universal free school meals in September last year, Cutteslowe Primary School headteacher Jon Gray said parents had been put off.

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He said: “I think the drop in pupils registered is definitely a result of the new policy.

“For our school it is well over £100,000 that we get in pupil premium funding.

“If there is any impact in that funding it will mean we cannot give help to the pupils who need it most.”

Wood Farm Primary School headteacher David Lewin said pupil premium money was vital to ensure disadvantaged children got the best possible education. He said: “Pupil premium funding is used to employ additional teachers to teach small groups and keep class sizes down.

“One-to-one tuition is a very powerful way to support vulnerable children.

“The free school meals policy has had an impact on pupil premium money simply because it is confusing for parents.

“They will not sign up for a benefit in school which they will get anyway.”

Since September 2014 all primary school pupils in reception and years one and two have received FSM.

Children in those years get a free hot meal at lunchtime whether their parents register them as eligible or not.

But the school can claim the pupil premium only for those registered.

County Council cabinet member for education Melinda Tilley said: “The policy makes me really angry because it hits the most vulnerable people in society.

“It hits the people who need the pupil premium.”

New figures released by Oxfordshire County Council showed the number of pupils signed up by their parents had dropped by an average of 5.9 per cent in the past year – worth £448,800 to the schools.

But there has been a decrease in the number of pupils signed up for school meals in all years apart from Year Five, where the numbers remained stable.

This is despite the fact pupils from Year Three to Year 11 still need to sign up if they want free school meals.

At the county council’s education scrutiny committee meeting on Thursday, council bosses said they “did not understand” the decrease.

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