CPP and NRG demand boost to Pupil Premium to support levelling up

16 September 2021

  • CPP and NRG have produced a new research paper which makes detailed policy suggestions to deliver levelling up and create opportunities for all.
  • The two groups demand that the Government extends the Pupil Premium to all low-income families with primary school age children to close the education attainment gap within and between regions – benefitting 1.3 million children across England.
  • Ahead of the levelling up White Paper and Spending Review, NRG and CPP have created a roadmap to levelling up through investment in health, education, and local communities.

16 September 2021: The 50+ Northern Research Group (NRG) of Conservative MPs has joined economics think tank the Centre for Progressive Policy (CPP) in calling on the Government to prioritise social investment in education, health, and local communities to truly level up the North.

Their report, released today, highlights challenges in Red Wall communities in terms of weekly earnings, healthy life expectancy, and educational attainment. CPP and NRG demand the Government to use the upcoming Levelling Up White Paper and Autumn Spending Review to deliver benefits for disadvantaged communities across the whole country.

CPP and NRG are calling on the Government to put education at the heart of levelling up and expand Pupil Premium payments to all families with primary school age children with an income of below £24,400. This policy would mean 1.3 million more primary school children benefiting from the Pupil Premium, with regions in the North set to receive the most investment:

  • CPP and NRG research[1] found that 62% of families with primary school aged children in the North East have a household income of below £24,400, with the new funding worth an extra £432 per child in the region
  • By comparison, in London 44.8% of families with primary school aged children have a household income below the threshold to secure additional funding, delivering an additional £278 per child.

Headteachers are able to decide how to spend Pupil Premium funding to deliver the best results for the children most in need, for example:

  • Increasing teacher salaries to secure qualified teachers for understaffed subjects
  • Hiring additional Teaching Assistants
  • Funding after-school clubs, giving all primary children access to extra-curricular sport, music, and the arts – not just children whose parents can afford to pay.

Enabling schools to tailor additional support to the needs of their disadvantaged pupils would help close the attainment gap between regions, a cornerstone of delivering on the levelling up agenda. In 2020, Yorkshire and the Humber and the North East had the lowest GCSE scores of any region (48), whilst London had the highest (53). This attainment gap has been exacerbated by the pandemic, putting children in the most economically vulnerable communities in the country at even greater disadvantage.

Jake Berry MP of NRG said: “Closing the attainment gap is vital so that every child, whether they’re born in Hull or Harrow, can fulfil their true potential. Happy, healthy, well-educated children make a bright future for the whole of the country. That is why giving children, parents, and schools a helping hand is integral to delivering on the Government’s levelling up agenda.

Although there are great schools and teachers in this country, many children in constituencies across the country, especially in the North are trapped, through no fault of their own, in a cycle of poor educational attainment. This leads to low paid, insecure work, further compounding issues many communities face.

“The NRG wants to see the Government pledge to levelling up by extending the Pupil Premium to all low-income families. Countless governments have promised change for communities like mine in Darwen and Rossendale, yet they have not delivered. This Government does not just need to start a new chapter but a radical new book where we put children at the heart. This research gives the Government a roadmap to true social change, one we urge them to embrace ahead of the Spending Review.”

Charlotte Alldritt, Director at CPP, said:We were pleased to see the PM recently acknowledge that levelling up must go beyond investments in roads, rail and regeneration projects, but he offered little by way of detail of delivery. New transport links are only as productive as the people and places they connect - for levelling up to be truly transformational the Government must invest in the human side of the coin for the long term, and delivering high quality education for disadvantaged children is an essential component of this.

Our report with the NRG provides the building blocks for the Government to put together a strategic and coherent delivery plan to help Red Wall communities and disadvantaged areas of the country. True levelling up will be the work of a generation, and we hope to see the Government implement our long-term vision to deliver on their promises”.


Research notes:

NRG and CPP call on the Government to put social investment and the heart of the levelling up agenda by:

  1. Closing the education attainment gap, including by expanding eligibility for the Pupil Premium in primary schools so that it supports all children with family incomes below £24,400 (currently free school meals eligibility is based on combined household income below £16,190) and uprating the amount per eligible pupil at secondary school to match that given to primary schools (£1,345 at current prices). This would cost an additional £2bn, taking the total cost of the Pupil Premium from £2.4bn (2020-21) to £4.4bn.
  2. Establishing local population health as the bedrock of economic resilience by incentivising NHS leaders to consider – and work in partnership with others to address – the root causes of ill health.
  3. Incentivising and integrating public and private investment in our local communities, including through a corporate community investment tax relief (akin to R&D tax relief) and the rapid scale up of new government place-based partnership pilots designed to improve public service outcomes.

NRG and CPP call on the Government to measure the success of levelling up against four key tests:

  • Test 1: halving the gap in skills and good jobs by 2030 between places with the highest and lowest levels of productivity and employment across the UK
  • Test 2: halving the gap in healthy life expectancy by 2030 between nations, regions and local authorities across the UK
  • Test 3: closing the gap in public sector spend on research and development (R&D) and halving the gap in private sector R&D spend by 2030 between those regions with the lowest levels of investment and those with the greatest
  • Test 4: reducing by half the educational, health and income inequalities between and within places across the UK by 2030


[1] This income figure relates to incomes before housing costs as defined by the DWP’s Households Below Average Income Survey. See Department for Work and Pensions (2021) Households below average income: for financial years ending 1995 to 2020. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/households-below-average-income-for-financial-years-ending-1995-to-2020