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Coalition government education policies muddied by conflicting strategies

The potential benefits of the Pupil Premium for children from low-income families were counterbalanced by other policies, says a new analysis.

Ruth Lupton, Professor of Education at the University of Manchester and Visiting Professor at LSE's Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion (CASE), and Dr Stephanie Thomson of the University of Manchester demonstrate that the Pupil Premium, championed by the former Coalition Government as their ‘most important lever’ in reducing the impact of inequalities on educational outcomes has, overall, distributed more money to schools with poorer intakes.

School sign

The Pupil Premium was a key programme for the 2010–15 Coalition Government, and was championed by then Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg as a ‘flagship’ policy. But Lupton and Thomson’s research, published in a special issue of the London Review of Education examining the impact of Coalition policies on the sector, shows its potential benefits have been counterbalanced by a wider set of policies. These include cuts to welfare benefits and services which have disadvantaged low-income families and children.

The authors also argue that broader education policies, including changes to GCSE assessment and cuts to school building plans for poorer areas, may also act against children from low-income families.

'Aspiring future governments with intentions to reduce inequalities in school outcomes surely need to see the problem “in the round”,’ say Lupton and Thomson, ‘taking into account family poverty and the mainstream activities of schools as well as additional interventions funded through supplementary funding streams.’ The paper complements a previous review of the Coalition’s schools policies published by CASE.

This special issue of the London Review of Education  contains 14 articles of critical analysis and reflection by key academics and professionals on the impact of the 2010–2015 Coalition Government’s radical, reforming approach to education policy. It is introduced by Professor Chris Husbands, Director of the UCL Institute of Education.

It also includes an article by Anne West, Professor of Education Policy at LSE, on     governance frameworks in England, with an increase shown in central government’s influence on schools and decline of local authorities..


The London Review of Education is an open-access, peer-reviewed online journal based at the UCL Institute of Education and edited by Professor Hugh Starkey. It is published three times a year by IOE Press and available on the ingentaconnect journals platform http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/ioep/clre

The special Coalition issue, titled ‘Education policy under the 2010–15 UK Coalition Government: Critical perspectives’ (vol. 13, no. 2), will be published on 18 September 2015.

Professor Ruth Lupton has made a short video introducing the research. It is available on the journal website.

Previews of articles contained in the issue are available on request.

The Lupton and Thomson work builds on the Social Policy in a Cold Climate reports published by the London School of Economics in 2013 and 2015, http://sticerd.lse.ac.uk/case/_new/research/Social_Policy_in_a_Cold_Climate.asp which were funded by the Nuffield Foundation, Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Trust for London.

For more information, contact: Pat Gordon-Smith, Managing Editor Journals, IOE Press p.gordon-smith@ioe.ac.uk; Nicky Platt, Publisher, IOE Press 07771 356255

11 September 2015