THE PUPIL PREMIUM-HOW SCHOOLS SPEND THE EXTRA FUNDS IS CRUCIAL

How extra funding is spent remains key

Comment

In 2011/12 the Pupil Premium was set at £488 per pupil, rising to £600 in 2012/13, and £900 in 2013/14.

Between 2011-12 and 2012-13, the pupil premium budget actually doubled in size. As a result, the government could extend the eligibility criteria so that a pupil who has claimed free school meals at any point in the previous six years became eligible

Schools are free to spend the allocated funds as they choose, though they are held accountable for the decisions they make through performance tables which show the performance of disadvantaged pupils compared with their peers, and through the Ofsted inspection framework. In short, schools will be held to account on how they spend the pupil premium, although disaggregating Pupil Premium funding from other funding that a school spends on disadvantaged pupils will be a challenge.

If the Pupil Premium is to succeed in achieving its ambitious goals, the choices that  schools make in allocating the money are of vital importance.’ so said the respected  Education Endowment Foundation. The EEF has helpfully provided a toolkit which acts as a guide on the most effective evidence based interventions.

A recent evaluation of the programme noted that whilst it was too early to measure the  impact of the Pupil Premium on attainment, over half of all schools had introduced new  support for disadvantaged pupils as a direct result of the Pupil Premium., which is encouraging . But it also found that over 90 per cent of schools had focussed on supporting disadvantaged pupils before the Pupil Premium was introduced. And, significantly,over 80 per cent said that the Pupil Premium was not enough to fund the support they offered. Furthermore, many schools are not spending the funding as effectively as evidence suggests they could. For example, over two-fifths of school leaders surveyed said they used the money to fund teaching assistants. The Centre for Social Justice in its report ‘Requires Improvement’ (September 2013) says that this ‘ is deeply concerning  given that teaching assistants are amongst the least effective ways of improving outcomes’. The report adds ‘There are also concerns the Pupil Premium does not represent ‘additional’ funding, and instead that it is being used to plug gaps left by funding cuts rather than specifically to support the learning of disadvantaged pupils. Although the pressure on budgets would have been  worse in the absence of the Pupil Premium, it forms a relatively small proportion of schools’  total income – on average, between 3.8 per cent for primary schools with high levels of FSM  and only one per cent for secondary schools with low levels of FSM’. Ofsted found that only one in ten school leaders said the Pupil Premium had significantly changed the way they worked. Whilst many schools do monitor the impact of support provided, improving accountability is an important next step. Schools must now publish a statement for the previous year confirming their allocation, spend and impact. The new Ofsted inspection framework also focusses on how well gaps are narrowing within the school and in comparison to nationaltrends. Centrally, schools will no longer be rated outstanding unless they close their attainment  gaps – and if they fail to improve, a headteacher from a school that has closed the gap will  be brought in to advise them.

Another headteacher told the CSJ that they spend their allocation on need – even if this benefits children who did not themselves attract the Pupil Premium. At the end of the year the school is then forced to lie about what their allocation is spent on. In a recent survey, most schools  surveyed (91 per cent of pupil referral units, 90 per cent of special schools, 84 per cent of  primary schools and 78 per cent of secondary schools) aimed their support at all disadvantaged  pupils, according to their definition of disadvantage, of which FSM was just one part.

This is a sensitive issue for the government. They have given schools autonomy and schools have to operate within an accountability framework. But if the Pupil Premium is not being used effectively, it will not raise the attainment of FSM pupils. Raising the attainment of FSM pupils and narrowing the achievement gap between them  and  other  pupils is one of the benchmarks against which this governments education policy will be measured.  Remember that when Gove was shadow education secretary this is the area where he targeted most of his attacks on the Labour  government, in the Commons, and through PQS.

Sources: Office for Standards of Education, Children’s Services and Skills, The Pupil Premium: How schools are using the Pupil Premium funding to  raise achievement for disadvantaged pupils, Office for Standards of Education, Children’s Services and Skills, 2012

Carpenter C et al, Evaluation of Pupil Premium: Research Report, London: Department for Education, 2013

Centre for Social Justice Report-Requires Improvement-September 2013

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