The pupil premium funding will rise from £1.875 billion to £2.5 billion in 2014-15. The primary school pupil rate will increase from £900 to £1,300 to reflect the importance of early intervention. For the first time, all pupils who are looked after or leave care through adoption, special guardianship or residence orders will attract £1,900 from April 2014.

The teaching and learning toolkit, provided by the Education Endowment Foundation,  is an accessible summary of research on key education interventions that have the most  impact in this area. Any school judged to be requiring improvement, where the leadership is also deemed to require improvement, is expected to carry out a pupil premium review.  Also Schools must publish online details of what they do with the pupil premium and Ofsted will be looking very closely at its use and effect on pupils’ attainment. If the PP had been used on general provision, the school would have to justify how that had impacted all pupils. Ofsted inspections are increasingly focused on the achievement of disadvantaged pupils.  Lord Nash said on 3 February that “It is now very unlikely that a school which is not showing good progression for disadvantaged pupils would make an outstanding rating.”

Pupils who are eligible for the pupil premium:

Are registered as eligible for FSM or who have been registered at any point in the last 6 years (known as ‘Ever6’); or

Have been looked after by the local authority for a day or more; or

Were previously looked after and left care through being adopted on or after 30 December

2005; under a Special Guardianship Order on or after 30 December 2005; or under a Residence Order on or after 14 October 1991; and

Who have been recorded on the January Schools Census as being in one of these categories.

Summer schools for pupils receiving  the PP, according to DFE  ‘ provide an excellent opportunity for secondary schools to help disadvantaged new pupils understand what and how they will be studying in key stage 3. It is also an opportunity for schools to help disadvantaged pupils who are behind in key areas such as literacy and numeracy to  catch up with their peers.’


But closing the achievement gap-regarded as the Holy Grail in education- remains a  huge  challenge .As John Dunford pointed out ,recently, in a letter to the Guardian – ‘While the gap has not narrowed in secondary schools, in primaries it has. The most recent data for key stage 2 shows the gap between pupils eligible for free school meals and all other pupils narrowed from 20% (2011) to 17% (2012).’ (based, though, on just one years’ results)

For schools interested  in summer schools, see link




Stagnating but some encouragement in science

But many worry about the Pisa league tables while admiring the data generated


Governments around the world waited – some eagerly, but most rather anxiously – for the latest results of the PISA survey, on 3rd December.

PISA represents an ambitious and expensive, large-scale attempt to measure and compare literacy in reading, mathematics and science in a large number of countries. The first PISA survey was launched in 2000, and it has since been followed up with surveys in 2003, 2006, 2009 and 2012.

Many concerns have been raised concerning the comparability of educational test results from different countries in general and in particular with the difficulties in producing items that are culturally and linguistically neutral.

According to the latest PISA report, (3 December) England’s performance in mathematics, science and reading has remained stable since PISA 2006. In each survey, pupils in England have performed similarly to the OECD average in mathematics and reading and significantly better than the OECD average in science. This is in contrast to a number of other countries which have seen gains and losses. For example, Singapore, Macao-China, Estonia, Poland, the Republic of Ireland and Romania have shown significant improvements in mathematics, science and reading since 2009, whereas Finland, New  Zealand, Iceland, the Slovak Republic and Sweden have shown significant declines in all three  subjects during the same period. However, average scores give only part of the picture. In all three subjects, England has a relatively large difference in the performance of lowest and highest achievers; this is greater than the OECD average.

Pisa reports generate a wealth of data which is undeniably useful and important. Although most of the publicity surrounding Pisa results focuses on the league tables that seeks to rate countries education systems, based on the tests covering literacy numeracy and science. Those who fare badly in the tables suffer what’s termed ‘ Pisa shock’ . Roughly half of the governments affected  change their policies  in response to the PISA results. In short, its very influential.

Andreas Schleicher, of the OECD, claims that world economy will not pay you for what you know, but rather for what you do with that knowledge and how you apply it. And that is what is behind data and the whole Pisa testing regime.  But  some  academics  challenge the methodology used by the OECD , claiming that the league tables are too crude to be of much use, though most  concede that much of the data generated in this process  can be very  useful.

Professor Stephen Heppell, in this country, has been a long term critic of its methodology. Prais (2003), Goldstein (2004), Brown et.al. (2007), and Hopmann, Brinek & Retzl (2007) have also raised very specific concerns over the methodology.  Svend Kreiner and Hugh Morrison have raised concerns too. Kreiners view is that PISA officials claim either that they know about the problems, that the problems have been solved or that their analyses show that the rankings provided by PISA are robust to the model  errors.  But he counters ‘The truths of such claims are not supported by evidence in the technical reports and our results suggest that the ranking is far from robust. If they want to restore the credibility of their results, it is PISA’s obligation to produce the evidence supporting their claims.’ Morrison says ‘the OECD’s claims in  respect of its PISA project have scant validity given the central dependence of these claims on  the clear separability of ability from the items designed to measure that ability.’

PISA’s comparison of countries relies on plausible student scores derived from the so called Rasch model. In short, pupils are not given identical questions but this is ironed out by the model which seeks to remove  ‘contextual’ features. This begs the question whether or not this   scaling model is reliable and consistent. In layman’s terms is PISA comparing like with like?  However Some significant doubts have been raised, in this  sensitive area, with the Rasch model criticised, or at least the way the OECD uses the Rasch model.

We already know that the ranking system can be misleading, as more and more countries join the rating system and some high performers dip in, and out. Some countries don’t take part at all. Also, statistically insignificant differences between countries performances  have often been exaggerated in order to generate a headline .Even Schleicher has urged politicians to be cautious in using the evidence to justify policies (they tend to cherry pick and miss important nuances in order to get their basic message  across – ie we are failing by international standards)

John Jerrim of the IOE ,who has himself raised concerns over PISA,  says that criticisms that imply its useless as a benchmark  are  a  ‘gross exaggeration’.  While conceding  that a  number of valid points have been raised, and point to various ways in which PISA may be improved (the need for PISA to become a panel dataset – following children throughout school – raised by Harvey Goldstein is a particularly important point, according to Jerrim).  And he accepts that no data or test is perfect, particularly when it is tackling a notoriously difficult task such as cross-country comparisons, and that includes PISA. But he says ‘to suggest it cannot tell us anything important or useful is very far wide of the mark. For instance, if one were to believe that PISA did not tell us anything about children’s academic ability, then it should not correlate very highly with our own national test measures. But this is not the case.’

Cambridge University statistics professor David Spiegelhalter investigated Pisa  for the BBC recently.He talked   to leading academics in the world of education including Svend Kreiner in Copenhagen, Harvey Goldstein at Bristol  Oxford’s Jenny Ozga and Professor Alan Smithers of  Buckingham University  . His conclusion? The  League tables are essentially misleading and unreliable  although the data produced by the PISA  exercise is useful.

Professor Alan Smithers, looking at the maths questions says  all the  questions  have a picture or graph attached to them  but  don’t  really cover mathematical understanding in any depth . And he made the important point   that the OECD cannot possibly  know,  for sure, that if pupils do well in a certain test then   that is due to their  schools system. It could  in fact be due in Japans ,Singapores and South Koreas cases, for example , to  the extra tuition pupils receive  outside the school  classroom. Pisa doesnt control for this private tuition.

The NFER plays down the rankings. It doesn’t like to report on rank because it  says it has  some issues with the data .

Indeed, even Andreas Schleicher believes that both the 2000 and 20003 results should not be used for comparison purposes,  because of data shortcomings although this hasn’t stopped our media and politicians from doing so.

England’s latest Pisa results show we have stagnated.. The education secretary  was quick to argue  that the results are a “judgment on the past not the present” because the 15-year-olds who sat the most recent tests had been educated for nine years of their schooling under a Labour government and only two years under the coalition. He seemed to be backed in this by Schleicher  who says that we will have to wait until 2015 results to take a view on the effects of the reforms.

Meanwhile, Sir John Rowling, of the Performance in Excellence (PiXL) Club, says PISA tests are so politically important that pupils should specifically prepare for them. He argues that if we regard the PISA rating as serious, then we should take the tests  seriously, and prepare pupils properly for them .The PiXL club is a group of some 800 schools dedicated to boosting pupils’ exam performance at A-level and GCSE. Sir John suggests that England may be losing out because other countries take the tests much more seriously and do more to ensure that pupils perform well. The former headteacher says one solution would be at least to familiarise pupils with the style of the tests.

He told BBC News that because the tests are taken by a minority of pupils they are not taken seriously and “nobody bothers”.

“It all seems so far away it doesn’t seem to matter – but when politicians get hold of the results it matters a great deal.” But then there is a counter argument that preparing for PISA  tests surely rather defeats their object .And encourages teaching to the (PISA) test. Indeed, Sam Freedman, who championed PISA as an adviser to Gove, thinks that any country specifically preparing their children for tests, should be banned from participating in PISA.   But, then again, if you think that PISA tests are assessing things that are worthwhile assessing and it has such political consequences, it makes sense to prepare your pupils for it.

But there is no hiding official’s disappointment in the latest results.   And Professor Alison Wolf  said “We did badly last time and statistically we have done no better this time. She continued “It is not just about better teachers, it is also about the home environment.“If you are growing up in Seoul or Shanghai, you go home from school to a family that cares desperately about education, no matter what its social standing is. British parents are simply not as aware of how important education is.”

Labour hailed a strong performance in 2000 as a triumphant vindication of its education policies, including the multi-billion pound literacy and numeracy strategies.(which ended in 2010). But this perceived success was  short lived, despite impressive levels of investment.

Britain’s position has worsened.  This governments reforms have, in this first phase, concentrated on structural reforms which, by themselves, were never going to improve Pisa ratings ,even over the longer term. Reforms to the curriculum, assessment and raising the quality of teaching (through, for example better selection, training and CPD) when combined with structural reforms, could have an impact. But it will take several more years for us to see the effects.

We probably can’t very accurately (the language and cultural issues alone raises big challenges),rank students across countries, as if all have sat identical  questions at the same time, in an identical context. Because they haven’t. And the Rasch model is not unchallenged

And its odd that the media simply ignore the alternative TIMMS study, and its results, which seek to measure ‘factual’ knowledge among students in different systems. Both the UK and the US  consistently   do better in TIMMS  than PISA. (the US stagnated in PISA too)

There are no grounds for complacency on our PISA performance. Stagnation is not good and raises many questions on the policy front. But there are no reasons to panic either Its worth noting that  that some of those  whom we have most admired in the past including Finland ,  are actually in long term  decline, according to Pisa. We might be in a better place come 2015 but there are a number of countries new to Pisa  that are improving rapidly ,who could overtake us.




Surprise findings, maybe


We all learn throughout our lives. But learning as part of the formal educational enterprise—takes place mainly in school classrooms, as a result of the daily, minute-to-minute interactions that take place between teachers and students and the subjects they study.

This is stating the blindingly obvious, perhaps. But surely too little attention is paid to what actually happens in the classroom and the quality of teaching. We are a lot more concerned, for instance, about what doctors do in their surgeries and medical research than we are about what teachers do in the classroom or to the research that tells what best practice in the classroom is. Yes, what doctors get up to is a matter of life and death but what happens in the classroom can determine whether a child makes a success of their lives or fails to meet their potential with all the personal  and social consequences that this entails.

It seems logical that if we are going to improve the outcomes of the educational enterprise—that is, improve learning— we have to intervene directly in daily classroom instruction. And we also have to   find out how best  to  up- scale  and share what works  if we are at all serious about improving the educational outcomes of all students, especially students now stuck in chronically low performing schools.

Professor Dylan Wiliam of the Institute of Education has found, perhaps counter-intuitively, in his research, that it  isn’t knowledge of the subject, nor for that matter the quality of initial teacher training, that really makes a good teacher. Instead it is professional development throughout a teachers career, particularly the early years, the first five to ten, that is most important and has the most significant effect on outcomes.

There is also other research that suggests that teachers only improve in the first two to three years after ITT, then their performance plateaus.

So, Teacher quality is the most important determinant of how much pupils learn in school and the effect is much greater than is commonly supposed.

Professor Wiliam has found that pupils taught by the best teachers learn four times as much as those taught by the worst.  Recent Research too by Professor Simon Burgess from the University of Bristol seems to confirm the effects of bad teaching on academic achievement. He found that children taught by the worst teachers get at least a grade lower pass mark at GCSE than those taught by the best. In addition, Peter Tymms, professor of education at Durham University, led a study, published in the journal Educational Assessment, Evaluation and Accountability that found that  having  a bad teacher in the first year at primary school can blight a child’s entire education. The research discovered that the effect of having an exceptionally poor – or an unusually good – teacher in the reception year was still detectable six years later. The findings suggest that many pupils are being betrayed by schools that, in an effort to rise up national league tables, concentrate their best teachers on pupils about to take their Sats tests at the age of 11.

Professor Wiliam’s research found that Subject Knowledge actually accounts for just 15% of the difference in teacher quality

Where teachers receive their initial teacher training, Professor Wiliam has found, is almost irrelevant. Instead, the most important variable is teaching skill and what matters most, in this respect, is that teachers acquire a commitment to sound professional development throughout their careers.

What is clear is that the quality of good and bad teaching has a very significant effect on outcomes and the life opportunities of our children and deserves much more attention. Structural reforms, alone, were never going to deliver improvements across the system. It is clear that our politicians realise this but structural reforms amount to the low hanging fruit of education reform. The biggest challenge remains improving what happens in the classroom which is infinitely more complex and not very susceptible to the   centrally driven prescriptions of politicians.





Michael Gove and David Laws are responding to the concerns over a perceived lack of accountability within the school system- If they are still talking to each other, that is!There have been on-going debates about the need for a third tier. Although chains of schools can offer some accountability, most schools are not part of a chain ,or partnership arrangement. A consensus has developed that central government alone cannot provide effective democratic accountability for the education system. Effective school systems that provide autonomy to schools ,need a robust accountability framework if they are to improve  student outcomes.

Ministers have been working, for nine months apparently, on a joint coalition proposal to improve the monitoring of and intervention in failing institutions. Rumour has it that  it will neither return control to local authorities nor leave it in the department; it is due to be in place by the end of 2014. There should be an announcement on this shortly



There are quite a few educators who believe that competition in education and between schools works against the grain and damages the interests of children. You  end up with a fragmented ,atomised  system   as schools compete for the best pupils  and staff in a dysfunctional,  polarised system. It is much better, indeed ,essential to foment collaboration and partnerships between schools.  Indeed for a self-improving school system this is a pre-requisite. Another view is that competition is a fact of life. It  drives creativity and innovation and performance  it releases energy ,it encourages efficiency, and it helps raise standards. But there is another view too. That you need both collaboration and competition in the system. A good leadership team knows when to collaborate and when to compete.

There is little doubt that collaboration between schools both formal and informal, makes an awful lot of sense. The London Challenge is now seen as an exemplar of collaboration at its best.  Overall London schools collective  performance has increased dramatically over the last few years.  It can certainly help with teachers professional development.   Better CPD helps improve the quality of teaching and  student outcomes. No one school has access to  all the resources and skills it needs to drive improvements. If you collaborate with others you can not only access new skills and leadership  but you can open your  school to new ideas and approaches to  better meet the challenges you face.

There are many types of   Federations in operation (six types at the last count)  although the typical Federation involves   just two schools. But there is some evidence  that suggests that certain types of   Federation  helps  both CPD and to improve student performance . ‘ Professors Daniel Muijs  and Mel Ainscow are among those who have done some useful work in this area. I was struck by a quote used by Professor Muijs  in a recent presentation which suggests that competition and collaboration are not mutually exclusive     (dont even  collaborative ventures and partnerships  compete with each other for skills  and resources, ?) Here is the quote:

“Competition and Collaboration are not contraries. They are complementary. In every aspect of life we do both .Schools are highly co-operative endeavours in which scholars vigorously compete. The Olympic Games combine immense co-operation in structure and rules with intense competition in events. Only in a harmonious oscillating dance of both competition and co-operation    can the extremes of control and chaos be avoided and peaceful permanent order be found” (Dee Hock 1999)


Arendts concerns in 1950s America  are still being reflected in today’s debates on education reform 


It is sometimes thought that the idea that there is a crisis in education began when Tony Blair and New Labour said that the priorities  of the  government were  education, education education. Or was it Callaghan’s Ruskin speech? But the sense that our education system is in permanent crisis clearly  goes back many years, both here and in the States. Take a look at “The Crisis in Education” by  Hannah Arendt  (1954) which attacks various assumptions underpinning what she termed  progressive education.  She began her essay ‘The general crisis that has overtaken the modern world everywhere and in almost every sphere of life manifests itself differently in each country,  involving different areas and taking on different forms. In America, one of its most characteristic and suggestive aspects is the recurring crisis in education that, during the last decade at least, has become’ .Plus ca Change.  Arendt writes ‘Though the crisis in education may affect the whole world, it is characteristic  that we find its most extreme form in America, the reason being that perhaps  only in America could a crisis in education actually become a factor in politics.’  With the benefit of hindsight How wrong was she on that score ! Politics and education go hand in hand. Arendt  accepts that politicians  influenced by among others the thinking of  Rousseau, use education as an  instrument of politics, and political activity itself was conceived of as a form of  education.  Arendt claimed that  in the 1920s and 1930s  ‘The significant fact is that for the sake of certain  theories, good or bad, all the rules of sound human reason were thrust aside’. Common sense disappeared in the name of ‘ progressive education’. She wrote ‘nowhere have the education problems of a mass society become so acute, and nowhere else have the most modern theories in the realm of pedagogy been so uncritically and slavishly accepted. Thus the crisis in American education, on the one hand, announces  the bankruptcy of progressive education and, on the other, presents a  problem of immense difficulty because it has arisen under the conditions and  in response to the demands of a mass society’.

These ruinous measures in education can be schematically traced back to three basic assumptions, all of which are ‘only too familiar’, she posits . The first is that there exist a  child’s world and a society formed among children that are autonomous and  must insofar as possible be left to them to govern. Adults are only there to help with this government.  But Arendt says  ‘the  line drawn between  children and adults should signify that one can neither educate adults nor treat  children as though they were grown up; but this line should never be  permitted to grow into a wall separating children from the adult community  as though they were not living in the same world and as though childhood  were an autonomous human state, capable of living by its own laws.’

The second ‘ruinous’ assumption has to do with teaching. She  wrote ‘ Under the influence of modern psychology and  the tenets of pragmatism, pedagogy has developed into a science of teaching  in general in such a way as to be wholly emancipated from the actual material  to be taught. A teacher, so it was thought, is a man who can simply teach anything; his training is in teaching, not in the mastery of any particular subject.’ This ,he says, has resulted  in recent decades in’ a most serious neglect of the training of teachers in their  own subjects, especially in the public high schools. Since the teacher does not need to know his own subject, it not infrequently happens that he is just one  hour ahead of his class in knowledge. ( ie the antithesis of the teacher as a scholar). This in turn means not only that the  students are actually left to their own resources but that the most legitimate  source of the teacher’s authority as the person who, turn it whatever way one  will, still knows more and can do more than oneself is no longer effective.’ One can see these themes resonating through the recent arguments here about core knowledge and the curriculum reforms and Gove’s focus on  the reform of  ITT and the Blob dominating the education establishment.  We also see many of today’s arguments about what a child needs to know in the third assumption.  Arendt writes ‘the third basic assumption in our context, an assumption which the modern world has  held for centuries and which found its systematic conceptual expression in  pragmatism. This basic assumption is that you can know and understand only what you have done yourself, and its application to education is as primitive as it is obvious: to substitute, insofar as possible, doing for learning. The reason that no importance was attached to the teacher’s mastering his own subject was the wish to compel him to the exercise of the continuous activity of learning so that he would not, as they said, pass on “dead knowledge” but, instead, would constantly demonstrate how it is produced. The conscious intention was not to teach knowledge but to inculcate a skill, and the result was  a kind of transformation of institutes for learning into vocational institutions  which have been as successful in teaching how to drive a car or how to use a  typewriter or, even more important for the “art” of living, how to get along with  other people and to be popular, as they have been unable to make the children  acquire the normal prerequisites of a standard curriculum.’  Does this Ring any bells when one looks at today’s debates on education reforms ? I think so.

Arendt concludes that ‘The present crisis in America (ie in 1950s) results from the recognition of the destructiveness of these basic assumptions and a desperate attempt to reform the entire educational system, that is, to transform it completely. ‘



How extra funding is spent remains key


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