The pupil premium was introduced in 2011 as additional funding for schools to raise the attainment of disadvantaged pupils. In the first couple of years it received some negative press regarding usage but following more of a focus in Ofsted inspections, schools are starting to use the funding in targeted, effective ways, as it was intended. A new report out today by Ofsted concludes that the pupil premium is being spent more effectively by schools and the tracking and reporting of outcomes is being recorded more precisely.
In the school year 2014-15, schools will receive around £2.5 billion pupil premium funding, an average of £200,000 per school. Ofsted inspections are looking more closely at the usage of pupil premium, with a requirement for demonstration that each school is focussing on using it to improve outcomes for those eligible. Schools that have previously been scored as outstanding have been downgraded on account they are not using their pupil premium effectively.
However, there remains considerable variation in the attainment of pupils, and the gap between pupils eligible for pupil premium and their peers is widest in schools judged by Ofsted to not be using their pupil premium funding effectively.
The report also reiterates the success of London schools. In five London boroughs, pupils from poor backgrounds are achieving at least the national figure for all children at GCSE, achieving at least 5 GCSEs A*-C. This reinforces the paradigm that a poor background does not necessarily mean poor attainment; the barriers can be broken, as London schools are showing us. Ofsted calls for the Government to focus on other areas of the country that are consistently letting children from poorer socio-economic backgrounds down.
A number of ways in which schools are spending their pupil premium funding more effectively were identified:
- Paying for additional staff
- One to one and small group tuition focussed on English and maths
- Reading support
- “Raising aspiration” programmes
- Enabling eligible pupils to participate in clubs and school trips
There was little difference between the types of spending in the best and worst schools, the difference in their success depended upon matching pupils with the right approaches, and the rigour with which they are monitored, evaluated and amended. This shows that it is important that schools choose carefully the approaches that are right for their pupils and invest the time and energy in making sure they work.
Another key influencing factor is the role of governors. Strong governance is very important to the successful implementation of pupil premium funding with the aims of accelerating progress and narrowing gaps in attainment. Governors need to be ambitious for their poorest pupils and challenge the uses of the pupil premium in their school.