Pupil Premium

I think schools with more poor kids should get more money. I have no sympathy with schools that complain about this. I also think schools should be held to account for the spending of this money.

However, the pupil premium has resulted in some of the most ludicrous practice in education.

Pupils who have been entitled to free school meals at any point in the last 6 years attract pupil premium money. As a result, schools have for some time been sending out letters begging parents to apply for free school meals “even if you don’t want your child to eat them” and “even if you still want them to pay”. This is no surprise. I think the pupil premium money is due to rise to around £1300 per pupil next year. It is not ringfenced, though schools are required to publish how they spend it on their website.

Go and look at some school websites – it’s ridiculous. I won’t name them, but some examples of spending that I’ve seen (all secondary):

“50% funding of a SENCO £23,000” (I don’t get that one, but there are lots of references to posts being 1/4 funded or whatever)

“Learning mentors £45,000”

“Interventions (after school clubs) £120,000”

“Saturday school £95,000”

“Football kit £300”

“Trips £29,545”

Anyone who has seen my last blog will know what I think of interventions.

In some of the worst examples, these schools have these interventions exclusively for pupil premium kids. So a pupil who is deprived culturally, who is behind and who needs these “interventions” is not allowed to access them. The whole theory is to reduce the gap between pupil premium and non-pupil premium pupils. I’ve seen schools proclaim, despite crap overall results, that their pupil premium gap is below the national gap (22%) – but in these cases this is the non-PP kids levelling down!

Schools have correctly been directed towards research. Stuff like this is now commonplace in schools. The problem is that SMT often don’t really know what “metacognition” is and you end up with Learn to Learn being taught in schools (again) or worse, being delivered as CPD to all staff in order that they’ll explicitly teach it in their subject. Or SMT don’t really know how to develop “feedback” and account for the money in this way (it is more complex than just laying on extra lessons) so they invest in the most obvious options. These obvious ones are 1 to 1 tuition (stupidly removing the child from other lessons, often taught by non-specialists or supply staff – agencies contact schools explicitly asking to be employed for pupil premium money) or extra lessons after school (which means the good teachers who used to do the occasional lesson now don’t – if you’ve read Freakonomics about how fining parents for being late made more parents late, a similar thing happens when schools pay for after school sessions – and money grabbers do those sessions).

In actual fact, I know of a school where the pupil premium expenditure sheet on its website is complete fabrication. I know of another where they didn’t know what to put down and they started pretending pupil premium money was used for different things.

Pupil premium, and the way it is used by schools, is a shambles.

Now, I’ve received criticism for previous blogs for not offering a way forward. So here’s a start:

Principle: When the quality of instruction is at it’s best, poorer pupils benefit disproportionately. When the quality of instruction is not good, poorer pupils are disproportionately affected. IE those without social and cultural capital at home are more dependent on school.

Pupil Premium: Invest in any area of the school that means that teachers have to do less of anything (detentions/ phone calls/ resources/ behaviour/ IEPs) other than plan and deliver lessons or mark books. Invest in them being able to do this better (CPD on instruction). If there is still money spare, give teachers more time to plan and mark.

That’s it.

My document for my school would be one that thoroughly analyses PP kids’ results against non-PP kids nationally. Not our non-PP kids (because the “gap” may be minimal because our non-PP kids have done badly). I would have a sentence that says the Pupil Premium has been invested in the budget as above and then have analysis. And that’s it. Pupil Premium money and in fact the whole of a schools budget should be aimed at getting the best quality lessons delivered in every classroom, with at least compliant behaviour so that pupils get great results.

Because it shouldn’t take pupil premium money to close the inequality/ achievement gap. That’s what a school should be doing full stop.

Otherwise, Pupil Premium money just gets wasted in a pot of counter-productiveness like intervention.

Pupil Premium – probably a good idea. Maddening in practice. Hopefully John Dunford can sort it out.

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10 thoughts on “Pupil Premium

  1. Well said sir! However, having heard Mr Dunford, I’m not optimistic about him’ sorting it out’. You quite rightly point out the convolutions of schools trying to justify badly targeted use of PPF. What matters most is not having a list gf ways we’ve spent it, but showing that we are doing is having an impact. The impact part seems to be the bit that many of us struggle with – perhaps because we;’ve been too busy box-ticking instead of focusing on students? Thanks for another thought-provoking post.

  2. I’ve often thought this about PP. I like the idea of comparing a school’s PP students with non-PP nationally in case the gap in the school is low due to poor performance by non-PP students. I’ve also wondered why PP money isn’t just spent on employing more teachers to reduce class sizes.

  3. It is, but you mention “Learning mentors £45,000″ “Interventions (after school clubs) £120,000″ “Saturday school £95,000″, so for those schools the money is there.

  4. Pupil Premium is a good example of Ofsted (supposedly independent of government) imposing a particular ideological stance on schools whether they like it or not, and of course that ideological stance comes from the Government (or rather, one branch of the Government which received 23% of the vote). Morally, there is an argument that the disadvantaged are more deserving of our time, money and attention than the advantaged but there is undoubtedly also a different argument that states that every single pupil who arrives at the school gates should be met with the same (equally high) expectations irrespective of their background. The reality is that there is now a climate where individual headteachers are prohibited from taking this second stance, even if they are outside local authority control.

    Pupil Premium has always smacked of “throwing money at the problem”. It’s very existence creates the impression that something really is being done to address inequalities, perhaps therefore distracting headteachers from doing what they really should be doing to narrow the gap which is creating an environment of high expectations, high standards and rigour for all pupils. Those three things cost nothing.

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