Pupil Premium




The Pupil Premium


Townsend Consultancy provides advisory and training services to schools to help them to make the most of their pupil premium funding and to meet the government's challenging targets.  Here are examples of some of the areas where we have recently provided support:


  • Publishing pupil premium spending on line 


  • What additional information could be conveyed to parents? 


  • Ways of tackling the barriers for parents who are reluctant to apply for free school meals.  


  • How to write a Pupil Premium policy that is meaningful and parent friendly  


  • How to identify the most effective ways to keep parents updated about the Pupil Premium current and future spending plans  


  • Strategies for gaining parental support with the spending of the Pupil Premium 


  • Ways to involve parents in the support of their children’s learning  


  • Could/should your school consult with parents about how the Pupil Premium money is to be spent?  


  • How should your school evaluate the work that it does with parents about the Pupil Premium?  


  • The Pupil Premium – what are the inspectors looking for?  


  • How the Pupil Premium has been reported on in Ofsted Inspection Reports published in 2013 and 2014?  




Raising standards with the Pupil Premium


This article was written by Jenny Townsend and was published in October 2013 by School Leadership Today




"Since the introduction of the pupil premium funding back in 2011, the coalition government has made it clear that it expects schools to use this funding specifically to help close the gap in achievement between their economically disadvantaged pupils (as defined by the pupil premium eligibility criteria) and the rest of their pupils.  Clearly schools are continuing to struggle with the challenge of raising standards of achievement because the gap between disadvantaged pupils and others continues to be huge.  According to the government, in 2012 only 68% of all eleven year olds eligible for the pupil premium achieved their expected levels in English and maths compared with 84% of other pupils aged 11 who did. 


Latest changes


The government clearly wants this situation to change.  Their latest consultation, launched in July 2013, aims to raise standards even higher in primary schools with the requirement that by 2016 at least 85% of their pupils will be achieving higher standards and will be “secondary ready”.  To assist schools with the achievement of these new targets, the government plans to raise the pupil premium funding for primary schools to £1,300 per disadvantaged pupil from 2014/15.  (This represents an increase of £400.00 per pupil up from the £900.00 per child compared with this current year). Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, made his intentions very clear when he said “Every primary school should strive to make its pupils ready for secondary school by the time they leave.  All the evidence shows that if you start behind, you stay behind.  A better start at secondary school is a better start in life.”


Linked to the higher expectations contained in the new curriculum, updated tests will be introduced for eleven year olds.  These new tests will cover maths, reading, spelling, punctuation and grammar.  There is to be a new scaled score (the same for all tests) that would remain the same over the years linked to the level that eleven year olds would be considered “secondary ready”.  The old system of levels (with level four being the expected level) is to be removed.  The government considers these levels to be lacking in ambition, too generalised and are failing to give parents sufficient clarification about how their children are doing.


In the future schools will be encouraged to develop their own systems for measuring pupil performance and to design improved ways of reporting to parents.  The government plans to introduce a new reporting system which will enable comparisons to be made between each individual pupil and their peers on a national basis.  All pupils will be placed within ten per cent bands (or deciles).  Information collected through this new reporting system would only be made available to schools and parents.


The government also wants to establish a new benchmark that can be used to assess the progress that eleven year olds make.  At this stage the consultation makes no recommendations about how this benchmark might be developed but it does encourage “interested parties” to make suggestions.


Increased accountability about the Pupil Premium


During the summer of 2013 Ofsted published updated versions of the School Inspection Handbook, the Inspection Framework, and the Supplementary Guidance.  As anticipated, Ofsted has raised the levels of accountability that schools now need to have in terms of their spending of the pupil premium and its impact. 


From September 2013, to gain an outstanding judgement for the Achievement of Pupils schools must, amongst other requirements, now take account of the following Grade descriptors which have specific requirements relating to the Pupil Premium:


“From each different starting point (referring to specific levels in Key Stage One and Key Stage Two), the proportions of pupils making expected progress and the proportions exceeding expected progress in English and in mathematics are high compared with national figures.  For pupils for whom the pupil premium provides support, the proportions are similar to, or above those for other pupils in the school or are rapidly approaching them.”


“The achievement of pupils for whom the pupil premium provides support at least matches that of other pupils in the school or has risen rapidly, including in English and mathematics.”


“The learning of groups of pupils, particularly those who are disabled, those who have special educational needs, those for whom the pupil premium provides support, and the most able is consistently good or better”.  


The importance of these descriptors is reiterated in the grade descriptors relating to the quality of leadership and management.  In order for a school to get an outstanding judgement in leadership and management, inspectors will want to see evidence that “the school’s actions have secured improvement in achievement for those supported by the pupil premium, which is rising rapidly, including in English and mathematics.  


Although the new Subsidiary Guidance states that schools are still free to make their own decisions about how the pupil premium is spent, there are increasing amounts of information that they must publish online.  Since September 2012 they have been required to publish information about how much money their schools has been allocated through the pupil premium and how they planned to spend it.  In addition they must now publish details about how they spent last year’s allocation and the impact that this has made on the attainment of pupils eligible for pupil premium support.  Ofsted’s intention has been to make sure that parents are to be kept informed about the difference the pupil premium money is making to the attainment of the relevant pupils.  


According to the new School Inspection Handbook inspectors who are evaluating the effectiveness of the pupil premium will focus on the following key issues:  


“the level of pupil premium funding received by the school in the current academic year and levels of funding received in previous academic years

  • how the school has spent the pupil premium and why it has decided to spend it in the way it has
  • any differences made to the learning and progress of pupils eligible for the pupil premium as shown by performance data and inspection evidence”  

If inspectors identify any gaps between the performance of those pupils supported by the pupil premium and all other pupils in the school then they must report on this and find out whether this gap is narrowing.  


How well are schools using the Pupil Premium? 


Both Ofsted and the Department for Education have wanted to find out more about how schools have been using the pupil premium money and what differences this has made for their pupils.  Ofsted carried out a survey in 2012 and concluded that the pupil premium money was having little impact in many schools.   Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw commented that it was a "real worry" if cash was being diverted to "tarmacking playgrounds".  Schools were often failing to disaggregate the pupil premium funding from their main budget and there were cases where the funding was being used “to maintain or enhance existing provision rather than to put in place new initiatives.”  Another key finding was that “only one in ten school leaders said that the pupil premium had significantly changed the way that they supported pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.  


In 2013 Ofsted published a further document about the pupil premium.  This time they focussed on the good work that some schools have been doing which has resulted in the maximising of achievement of their disadvantaged pupils. To summarise these schools ring fenced their pupil premium funding so that they could be sure that it was always spent on the targeted pupils.  They meticulously analysed which of their pupils were underachieving especially in English and mathematics.  They made sure that they allocated their best teachers to teach English and mathematics and made sure that support staff were carefully trained and had a good grasp of their role.  In addition to their own experiences of what works well, they referred to the Sutton Trust Toolkit (more about this later) for evidence of what works best.  Thorough monitoring and evaluation were in place to ensure that the impact of the pupil premium spending was contributing to an improvement in the outcomes for the pupils.  


The Department for Education commissioned an independent evaluation of the Pupil Premium (Evaluation of Pupil Premium research Brief (published in July 2013).  All the schools in the survey had chosen to spend their pupil premium funding on a range of different types of support that the schools perceived as being the best suited to the needs of their most disadvantaged pupils.  Decisions were based on their own experiences of what they felt worked best and also on information gained from academic research. Schools involved in the survey spent the bulk of their allocation on support for pupils linked to learning in the curriculum and on social, emotional and behavioural support. This evaluation concluded that it was too early to “measure the impacts of the Pupil Premium on attainment.” 


What guidance is there to help teachers to spend their pupil premium wisely? 


The Sutton Trust Toolkit, which has been developed by a team of academics from Durham University, is currently being used by one third of school leaders.  Based on a summary of educational research, it is designed to provide guidance to school leaders who are faced with making decisions about how they could most effectively spend their pupil premium funding in order to make the most difference to the attainment of their disadvantaged pupils.  The toolkit contains 33 approaches, commonly used by schools, together with a definition and brief descriptions about the effectiveness and dependability of each approach.  The Toolkit wisely reminds us that school context is all important and so not every approach will work in every school.  There are a number of approaches, in the Toolkit, that have been identified as having the most impact and that are relevant to primary aged pupils.  These include one to one tutoring, early intervention, parental involvement, ICT, phonics, peer tutoring, metacognition and self-regulation, and feedback on learning.  It is worthwhile to explore a couple of these approaches in a little more detail.  


In the toolkit parental involvement is defined only as “actively involving parents in supporting their children’s learning at school”.   This is unfortunate because recent research on parental engagement by Dr Janet Goodall at Warwick University has revealed that “parental engagement in supporting learning in the home is the single most important changeable factor in student achievement”.  


One to one tuition, in the Toolkit, is defined as being “where an individual pupil is removed from their class and given intensive tuition. It may also be undertaken outside of normal lessons, for example as part of after school programmes or summer schools.”  The Toolkit compared the effectiveness of one to one tuition when it was carried out by trained teachers as opposed to volunteers and teaching assistants.  The conclusion was that it was more effective when carried out by trained teachers.  In addition to the use of school staff, the pupil premium funding has apparently also created a market for private tuition in state schools according to the Economist (17th August 2013).  


What are schools’ spending priorities for the pupil premium?


The Sutton Trust asked the NFER Teacher Voice Omnibus to carry out a survey of primary and secondary teachers in 2013. (They carried out a similar survey back in 2012).  The Sutton Trust wanted to find out what the three main priorities were when teachers chose what to spend the pupil premium on and they also wanted to know by what means they came to decisions about how to spend the money.  


Top priorities for the teachers involved in the survey were the use of early intervention schemes and the additional use of one to one tuition.  The majority of teachers, when deciding which intervention to use, said that they used informal methods such as what had worked in their school and what had worked in other schools.  They were also influenced by research evidence. 


Although effective feedback between teachers and pupils has been identified by the Toolkit as being the most effective approach to the improvement of learning, this was given a very low priority by teachers involved in this survey.  


Latest developments 


In September 2013 Nick Clegg announced that all children aged between 5 and 7 in England will receive free school meals as from September 2014 regardless of economic circumstances.  It has been estimated that this initiative will save parents about £400.00 a year per child. This announcement has been generally well received although there are those who have questioned the wisdom of providing free school meals for the children of middle class families.  At this stage it is not known what the implications for schools might be in terms of any new anticipated accountability for their young pupils aged 5 -7 years who will all be in receipt of free school meals.  


The introduction of the pupil premium plus was announced by Children’s Minister Edward Timpson on the 1st October 2013.  This is to be introduced from April 2014 and will support children in care at school.  (Currently children in care attract the same level of pupil premium funding as children from low income families).  From April 2014, in addition to children in care, children adopted from care and children who leave care under a special guardianship order or residence order will also attract this newly announced pupil premium plus funding.  Clearly the challenges for schools will not only be about how they choose to spend their pupil premium plus money but whether they can as a result of their actions raise the very poor levels of achievement for children in care compared with those who are non-looked after children". 






For more  information about the Pupil Premium please click on these links below: 




Ofsted Inspection Handbook September 2013





The Pupil Premium


20 Sep 2012Ofsted


Ref: 120197





The Pupil Premium


How schools are spending the funding successfully to maximise achievement


Ofsted  No. 130016 2013






Education Endowment Foundation


Sutton Trust Toolkit






NFER Teacher Voice


March 2013 Survey


Spending priorities for the Pupil Premium