The funding for Pupil Premium is a big commitment by government. Now schools have to deliver. This was the message from Dr John Dunford, the national Pupil Premium champion. Speaking in his keynote address at the Pupil Premium and Ofsted – Ensuring Successful Outcomes conference, he emphasised to delegates: “You have complete autonomy on how you spend this money but you are accountable.”
The conference, held at Maple House in Birmingham last month, was organised by SecEd and sister magazine Headteacher Update and set out to help schools develop a more strategic approach to the Pupil Premium and get an insight into initiatives and examples of good practice from other schools.
Regardless of the educational setting, whether in the UK or abroad, students from a privileged background tend to do well because they have a wider range of experiences and more resources. Furthermore, statistics show that the gap between these children and those entitled to free school meals (FSM) widens as children get older.
Generally the big city authorities do better than others (see panel opposite). The gap is smaller in Newham and Birmingham than in Hampshire or Surrey or Southend. More Pupil Premium children get Level 4 in Camden and Birmingham than in Northamptonshire. More Pupil Premium children get five GCSEs A* to C including English and maths in Tower Hamlets and Birmingham than in Hampshire.
Choose your focus
This was a key message at the event. A school might turn the spotlight on gender, for example, or particular ethnic groups, perhaps White working class boys born in the UK or those living in deprivation, the children reliant on food banks. Some schools might focus on looked-after children, who statistically, as Dr Dunford explained, “have a greater chance of going to prison rather than to university”.
The quality of teaching and learning is key to Pupil Premium success. In the past, a child who was struggling might have had individual tuition or the services of a learning support or teaching assistant.
However, research, compiled by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) as part of its Pupil Premium Toolkit, has shown that they are an expensive option and that it can sometimes be hard to quantify effectiveness. But instead of “Velcroing” a teaching assistant to an individual pupil, it might be more efficacious to organise small groups which bring together the Pupil Premium pupils and others that the school is worried about but who may not be eligible for the funding.
It should also be added that earlier this year, new research was published by the EEF showing that teaching assistants can have an impact when used with small groups and in a targeted way. More research is currently on-going (see further information for links to this and the Pupil Premium Toolkit).
Seek out excellent practice
The speakers and workshop leaders were all agreed that schools needed to gather information from others. Dr Dunford suggested schools should use the National College closing the gap index and the EEF toolkit mentioned above, to seek out local, regional, national and international evidence (see further information).
The senior management team should encourage staff to build professional networks. While headteachers have good networks and SENCOs get support and information from Senco Forum and nasen, there is less support for Pupil Premium so it would be good to start local networks.
“Get out of the mindset that someone is going to tell you what to do,” Dr Dunford added, “your mantra should be ‘Look out, not look up’.”
Teresa Roche, headteacher of Dronfield Henry Fanshawe school in Derbyshire, has used some of her Pupil Premium money to part-fund strategic posts.
She has an assistant head for inclusion and safeguarding with a pastoral support responsibility and an assistant head for student progress and achievement with a faculty/curriculum focus – 20 per cent of their salary comes from Pupil Premium funding.
Ms Roche believes all staff are responsible for the progress of Pupil Premium students. To assist with this, all teaching staff have an additional 30 minutes per week for assessment and feedback, contacting parents, students and other colleagues.
A learning mentor works with any Pupil Premium students who are not making appropriate progress and liaises with families where appropriate. Some children might need funding for trips or to have a musical instrument at home for practice. Some need support with breakfast costs so they can start the day ready to learn.
There is also a tablet scholarship scheme where students are provided with a tablet which they can also use at home. Up to 70 per cent of those available go to Pupil Premium students and there is money which can contribute towards connectivity costs. There are frequent checks on progress to make sure the tablets are being used appropriately to raise standards of school work.
The school uses a SISRA data-management system. The Pupil Premium cohort is a specific group on the system and is tracked regularly by teachers. “It is important to look at other schools too,” Ms Roche added. “To contact external agencies, track meetings and make sure money is going where it will be most effective.”
“With the average Pupil Premium for 2013/14 standing at £57,000 for a primary school and £207,000 for secondary schools this is an opportunity to do something substantial,” Robbie Coleman, research and communications manager at the EEF told delegates. “Now there is less support and more autonomy, evidence should be quick and accessible.”
He suggested a systematic process whereby schools identified priorities and focused on one issue at a time. He recommended schools to seek out expertise both internally and from outside so they had a clear indication of what worked and what might be the most appropriate solution in their own setting.
He advised schools to drill down when they are looking at the efficacy of different solutions: “Lots of things work but which works best? Look at results, costs, effort and then evaluate.”
Dr Peter Kent, vice-president of the Association of School and College Leaders and headteacher at Lawrence Sheriff School in Rugby, spoke about Ofsted and Pupil Premium “trends and data expectations” and encouraged the audience to look not just at those learners who are lagging behind, but at the more able Pupil Premium pupils who should be forging ahead.
He argued that threshold measures can be misleading. He pointed out that 10 to 15 per cent of the most able receiving free school meals are less likely to take GCSEs in history, geography and modern foreign languages, the EBacc subjects. Also, a student moving from a grade F to an E at GCSE might be a better indication of narrowing the gap than obtaining a grade C.
What does success look like?
Good schools have ring-fenced funding and identified a senior member of staff responsible for Pupil Premium. They use evidence to allocate funding to “big impact” strategies. They regularly refer back to achievement data to refine decisions and make sure that interventions are effective.
The best schools look at the wider curriculum and think about the skills and knowledge a child needs in the 21st century. Schools might have an emphasis on performing arts to develop skills and personal qualities. Some find ways to make children “work-ready, life-ready” and perhaps take inspiration from the CBI’s Boosting Employability Skills (see further information).
Streetly Academy in Sutton Coldfield has 1,350 students and is intent on getting children to participate in events and activities laid on by the school. While changes to the curriculum have had an adverse effect on the amount of time available for sport, Streetly has countered this by expanding their extra-curricular clubs. They have 19 sports on offer including rowing for disabled pupils and wheelchair basketball.
“Young people sometimes need to reinvent themselves,” said headteacher Billy Downie, “and so we have awards nights every six weeks which are high profile celebrations of pupils’ sporting success. We also capture their achievements in reports, videos and newsletters. This raises their engagement and motivation.”
He advises schools to identify those who do not do any extra-curricular activities and target them: “Once they start to engage with school – in whatever way – they get better grades.”
Collect and present your evidence
Dr Dunford urged schools to create a good audit trail and build data-sets. They needed to collect data, analyse it, act on it and put strategies in place. Equally importantly, they need to communicate with parents and governors. Every school should publish an online account of expenditure and impact.
“It is for schools to decide how to use Pupil Premium,” he said. ‘Since 1998, we have been told in mind-numbing detail what to do and how to do it. The government is giving you the money and the freedom to use it as you see fit. It is important to find the right solution for your school because you will be held to account.”
Sal McKeown is a freelance education writer.
The Pupil Premium in numbers The gap in 2013Level 4 attainment at age 11: 19 per cent gap (60 to 79 per cent); Five A* to C GCSEs including English and maths at age 16: 27 per cent gap (38 to 65 per cent) Examples of attainment of Pupil Premium pupilsLevel 4: Camden 79 per cent, Birmingham 66 per cent, Northamptonshire 54 per cent. GCSE: Tower Hamlets 63 per cent, Birmingham 49 per cent, Southampton 41 per cent, Hampshire 31 per cent. Additional per pupil finding for Pupil Premium
Total Pupil Premium funding
- 2011/12: £488 per pupil
- 2012/13: £623 per pupil
- 2013/14: £900 per pupil (plus £53 for primary)
- 2014/15: £935 (secondary), £1,300 (primary), £1,900 (looked-after and adopted children)
- 2011/12: £625 million
- 2012/13: £1.25 billion
- 2013/14: £1.875 billion
- 2014/15: £2.5 billion