From September, it is “unlikely” that a school will be judged “outstanding” by Ofsted if its disadvantaged pupils are not making "good progress".
A new raft of accountability measures centred on the Pupil Premium funding for disadvantaged pupils has been announced by the government, including additions to school league tables.
Schools are to be held to account for the attainment of their disadvantaged pupils, the progress made by these pupils, and the in-school gap in attainment between disadvantaged pupils and their peers.
The new measures will be considered during Ofsted inspections, published in school league tables, and used in letters that ministers send to schools about their performance. In addition, league tables are to also include new three-year rolling averages of these measures.
A statement from the Department for Education (DfE) said: “From September 2013, Ofsted will introduce a sharper focus to the performance and progress of Pupil Premium pupils in their inspections. It is unlikely that a school will be judged ‘outstanding’ if its disadvantaged pupils are not making good progress.
“This means that all schools will be held to account specifically for the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers.”
The Pupil Premium funding will be worth £2.5 billion a year by 2014/15 and is currently worth £900 per eligible pupil. Last year, 38.5 per cent of Pupil Premium pupils attained five or more A* to C grades including English and maths at GCSE, compared to 65.7 per cent of all other pupils. This is an attainment gap of 27.2 per cent.
Elsewhere, a new Pupil Premium Review process will see schools who struggle to close the attainment gap offered support from another headteacher to analyse how they are using their Premium funding.
From September, any school judged by Ofsted as “requiring improvement” either overall or for leadership and management, and which also has concerns raised about the attainment of its disadvantaged pupils, will be entered into the programme.
The National College for Teaching and Leadership will publish details of headteachers which schools can approach to help them “carry out a sharp, focused review” of their spending and to develop new strategies.
It comes as Dr John Dunford, the chairman of Whole Education and former general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, has been appointed as the government’s Pupil Premium Champion.
His remit will be to act as an advocate for the Pupil Premium and highlight and share examples of the best uses of the funding. He will also flag issues raised by school leaders and teachers with the DfE, ministers have said.
Schools minister David Laws added: “I’m counting on John to really understand how schools are supporting their disadvantaged pupils, not only so he can share the best ideas with them, but also to learn from schools to help us shape our policies on the Pupil Premium.”
Dr Dunford said: “The gap remains wide nationally, but I know through being on the judging panel of the Pupil Premium Awards that there is some very effective practice in using the Pupil Premium in some schools.”
Headteachers pointed out this week that most schools already use well-developed tracking schemes to monitor the progress of all pupils.
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, added: "As recent history shows, closing the attainment gap is no easy task and extra resources, such as the Pupil Premium, will be needed. This is particularly the case in those geographical regions where long-term funding inequalities have put particular strain on school resources.
"It is important to note Pupil Premium money is not new money for many schools – it is sometimes necessary to use it to plug the gaps created by cuts elsewhere. We hope when judgements are made about the effectiveness of the Pupil Premium in narrowing the gap – whether by Ofsted, other school leaders or by the Pupil Premium Champion – the overall realities of funding are also taken into account.”
The announcements come alongside the results of an independent evaluation of the Pupil Premium, which found that 80 per cent of secondary schools have introduced new support and/or enhanced existing support for disadvantaged pupils as a result of the Premium funding.
The research involved 1,240 schools and was carried out by social researchers TNS-BMRB and the universities of Manchester and Newcastle. It also found that 70 per cent of schools already use evidence from other schools and 45 per cent use academic research to help them make decisions on how to spend their Pupil Premium.