Schools shun cost-effective Pupil Premium strategies

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Secondary schools are shunning two of the most cost-effective ways of spending the Pupil Premium. A study has found that two of the cheapest and most effective approaches – improving student feedback and peer-to-peer tutoring – are not being widely used a

Secondary schools are shunning two of the most cost-effective ways of spending the Pupil Premium.

A study has found that two of the cheapest and most effective approaches – improving student feedback and peer-to-peer tutoring – are not being widely used at all. 

Instead, the poll for the Sutton Trust reveals that expensive early intervention programmes and one-to-one tuition are the two most popular ways that secondaries have been spending the funding.

The study involved 1,600 teachers and schools leaders, including 800 secondary professionals, and asked them to rank their schools’ top three priorities for spending the Pupil Premium.

It found that 52 per cent of the secondary teachers and leaders said that early intervention schemes were among their school’s top three priorities – with 19 per cent ranking this approach as their number one focus.

One-to-one tuition was ranked among the top three approaches by 41 per cent of the secondary respondents, while increasing the number of teaching assistants was a priority for 22 per cent, although only four per cent said this was their school’s number one focus.

The Sutton Trust has been supporting schools in spending the Pupil Premium by producing and maintaining the Pupil Premium Toolkit in conjunction with the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF).

Based on work by Durham University, the Toolkit draws on 5,500 educational studies to provide guidance on improving the attainment of disadvantaged pupils.

The most effective method listed in the toolkit is “improving teacher feedback”, which it says has been shown to bring about an extra eight months of progress across an academic year. However, the poll found that just 11 per cent said that this was a main approach in their school. 

Equally, just seven per cent of secondaries are prioritising peer-to-peer tutoring schemes, where older pupils help younger peers to learn, despite the toolkit showing that this method can bring a six-month gain in student progress across a year.

The Sutton Trust emphasised this week that while early intervention has been shown to be an effective measure, it has costs of up to £2,000 per pupil, compared with the £100 per pupil costs of effective feedback.

Sir Peter Lampl, chair of the Sutton Trust and the EEF, said: “It is vital that the Pupil Premium money is spent well, and used on those measures that can do most to improve results for our poorest pupils. We still need to ensure that more teachers act on the evidence, and embrace the most cost-effective measures that can make such a difference to the learning and life chances of their poorest pupils.”

The Pupil Premium funding goes to disadvantaged children, including any child who has been eligible for free school meals at any point in the past six years. It is now worth £900 per eligible pupil.

The study focused on spending priorities for 2012/13 and found that half of secondary schools are drawing up their Premium strategies based on previous experience of what works, while 40 per cent said they were drawing upon research evidence – although only 14 per cent said they were using the Toolkit.

Download the Toolkit at http://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/toolkit/


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