Focusing on Pupil Premium Plus

Written by: Julie Johnson | Published:

Pupil Premium Plus is a specific stream of Pupil Premium funding, but are schools spending it as intended and what impact is it having? Julie Johnson looks at the specific needs of looked after pupils, which often include attachment problems

In England and Wales the Department for Education (DfE) provides £1,900 (£2,300 in 2018/19) extra funding for any pupil that has been adopted, has a special guardianship order, or child arrangements order, and has been in local authority care for one day or more.

While under local authority care, the funding goes to the virtual school head, but once the orders have been made the funding goes direct to schools in quarterly instalments, beginning in the April following declaration in the January school census.

In its early consultation over changes to the National Funding Formula, the DfE stated: “Children’s experiences prior to entering care have a long-lasting effect on their educational attainment. When children leave care, through for example adoption, it is unlikely that their educational needs will change significantly simply because their care status has changed.

“Recent school performance data shows that children who have left care significantly underperform compared to children who have never been in care. We believe the funding system should treat both children in care and those who have left care equally.” (DfE, March 2016)

The question, therefore, is what are schools spending this funding on and what impact is it having?

Is Pupil Premium Plus simply added to the general pot without regard to how the needs of these disadvantaged children may be different to those receiving Pupil Premium due to their eligibility for free school meals?

Children with a background of trauma may have many barriers to learning and the Pupil Premium Plus funding is designed to break these down so they can learn.

In November 2015, a report into children and attachment by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommended that: “Schools and other education providers should ensure that all staff who may come into contact with children and young people with attachment difficulties receive appropriate training on attachment difficulties.”

Indeed, the first priority has to be quality training in the long-lasting effects of developmental trauma and attachment difficulties. These children have experienced relationship trauma and the key to their healing is relationships. Medical needs are quite rightly met through training before a child starts in a class, but mental health concerns are not often considered as vital. The consequences of schools not understanding how the brain changes in traumatic circumstances and then using this information to better support these children will be far-reaching.

So how is your school spending the Pupil Premium Plus funding? The rationale is to improve outcomes for these children – what does your school do and can you demonstrate that interventions are tailored and have a positive impact?

Maybe they need a quieter place to eat their lunch as the hall is too noisy and overstimulating for a child on high alert?

Maybe the child struggles with transitions and needs a key worker to support them and reassure them that their parents will return to collect them later.

Could it be that they struggle to regulate, as their birth parent was unable to do that for them as a baby, and they need help to develop these skills, taught explicitly?

Perhaps they have sensory difficulties and need to have regular sensory input to calm their vestibular and proprioception senses, could the school provide equipment to meet those needs?

Many schools offer various therapies, such as play therapy, but are they ensuring the therapist is trained in developmental trauma? Is the child accessing other therapies outside of school through the Adoption Support Fund?

Schools are advised to liaise with parents as to the child’s needs and discuss various interventions and it is good practice to regularly review the effectiveness of these interventions and then consider next steps.

School improvement partners and Ofsted need to be asking questions about how these Pupil Premium Plus interventions differ from the regular Pupil Premium activities and what impact they are having. Schools need to provide a Pupil Premium strategy that includes specific reference to this aspect of practice.

Millions of pounds are being spent, but where is the evidence that it is making a real difference to these children?

In Settling to Learn (2013), Louise Bomber said: “Do these children really need more access to study opportunities, better teaching, different reading schemes, more computers, more effective discipline?

“What if they just needed access to you and me? A genuine relationship. Is that a possibility? What if it really wasn’t any more complicated than that? What if the tool we had overlooked – ourselves – was the bridge into a world of possibilities, that a genuine relationship with us, perhaps acting as a buffer, could switch on the pupils’ ‘thinking brain’ and integrate it with their ‘emotional brain’?” 

  • Julie Johnson is a teacher and attachment in schools trainer with Square One Attachment.

Further information

  • Julie Johnson has produced a guide for schools with practical examples of how we might support children using the Pupil Premium Plus funding. Visit
  • Children’s Attachment: Attachment in children and young people who are adopted from care, in care or at high risk of going into care, NICE, November 2015:

Pupil Premium Special Edition

This article was published as part of SecEd’s Pupil Premium Special Edition. The edition, published on March 22, 2018, offers a range of specialist best practice advice for Pupil Premium work in schools, including classroom and whole-school interventions, advice for school leaders and more. The entire edition is available to download as a free pdf document on our website supplements page:


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