Ofsted chief: more schools using the Pupil Premium to good effect but others still struggling to make a real difference
A growing number of schools are now using their Pupil Premium funding effectively to raise achievement levels among poorer pupils, Ofsted's Chief Inspector said recently.
However, a significant minority are still struggling to show how the money is making any meaningful impact in terms of narrowing the gap between pupils from low income and more affluent families.
Sir Michael Wilshaw was speaking on the day that Ofsted published a new survey report into the Pupil Premium, which draws together some of the effective practice that inspectors have observed during school visits.
He said there was evidence that many schools were now grasping the importance of spending the funding effectively, following an earlier Ofsted report which criticised the performance of many schools in this regard.
The Pupil Premium was introduced by the Coalition Government in April 2011 to provide additional support for looked after children and those from low income families. Schools are free to spend the money they are allocated as they see fit.
Ofsted followed up its initial report into the Pupil Premium last September by visiting a wide range of nearly 70 primary and secondary schools during the autumn term 2012 to see how effectively these schools were spending the funding to maximise achievement.
Sir Michael said: "Following my criticism of schools last year, it is clear more schools are now taking their responsibilities seriously when it comes to using the Pupil Premium money and our inspectors have found evidence of some very good practice in their recent visits. Crucially, many of these good schools are concentrating on the core areas of literacy and numeracy to break down the main barriers to accessing the full curriculum. They are also focusing on the key stages of a childís development in their school career. However, some schools still lack good enough systems for tracking the spending of the additional funding or for evaluating the effectiveness of measures they have put in place in terms of improving outcomes".
"We will continue to take an active interest in this issue in the coming months. Where we find funding isnít being spent effectively on improving outcomes for disadvantaged pupils, we will be clear in our criticism. It is vital that schools get this right. Every child who leaves school without the right qualifications faces a far more difficult path to fulfilling their potential and finding employment".
He also said that the Government should consider diverting at least part of the central pot of money it has made available for secondary schools to run summer schools for disadvantaged primary school leavers Ė to go instead directly to schools to pay for extra support for poorer pupils during the vital Year 7 period. He said that inspectors found the take-up of the summer school money has to date been patchy and by allocating it directly to schools, Ofsted would be able to properly monitor and report on whether the money was being used effectively.
The report says that where schools were spending the Pupil Premium funding successfully to improve achievement, they shared many of the following characteristics. They:
carefully ring-fenced the funding so that they always spent it on the target group of pupils
never confused eligibility for the Pupil Premium with low ability, and focused on supporting their disadvantaged pupils to achieve the highest levels
thoroughly analysed which pupils were underachieving, particularly in English and mathematics, and why
drew on research evidence and evidence from their own and othersí experience to allocate the funding to the activities that were most likely to have an impact on improving achievement
understood the importance of ensuring that all day-to-day teaching meets the needs of each learner, rather than relying on interventions to compensate for teaching that is less than good
allocated their best teachers to teach intervention groups to improve mathematics and English, or employed new teachers who had a good track record in raising attainment in those subjects
used achievement data frequently to check whether interventions or techniques were working and made adjustments accordingly, rather than just using the data retrospectively to see if something had worked
made sure that support staff, particularly teaching assistants, were highly trained and understood their role in helping pupils to achieve
systematically focused on giving pupils clear, useful feedback about their work, and ways that they could improve it
ensured that a designated senior leader had a clear overview of how the funding was being allocated and the difference it was making to the outcomes for pupils
ensured that class and subject teachers knew which pupils were eligible for the Pupil Premium so that they could take responsibility for accelerating their progress
had a clear policy on spending the Pupil Premium, agreed by governors and publicised on the school website
provided well-targeted support to improve attendance, behaviour or links with families where these were barriers to a pupilís learning
had a clear and robust performance management system for all staff, and included discussions about pupils eligible for the Pupil Premium in performance management meetings
thoroughly involved governors in the decision making and evaluation process
were able, through careful monitoring and evaluation, to demonstrate the impact of each aspect of their spending on the outcomes for pupils.
In contrast, inspectors found where schools were less successful in spending the funding, they tended to have at least some of the following characteristics. They:
had a lack of clarity about the intended impact of the spending
spent the funding indiscriminately on teaching assistants, with little impact
did not monitor the quality and impact of interventions well enough, even where other monitoring was effective
did not have a good performance management system for teaching assistants and other support staff
did not have a clear audit trail for where the funding had been spent
focused on pupils attaining the nationally expected level at the end of the key stage (Level 4, five A* to C grades at GCSE) but did not to go beyond these expectations, so some more able eligible pupils underachieved
planned their Pupil Premium spending in isolation to their other planning, for example, it was not part of the school development plan
compared their performance to local rather than national data, which suppressed expectations if they were in a low-performing local authority
compared the performance of their pupils who were eligible for free school meals with other eligible pupils nationally, rather than all pupils, again lowering expectations
did not focus their pastoral work on the desired outcomes for pupils and did not have any evidence to show themselves whether the work had or had not been effective
did not have governors involved in making decisions about the Pupil Premium, or challenging the way in which it was allocated.
Useful link: The Pupil Premium - How schools are spending the funding.pdf