Tom Fellows, research and information officer at the National Governance Association, gives an overview of the pupil premium and the steps schools should take in line with good practice
The pupil premium (PP) is paid to schools with the purpose of ‘diminishing the difference’ between certain disadvantaged pupil groups and their peers. Official figures for 2016/17 show that over 3,200 schools across England received £200,000 or more PP provision – making it one of the largest funding streams available for many schools. The money is for pupils who are in receipt of free school meals, now or at any time in the past six years, or who are in care, or have been, for one day or more. It is important to note that governing boards, not executive leaders or SBMs, are accountable for spending the PP.
However, schools have a moral and ethical responsibility to target the funding towards eligible pupils
Spending the PP right
With shrinking budgets and increased financial pressure on schools it may be tempting to interpret the use of the PP money rather liberally; for instance, some schools have spent the money to hire additional support staff or supplement the wage budget. However, schools have a moral and ethical responsibility to target the funding towards eligible pupils. In addition, there are consequences for not justifying how the money is spent; Ofsted can compel schools’ to undertake an external review of PP spending and, in addition, weak PP management is likely to contribute to a poor Ofsted rating.
Using the money to provide free breakfast clubs, for example, is likely to have a substantial effect on pupil attainment.
The National Governance Association (NGA) has produced detailed guidance on how schools can demonstrate the impact that PP funding has had on their eligible pupils. For executive leaders and SBMs part two of this guidance is most useful. It outlines, in three stages, what needs to be produced and by whom:
- Stage one involves school staff producing an initial report for those governing on the challenges facing disadvantaged pupils and what can be done to address these using evidence from sources such as the education endowment foundation (EEF) toolkit.
- Stage two involves the governing board agreeing a PP strategic plan for PP spending with clear, time-bound targets for what the money should achieve. This strategic plan must, by law, be published on the school website.
- Stage three involves taking a structured approach to monitoring and evaluating the PP against the targets outlined in the strategic plan.
Throughout all phases schools are encouraged to put together a portfolio of evidence showing how PP spending decisions are made and the impact the money has had on eligible pupils. NGA members can downloaded this guidance from www.nga.org.uk/guidance.
If schools follow the steps outlined above there is nothing to stop the PP being spent creatively and wisely to benefit all pupils – providing that the justification and core purpose is to raise the attainment of eligible pupils. In addition, ‘diminishing the difference’ does not always mean investing in teaching and learning. Using the money to provide free breakfast clubs, for example, is likely to have a substantial effect on pupil attainment.