Getting the Most from Pupil Premium

This post was commissioned for the Reading Rocks website –

What Is Pupil Premium?

“Pupil premium is funding to improve education outcomes for disadvantaged pupils in schools in England. Evidence shows that disadvantaged children generally face additional challenges in reaching their potential at school and often do not perform as well as other pupils.”

Challenges for schools relating to Pupil Premium

After the National Funding Formula (NFF) Pupil Premium (PP) is a key source of funding for schools. Unlike the NFF, PP is need-based, and schools are reliant on parents to declare their need & apply for PP for their child.

One of the challenges schools face is under-claiming of PP, whether due to perceived stigma or lack of awareness. This is a particular challenge in Key Stage 1, as all children in this age group are entitled to free school meals, irrespective of PP – while this is welcome in itself, it means parents perceive less benefit to claiming PP. In 2022-23, PP is worth £1385 per eligible primary aged child – a sizeable chunk of money to lose!

Is your school getting enough Pupil Premium?

So as well as thinking about how best to spend the PP grant, schools need first to get communications right with parents to make sure they are maximising the grant in the first place. Best practice is to:

  • Communicate well with parents at the beginning of the school year…
    • Be clear that PP is not just about free school meals!
    • Highlight the benefits to school and pupils of the PP grant
    • Give examples of the kinds of resources and support it enables the school to provide that are not possible with the NFF alone.
    • Capitalise on the pandemic experience & the cost-of-living crisis – we all have money concerns & school is a part of the support network for hard working families.
  • Repeat the communication throughout the year. Often your most economically-stretched parents will have the least headspace to take information in. Even if they miss out this year, they could have PP in place for next year.
  • Host or provide space for parent support groups. Make PP a topic of conversation – peer support can encourage reluctant parents to apply.
  • Trust your staff… Teachers and TAs will have an instincts about which families might be eligible for PP and find opportunities to open a conversation about it.
  • Time your communications – key opportunities are:
    • At the beginning of the academic year.
    • In the run-up to Winter & Christmas
    • In the run-up to the Summer break – particularly at the end of Year 2, when the prospect of paying for school meals in Year 3 looms large.

Is your school spending Pupil Premium well?

“Pupil premium is not a personal budget for individual pupils and schools are not required to spend all of the allocated grant on eligible pupils. It is for school leaders to decide how to spend the pupil premium, within the requirements of the conditions of grant.

Evidence suggests that pupil premium spending is most effective when used across 3 areas.

  1. High-quality teaching, such as staff professional development.
  2. Targeted academic support, such as tutoring.
  3. Wider strategies to address non-academic barriers to success in schools, such as attendance, behaviour and social and emotional support.

The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) recommend that schools particularly focus their pupil premium on supporting high-quality teaching.”

No matter how much PP grant you achieve as a school, you need to focus on how to use it for maximum effect.

Gap-plugging should never be prioritised over strategic planning

The fire-fighting approach does not lead to sustainable improvement, so won’t give best value over time. Schools should regularly review the barriers to learning that their pupils experience and develop strategies to mitigate these. There’s no one-size-fits-all – different schools face different challenges. Investment in high-quality resources is always part of the solution – others may include parental engagement and support groups, upskilling them to support their children’s learning where necessary, developing the broad base of a culture of learning and growth within a school.

Continued Professional Development

Staff CPD is vital. At its best, CPD acknowledges the individual strengths and expertise of teaching professionals, enabling them to become the key drivers of a self-improving school system. Schools should aim for:

  • Consistency of expectation throughout the school
  • Clear progression pathways – for children & staff
  • Inspirational teaching
  • Differentiated learning in classes
  • Expert support staff

Differentiated learning

Properly differentiated learning will minimise the need for targeted tutoring – so I would always recommend prioritising staff having the skills necessary to deliver this, along with an understanding of how to respond a range of learning styles and a reflective approach to their work. This is a key area for ongoing CPD work that will feed in to success for all pupils, and some allocation of PP towards this can easily be justified.

Targeted tutoring

Targeted tutoring will always be necessary to a degree, but it would be a mistake to only focus on the pupils who have attracted the funding. Tutoring doesn’t always have to be one-to-one – consider how children can be grouped together so that as many as possible can benefit from the input.

External advisors

However you spend your PP Grant, it is best practice to bring external professionals in to your process – schools are at their best when they have external advisors working alongside them – a range of professionals offering constructive challenge and external validation.

My approach as an external CPD advisor is to create a culture of learning among staff to drive improvement. I work from staff starting points and put them in the context of the school’s need, helping to determine strategy and shape staff progression over time. This approach develops leaders at all staffing levels and enables good teachers to harness their own love of learning to become inspirational. It strengthens a school’s rationale for its PP spending & ensures that it supports the school’s strategic development.

The PP Grant is an essential element of school funding. Maximise it & use it well!

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