Pupil Premium failing
24 Sept 2014
In yesterday's blog we mentioned that schools were spending pupil premium funding on things that they would have paid for anyway, but according to researchers at Oxford University, whatever they are spending it on, it isn't making any difference to the attainment of pupils receiving it.
The main basis for attracting PP funding is whether children are eligible for free school meals, but this research says that FSM students are still making "three GCSE grades’ less progress than non-FSM pupils, even after taking into account other background factors".
Furthermore: "92 per cent of English secondary schools had a gap between FSM and non-FSM pupils of at least one GCSE grade overall". So, while the intention to give preferential funding to disadvantaged children is surely a laudable one, it isn't making much difference to measurable outcomes.
Another interesting feature of this research, presented at the BERA conference yesterday, is that the gap between FSM and non-FSM students is the same regardless of whether a school is Outstanding or in any other Ofsted category. So, for all Ofsted is keen to ask about what schools are spending PP funding on, its impact doesn't seem to be affecting Ofsted judgments about schools.
Another way to look at this is that even outstanding schools don't make much impact on disadvantaged pupils. The only benefit of the funding is that it's an inducement to schools to take in these children, though hopefully truly comprehensive schools don't need any such thing.
Perhaps it's time to re-think PP funding - yes, schools can certainly benefit from it, but let's not assume that it's going to make any difference to performance outcomes as, by the time children reach (secondary) school, it's almost certainly too late to make any difference at the national level. Instead, let's take the pressure off schools to show enhanced progress for these children and put the money to use in attracting more excellent teachers to work in disadvantaged areas.
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