Schoolzone blog: PP funding helps bright boys best

PP funding helps bright boys best
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24 Nov 2014

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Not "tongue twister of the day", but the findings of a Nuffield funded research project looking at the impact of pupil premium funding, which notes that the students helped most by PP funding are more able boys.

Odd, since the coalition's reasoning behind it is that it's meant to help those making least progress as a result of social disadvantage. Various previous reports have noted that white working class boys are the nation's under-achievers and some commentators have hypothesised that schools have targeted this group to address that fact, perhaps resulting in brighter boys now doing better. However, girls still out-perform boys nationally.

The research also shows that pupils from black, Indian, Pakistani or Bangladeshi origin who were achieving low test results at the end of primary school were deriving more benefit from money spent in schools than white British or mixed race pupils with similar low test results. This is perhaps simply restating the fact that white boys tend to do worse overall.

The link between free school meals and student performance has always been somewhat dubious, but the idea of extra funding for disadvantaged children is generally approved of. However, there are varous examples of where pupil premium funding appears not to be achieving its aims.

When it came to power, one of the Government’s key priorities was to introduce pupil premium "to support disadvantaged pupils, who continue to underachieve compared with their peers". Funding for the premium, which was introduced in September 2011, comes from outside the schools budget to support disadvantaged pupils from Reception to Year 11. Schools decide how best to use the premium to support the attainment of disadvantaged pupils.

Schools have interpreted this in a range of ways, but the general pattern seems to be that they spend it on prety much the same things as they spend the rest of their funding on. It seems likely that schools are largely ignoring the direct link between funding and the pupils it's intended for, but it may well be that schools are giving these pupils additional attention, even if the funding link is somewhat lost.

One of the key means of supporting lower performing students has, for some years now, been to use teaching assistants, even though the evidence suggests that they are poor value for money in this regard, at an average cost of £18,000 per year to achieve an additional month's progress.

However, the Nuffield study suggests that spending on teaching assistants helps disadvantaged pupils to succeed - it says: “these staff are used to support pupils who have been singled out for extra help, leaving teachers to deal with the rest of the class.” Not a ringing endorsement and it may be that TAs are singling out (white) boys for help more than anyone else.

We've lamented the weaknesses in pupil premium funding policy previously in these posts - chiefly because there isn't enough pressure on schools to use it for the intended end and because lower performing pupils are the ones who need extra help, not necessarily those on free school meals (at some point in the past six years).

A new, fair funding model is what's needed, not endless policies that are intended to show that politicians have a social conscience, but successive governments, including the current one, have promised this and then failed to deliver. The most recent DfE consultation "confirmed there is an overwhelming view that the current school funding system is unfair" and goes on to say "we intend to implement a national funding formula when the government has set spending plans over a longer period of time, allowing us to give schools and local authorities more certainty about how the formula will affect them over a number of years. We agree that this is a vital next step".

So, while the intention remains the action is still awaited...




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