Schoolzone blog: Pupil Premium under fire yet again

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5 Feb 2015

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At the risk of being boring about this, Pupil Premium funding has received yet more criticism (use the search box above to see recent examples) - this time from Demos, who observe from the latest performance data that if anything, the gap between the attainment of more and less well-off pupils is increasing - by 2.5% points nationally, outside London. 67 out of 152 local authorities (44.1%) have a larger attainment gap now than before the Pupil Premium was introduced in 2011.

There are some pitfalls to using this year's data, as we mentioned in a recent post, since the national dip in performance obscures the issues, but Demos seem to have accounted for this. However, the DfE has responded by claiming that “The 2014 results – when analysed with our more informative and accurate measure – show the gap has narrowed by almost 4 per cent since 2012" - there is no mention of what more information or accuracy the DfE has.

Meanwhile, schools are this week being informed if they have won cash in the Pupil Premium Awards. This is a reward for schools whose PP pupils have performed well at primary, secondary or special levels. It's worth £4million in total and, while it's very welcome cash for the winners, that's £4million that could be used as a more direct incentive to develop new initiatives.

This is the third year it's been awarded: hand's up those schools who have learned from previous winners and spent their PP funding more wisely as a result? No? Anyone? When we asked schools last year how they spend their PP cash, they said - almost universally - that it goes into the pot, or is used to support initiatives which schools are running anyway.

Pupil Premium funding appears to be neither effective, nor fair: disadvantaged pupils do not necessarily perform less well - although, looking at the education backgrounds of successive cabinets, advantaged children certainly seem to do better. Schools in receipt of the funding aren't those necessarily in need of it more than others, nor do they spend it in the ways the DfE intend, nor, according to Demos and others, does it have any impact. Interestingly, Cameron did not mention PP funding in his recent school funding announcement, so maybe the Tories are thinking along the same lines. Getting rid of it after the next election would be an easy way for a new government to save £2.5billion without appearing to cut base funding.

What we need is a fair funding model, which would have to include some contribution to allow for social deprivation, but which would take into account the many other factors that affect how well schools perform.

Meanwhile Demos conclude:

"There should be a greater focus on learning from parts of the country where the gap is closing, and attempts to find other ways to improve collaboration and engagement in our classrooms, to prevent a repeat performance twelve months from now."




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