Schoolzone blog: Pupil premium under fire again

Pupil premium under fire again


6 Oct 2014


As mentioned in previous blogs, PP funding is still not doing enough, or maybe not being spent wisely enough, to raise the performance of children from disadvantaged backgrounds. The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission have said, in a new report, that the attainment of this group is still "shockingly low".

However, the report is at pains to stress that 11% of secondary schools (1 in 9) are doing better with their FSM pupils that the national average for all students. For the rest, the report seems to suggest that it's the low expectations of teachers that is a problem. The raw numbers are certainly stark: the best and worse schools show a three-fold difference in GCSE performance with similar numbers of FSM. If you can stomach reading the data at the end of this report, it paints a truly remarkable picture of regional difference in performance and goes some way to helping to explain the patterns.

While we would normally hope that our summaries of such reports are enough to keep teachers informed of the latest thinking, this time we really recommend reading the report in full because it has some excellent advice for schools.

Here's our summary - please read it as a taster for the full report, rather than a replacement.

Nationally: pay teachers more to work in the worst schools

Schools should*:

1. Undertake data-driven analysis of why, how and where poor children are falling behind, then seek to deploy PP funding to address those barriers.

2. Not tolerate lower standards because of a mindset that disadvantaged children cannot do any better.

3. Incessant focus on the quality of teaching - not just focusing the best teachers on the C/D borderline, or on top sets where disadvantaged students tend to be under-represented.

4. Tailored strategies to engage parents: having high expectations of parents and building engagement.

5. Supporting children’s social and emotional development and the character skills that underpin learning.

(6. Admissions: the report has a tentative sixth key step relating to prioritising disadvantaged pupils.)

One slight niggle is the fact that the Commission has used Attainment 8 models as a comparator, rather that Performance 8, which is the new floor standard. A8 is obviously easier to model at present, but surely the biggest impact of numbers of children on FSM will be on P8 measures. So when the report says "analysis shows that most schools do not change position dramatically" under the new accountability measures, it's actually somewhat reducing the impact of the exercise. However, even measuring A8, the report observes "the schools experiencing the greatest falls are those with the greatest proportion of disadvantaged children."

This is a very significant report which schools should take very seriously. It would also be good for all political parties to use this report as the basis for their forthcoming election manifesto.


* We've changed the emphasis slightly in these "five key steps" to make them more focused on the practical.




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