Who should Pupil Premium funding benefit?
Senior leaders have mixed views about whether Pupil Premium funding should be centralised or used for the specific pupils entitled to it. For example, some use it to create a bespoke plan based on the individual student’s needs, while others allocate the funding to a central pot and spend it on things which both disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged pupils will benefit from, such as increasing staffing levels in order to provide smaller class sizes.
How are schools spending their funding?
Academic or pastoral?
Schools have identified a number of issues associated with closing the gap between disadvantaged and nondisadvantaged pupils (see case study: ‘Closing the Gap – Disadvantaged Pupils’). While these issues have an impact on the academic performance of pupils, they are often rooted in social factors, which can be tackled through provision of pastoral care. The question for senior leaders, then, is how should they spend their Pupil Premium funding, and should it be used to intervene on a more academic level, or address more social issues such as low aspirations or lack of parental involvement?
‘Money is predominantly spent on making group sizes smaller.’
Centralising the funds
Generally, schools centralise their Pupil Premium funding money, using it for such things as:
• Increased staffing
• School trips
• Resources, e.g. revision guides
Using the funding in this way allows many of the issues outlined in the case study: ‘Closing the Gap – Disadvantaged Pupils’ to be addressed.
‘It is not spent in such a way as to make the particular student stand out, but might well be spent on an activity or trip that benefits the individual and others in their group … allowing for a greater benefit.’
‘It is used to create smaller class sizes, which in turn has a benefit for these pupils.’
The upside of this approach is that both disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged pupils can benefit from the funding. However, disadvantaged pupils are often prioritised to ensure that they don’t lose out on their entitlement – for example, by being included in additional teaching groups or booster sessions.
‘The funding goes into a central pot, though the SENCO and SLT are consciousthat the PP funding is not “lost” to the pupils that need it most.’ ‘Any ideas we have for a Pupil Premium grant student has to go to the pot coordinator and we have to officially apply with a lot of detail about how we expect it to be effective.’
Targeting individual pupils
Many schools will consider spending Pupil Premium funding on individual pupils, where a more bespoke intervention is required. However, evidence of impact is important, and members of staff often have to put together a strong case that the spending will be worthwhile:
‘Staff can bid for ring-fenced funds for any pupils at the start of each year.’
‘There is a central pot used for whole-school strategies, but most is allocated based on requests from staff to the Assistant Head teacher in charge of closing the gap.’
Is increased staffing the answer?
For the most part, schools are centralising Pupil Premium funds and using them to increase staffing. The benefits of this are that:
• More staff are available to provide both academic support and pastoral input, e.g. through 1:1 work, after-school tutoring, smaller class sizes
• Non-disadvantaged pupils can also benefit from increased staffing levels
‘More money so specialists can be employed to spend time doing one-to-one or one-to-few work with pupils which shows the greatest impact on their progress and achievement.’
However, some Pupil Premium students would benefit from a solution targeted towards their own personal circumstances
– for example, working to raise their levels of aspiration, improving attendance, or to engage their parents more effectively. The difficulty with these solutions is that it is more challenging for teachers to provide evidence that investing in them will be effective, and it is therefore less likely that schools will grant individual funding to these areas
‘Poor attendance often correlates with the most underperforming Pupil Premium students
About this research: SchoolZone consulted with 50 secondary schools in December 2016 to ask them what issues they faced in ensuring Pupil Premium funding was spent effectively, benefitting as many students as possible. Research was commissioned by SAM Learning, who provide a cost-effective framework for Targeted Intervention. Click HERE to find out more.