Pupil Premium: Evidence and impact

Written by: HTU | Published:

The pressure is on schools to ensure that Pupil Premium spending is evidence-based and to show the impact of their strategies. Fiona Aubrey-Smith looks at what practical guidance and resources are out there to help

Given Ofsted’s recent call that schools should “prove it or lose it”, headteachers and governors are under pressure to provide hard evidence of the impact that Pupil Premium has had on standards. Here is a summary of some of what is out there to help schools.

Summer term actions

This term, it is important to start evidencing the impact of this year’s Pupil Premium on standards, and to learn from this process to make the best investment choices for the next academic year as the funding increases to £900 per eligible child.

Such is the importance being placed on the £2.5 billion investment, that the Department of Education (DfE) is providing additional prizes of up to £10,000 for schools which can evidence the most impact of investment choices in its Pupil Premium Awards (see further information).

The new Ofsted framework specifically refers to seeking impact of Pupil Premium decisions when focusing on pupil achievement, quality of leadership and school management and data evidence.

One recent inspection report gives you an idea of what Ofsted is looking for: “The Pupil Premium funding is used extremely well to implement specific interventions, leading to an immediate and positive impact on standards for those pupils. Governors make sure that the Pupil Premium is well spent and reports from committees or the headteacher to the governing body are suitably detailed.” (Haseltine Primary School, Ofsted, 2013)

The new Ofsted School Data Dashboard provides a snapshot comparing disadvantaged pupils with their peers, and is at the forefront of Pupil Premium accountability, alongside performance tables, the new Ofsted inspection framework, and online reports for parents.

Also, Ofsted’s survey and review of Pupil Premium spending last autumn made three very clear recommendations:

1, Target the designated children

This sounds obvious, but are we targeting intervention programmes at the children for whom the funding has been designated or are we providing intervention programmes for groups of children identified through low attainment or attendance?

This is not to say that children not receiving Pupil Premium should not benefit from the intervention strategies put in place, but in order to provide clear evidence of the links between Pupil Premium investments and free school meal (FSM) children’s outcomes, the intervention must be targeted at the named children, and their specific needs and priorities.

Remember to ensure that you are encouraging every family who is entitled to FSM to claim so that all entitled children benefit from the associated Pupil Premium funding. Once designated children have been identified, prioritise training for all those professionals involved to understand the importance and detail of your tracking data; so that governors, leaders, teachers, teaching assistants and support staff all share responsibility for ensuring that progress is made towards the agreed and expected outcomes.

One of our most cited headteacher tips is to genuinely share responsibility for achieving the agreed intervention outcomes; not just sharing the task-management or actions involved.

2, Identify clearly how the money is being spent.

This is about being able to provide hard evidence about what you are investing your children’s Pupil Premium in, what evidence you have based those decisions on, what impact you expect to see, and how you will monitor and manage these activities in order to ensure that the impact happens.

Headteachers who have seen outstanding progress made by children receiving Pupil Premium have recommended the following advice for identifying best where to invest your funding, and notably, being able to evidence the reasons for your decisions:

• Look first at your day-to-day teaching and what can be improved, before relying on intervention strategies.
• Analyse why children are underachieving; particularly in English and maths, and don’t confuse children receiving Pupil Premium with low-ability children.
• Use your best teachers to deliver intervention groups, don’t just rely on teaching assistants.
• Track the impact of intervention groups during the intervention, don’t wait until it is completed.
• Assign a senior leader to manage and monitor Pupil Premium, and have regular one-on-ones between them and class teachers about the Pupil Premium children. Include this in performance management.
• Capture evidence of impact throughout the year, including case studies.

3, Spend it in ways known to be most effective.

We return to the Sutton Trust and Education Endowment Foundation Teaching and Learning Toolkit as an accessible summary of educational research, which provides guidance for teachers and schools on how to use their resources to improve the attainment of disadvantaged pupils.

The top two intervention strategies recommended, which evidence shows make the greatest impact on Pupil Premium investment are: feedback and meta-cognition/self-regulation (or learning-to-learn strategies), both of which the research shows add an additional eight months of progress over a year. However, for strategies to be effective, you must have feedback that:

• Is specific, accurate, clear and prompt when given by the teacher to the child.
• Includes recognition of the progress that the child has made, and encourages further effort.
• Provides specific guidance on how to improve, and is succinct and given sparingly.
• Is supported by an effective professional development programme for teachers.

Likewise, for the meta-cognition and learning-to-learn approach to be worthwhile, it must be used where children understand how to plan, monitor and evaluate their own learning (i.e. the effective use of “Plan-Do-Review”) and it must also include the proper use of questioning (such as “How do you know that is right?” and “What could you do to make it better?”).

Other strategies which the evidence shows make a positive, significant impact on progress and attainment of disadvantaged children include those listed below (grouped by the additional months of progress that the research shows each intervention can bring over a year). The list makes interesting reading when we think about the most common uses for Pupil Premium where impact is difficult to see.

• Additional six months of progress: Peer-tutoring, early years intervention.
• Additional five months: One-to-one tuition, collaborative learning.
• Additional four months: Phonics, small group tuition, behaviour interventions, digital technology, social and emotional intervention.
• Additional three months: Parental involvement, reducing class size, summer schools.
• Additional two months: Sports and arts participation, extended schools, individualised instruction, after-school programmes, learning styles.
• Additional month: Homework.

Significantly, the evidence also shows those interventions that make no difference as being teaching assistants, performance pay, aspiration interventions, block scheduling, school uniform, or the physical environment. Also, grouping by ability was shown to have a negative impact of minus one month of progress over a year.

Teaching assistants

Given that one of most controversial interventions on the list is that of teaching assistants, it is important to look in more detail at the evidence for each of the strategies that your school is or is not using in order to be clear about why these strategies can have a negative or positive impact.

Ofsted found that more than two fifths of schools are using the funding to pay for new or existing teaching assistants or support workers. While in many cases this is a natural consequence to changes of budgetary organisation, it is important to review the impact that the existing staffing arrangements are having.

Is progress good or outstanding for those children who are working with those staff? If so, how can this be evidenced? If not, what intervention needs to be woven into the work that those staff are undertaking – for example, specialist training, mentoring, coaching, or professional study – in order to increase their skills in extending progression for the children that they are working with.

Are these the right staff, undertaking the right kinds of intervention programmes, for the designated children? Evidence from the toolkit suggests that where teaching assistants are deployed with a well-defined pedagogical role (rather than task management), or have responsibility for being accountable for the intervention, then the impact can be seen on their use. The implication is that the deployment and training of teaching assistants, and teachers’ management of them, need to be targeted in order to achieve positive impact.

Suggested next steps

List your Pupil Premium investments, and assign a governor, leader or teacher to research the evidence for/against continuing with these strategies. What alternatives are there that could have a greater impact on children? What would the true cost of adopting and implementing those strategies be? What would the success criteria be if those strategies were implemented instead of, or as well as those you already have in place?

Revisit your monitoring strategy – what exactly should you see each day, week, month, term, year? How can you better align the professionals involved in delivering the intervention with the responsibility and accountability of ensuring that the impact is achieved?

While intervention strategies are funded with the target and priority of your FSM children, how could sharing success stories across your school (perhaps in half termly staff meetings) improve consistency of success? In other words, how can you encourage staff to improve their own practice above and beyond the Pupil Premium foci as a result of this investment?

• Fiona Aubrey-Smith is head of primary networks at the SSAT.

Further reading
• Ofsted (2013) The Pupil Premium: Analysis and Challenge Tools for Schools: www.ofsted.gov.uk/resources/pupil-premium-analysis-and-challenge-tools-for-schools.
• Ofsted (2013) The Pupil Premium: How schools are spending funding successfully to maximise achievement: www.ofsted.gov.uk/resources/pupil-premium-how-schools-are-spending-funding-successfully-maximise-achievement.
• Ofsted (2012) Pupil Premium: How schools are using the Pupil Premium funding to raise achievement for disadvantaged pupils: www.ofsted.gov.uk/resources/pupil-premium.
• EEF (2013) Teaching and Learning Toolkit (updated Spring 2013): http://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/uploads/toolkit/Teaching_and_Learning_Toolkit_(Spring_2013).pdf.
• DfE Pupil Premium Awards: www.pupilpremiumawards.co.uk.

Further information
The SSAT National Primary Network is hosting a number of Speed Learning Twilights this term when heads, leaders, governors and teachers will be sharing practical experiences of choosing, implementing, evaluating and evidencing Pupil Premium funding. Locations and dates are at www.ssatuk.co.uk/speedlearning.

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