'Small but growing’ number of schools using Pupil Premium to offset cuts

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: iStock

Concern has been raised at the “small but growing” number of schools that are using their Pupil Premium funding to offset budget cuts elsewhere.

A poll of 1,607 teachers by the Education Endowment Foundation, curators of the Teaching and Learning Toolkit, looked to find out how schools were prioritising the funding.

The most common priority for spending, identified by 28 per cent, was early intervention schemes, while 13 per cent said it was one-to-one tuition and 10 per cent said teaching assistants.

Other priorities included improving feedback (four per cent), additional teachers (eight per cent) and reducing class sizes (three per cent).

However, six per cent reported that the priority was to offset budget cuts elsewhere in the school. This figure is up from two per cent in the same survey in 2015.

Further concerns come at the news that 29 per cent of teachers told the researchers that they did not know what their school’s main priorities were for the Pupil Premium.

The Pupil Premium is paid for pupils who have been eligible for free school meals over the previous six years or who have been in care. It is worth £1,320 per-pupil at primary and £935 at secondary. Schools also receive £1,900 for pupils who have been in care but are now adopted or left care under certain guardianship orders.

The study also highlighted the increasing use of the EEF’s Teaching and Learning Toolkit, which compiles evidence on the effectiveness and value for money of a range of interventions.

The Toolkit now covers 34 topics and summarises research from more than 10,000 studies.

Sixty-three per cent of secondary senior leaders said they considered research evidence on the impact of different approaches and programmes, with six in 10 also using the EEF’s Toolkit.

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the EEF, said: “It is worrying that a growing number of schools feel they have to use funding for disadvantaged pupils to offset budget cuts.

“The Pupil Premium is a key lever for raising the attainment of disadvantaged pupils and it’s vital that it continues to be focused on their education.”

Commenting on the findings, Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: “The EEF toolkit is a great piece of work that school leaders use regularly and is an example of what can be achieved when best practice is shared, owned and endorsed by the teaching profession itself.

“When schools are inspected by Ofsted they are expected to demonstrate that they are spending their Pupil Premium money wisely. This gives school leaders guidance and parents the confidence that their children are being helped.

“The real question raised by the report is the strain that school budgets are under. NAHT’s Breaking Point report last November showed the extent to which some schools are struggling to make ends meet, with nearly two-thirds of school leaders making significant cuts or dipping into reserves to stave off deficits.”

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