Over the last few years there has been much emphasis placed on closing the socio-economic gaps in attainment between pupils who are eligible for free school meals and hence receive additional support through the Pupil Premium Grant and those who do not. This is a laudable policy ambition and is worthy of concentrated effort by all of us involved in educating children and young people. However, as with anything, the issues surrounding the closing of the attainment gaps are much more complex than just socio-economic deprivation. In his ground breaking report for Ofsted in 2000 entitled ‘Educational inequality: mapping race, class and gender. A synthesis of research evidence’ Professor David Gillborn showed how these three characteristics impacted on outcomes for different groups of pupils.
Bill Bolloten, Sameena Choudry and Robin Richardson
This article has been republished from LeftCentral. It is also available to read on IPP
The pupil premium grant (PPG) is a flagship government scheme for schools. Next week it will be praised and celebrated at the 2013 pupil premium awards ceremony organised in partnership with the Department for Education (DfE).
An independent panel of experts has judged which schools have best used the PPG to make a real difference to the attainment of disadvantaged pupils.
However, almost two-thirds of the 48 schools that have been named as regional winners or commended for the awards ceremony have so far failed to comply fully with regulations relating to accountability. Also, about four-fifths of them appear to have ignored or misunderstood the regulations concerning accountability in the Equality Act 2010.
‘Take it and use it as you think fit. But …’
‘Take it, said Nick Clegg in 2011 when introducing the new grant to headteachers, ‘and use it as you see fit.’ He added a stern warning: ‘But know that you will be held accountable for what you achieve.’ The basic principle he was expressing – local freedom combined with public accountability – is central in the coalition government’s public discourse across a wide range of public policy.
In the case of the PPG, there are three main ways in which school leaders are held accountable for the decisions they make: a) through the performance tables which show the performance of disadvantaged pupils compared with their peers; b) through the Ofsted inspection framework, under which inspectors focus on the attainment of various pupil groups, including in particular those which attract the pupil premium; and c) the requirement to publish online information about the pupil premium for parents and others.
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has noted with approval that the UK government requires schools to report to parents on how they have used additional money to close gaps in attainment connected with poverty and economic disadvantage.
How schools present the information in their online statement for parents is a matter for each school to decide for itself. There is certain minimum key information, however, which must by law be included on a school’s website. The amended school information regulations relating to this came into force in September 2012. Yet, as of June 2013, it appears that only a third of schools in receipt of the grant are fully complying with it.
Monies previously allocated to other priorities have been redirected since 2010 towards children from low-income households, defined for the purposes of allocating the grant as those who are eligible for free school meals, or who have been eligible at any time in the last six years, and whose parents or carers have registered for free meals (though they may not have actually claimed them). Schools also receive funding for children who have been looked after continuously for more than six months, and for children of service personnel.
In the last financial year the grant was £623 per pupil. Since April 2013 it has been £900 per pupil. For children of service personnel it is £300. The grant does not have to be spent only on pupils who are eligible for free school meals. Its use must, however, be directed towards reducing or closing gaps in attainment connected with poverty and economic disadvantage. The total annual funding will be £2.5 billion by 2015. In his spending review announcement on 26 June 2013 Chancellor George Osborne pledged that the grant will continue in real terms – ‘so every poor child will have more cash spent on their future than ever before’.
In order that schools can be accountable to parents and others, they are required to publish on their website 1) their PPG allocation in respect of the current academic year, 2) details of how it is intended the allocation will be spent, 3) details of how the previous academic year’s allocation was spent, and 4) the impact of this expenditure on the educational attainment of pupils at the school in respect of whom the grant funding was allocated.
Study of 48 shortlisted schools
In June 2013 a study was made of the websites of the 48 schools –16 secondary, 25 primary, 7 special – that are regional winners or commended in the pupil premium awards scheme. Schools were judged in this study to be fully compliant with the statutory school information regulations if they had published all four of the required pieces of information; partially compliant if they had published at least three; and non-compliant of they had published no more than two, or had published nothing at all. Schools applied for the award on the basis of criteria that did not mention the requirement to publish information for parents.
The picture relating to the 48 schools shortlisted in the PPG awards is shown in Table 1 below.
The Equality Act 2010
Principles of transparency and accountability determine not only how the pupil premium grant operates but also how public bodies are required to show due regard for the aims of the Equality Act. Under the Act’s specific duties, schools must a) publish information that demonstrates adequately an awareness of the diversity of the school population and how have had due regard for the aims of the Act, and b) prepare and publish at least one specific and measurable equality objective. To count as specific, an objective should state the outcome that the school aims to achieve. To count as measurable, the desired outcome must be quantifiable so that parents and the community can assess whether the school has been successful.
In order to determine their compliance with the accountability rules in the Equality Act, a study was made in June 2013 of the websites of the 48 schools featured in the pupil premium awards scheme. A school was judged to be fully compliant if it had published relevant information and at least one specific and measurable equality objective. It was judged to be partially compliant if it had published either equality information or measurable equality objectives, but not both, or if it was clearly aware of the duties even if it did not appear to have understood them. It was found that almost three-quarters of the schools shortlisted for the pupil premium awards (35 out of 48) failed to comply at all with the requirement to publish equality information and objectives. Less than one in six of them complied fully.
The overall picture is shown in Table 2.
The 48 schools whose websites were studied for this article are probably all making good use of the pupil premium grant, and the judges who selected them for special praise have made good decisions. It is surely surprising, however, that so many have not complied with regulations relating to accountability.
The principal reasons for non-compliance appear to lie in the failure of the government to provide adequate advice, guidance, challenge and support. Most of the schools which are non-compliant are probably unaware of the regulations and requirements, for the government has been generally light-touch in its publicity about them. Prior to 2010 schools would have received advice and support in relation to a project such as the pupil premium grant from their local authority. There would have been training and professional development opportunities, exchange of information about relevant research findings, and – crucially – much collaboration and joint reflection within local clusters and families of schools. Local networking along such lines is now much more problematic. It continues, however, to be an urgent necessity, and is a matter which requires the government’s attention.
Guidance, research and commentaries on the pupil premium grant have recently been published by, amongst others, the Sutton Trust, the Institute for Public Policy Research, the Department for Education and the Young Foundation. These reviews are much more substantial than the small-scale survey reported in this article. Their recurring conclusion, however, is that schools need more advice, training and challenge than they have so far received. Understandably and rightly the government does not wish to micro-manage what happens in schools. It nevertheless has a responsibility to ensure that good practice is widely shared. With the declining capacity and influence of local authorities, this responsibility is of urgent importance.
At the same time, the government needs to lead consideration of the links, connections and similarities between economic inequality and other forms of inequality, particularly those which are highlighted in the Equality Act. Each pupil stands at the intersection of several different strands of equality and inequality. For example, every child from a low-income household not only has a socio-economic location affected by poverty but also is a boy or a girl and has an identity in terms of ethnicity; many have special educational needs amounting to a disability; many have a religious identity which is important to them; all have a sexual identity. Some of a child’s educational needs cannot be appropriately met without reference to distinctive aspects of their experience, identity and reality – they are not ‘all the same’. One universal size does not fit them all.
Schools should therefore be encouraged both to explore intersectionality in their use of the premium grant and to pay due regard to economic disadvantage in their responses to the Equality Act. This is especially crucial in view of the fact that low income frequently intersects with the issues named in the Equality Act, particularly in relation to ethnicity, religion and disability. Overall, about 18 per cent of all young people are eligible for free school meals and therefore for the pupil premium grant. But for white pupils the proportion is slightly smaller, 16 per cent, whilst for certain others it is considerably higher. For children with special educational needs it is twice as high as for other children.
‘It is unacceptable,’ said the coalition government when it came to power in 2010, ‘for educational attainment to be affected by gender, disability, race, social class, sexual orientation or any other factor unrelated to ability. Every child deserves a good education and every child should achieve high standards. It is a unique sadness of our times that we have one of the most stratified and segregated school systems in the world …’ Such ideals and concerns sound like empty rhetoric if schools do not comply with rules of accountability.
Bill Bolloten tweets at @SchoolEquality and Robin Richardson at @Instedconsult.
There is further information at www.insted.co.uk (Robin Richardson).
14 High Street, Wembley, Middlesex HA9 8DD
Press release, 3 July 2013
THE PUPIL PREMIUM –
GREATER ACCOUNTABILITY NEEDED
DO YOU HAVE A PUPIL PREMIUM POLICY? IF NOT, YOU CAN GET A FREE MODEL PUPIL PREMIUM POLICY TEMPLATE AND GUIDANCE FOR SCHOOLS, COURTESY OF EQUITABLE EDUCATION.
Equitable Education has produced a Model Pupil Premium Policy Template and accompanying guidance for schools to use. Both are available free for schools to download from the Guardian Teacher Network. Click here for the Model Policy Template and here for the accompanying guidance.
The Pupil Premium Policy and guidance have been written to support schools to produce a policy of their own. The policy enables all colleagues in a school community to be clear as to how this additional funding is to be used to reduce inequalities, what their role is in narrowing the gaps for disadvantaged pupils and how the school will demonstrate impact. The supporting guidance assists schools in tailoring the policy to meet the needs of their particular pupils. It also pulls all the latest research and tools they can use together in one place for ease of use saving time and effort.
The Pupil Premium Policy Template on the Guardian Teacher Network is a PDF. Should schools require a Word version to make it easier for them to produce their own, this is available on request from Equitable Education on firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy.
Equitable Education provides workshops for schools and their governing bodies to facilitate the production of their own Pupil Premium Policy, using all the latest evidence based research of ‘what works’ and evaluation tools that are available to use. We can support you in personalising the workshop, so that it is tailor made to meet the particular needs of your pupils eligible for free schools meals. Please get in contact with Sameena Choudry on email@example.com to discuss the needs of your school and how we can support you in ensuring maximum impact in using your Pupil Premium effectively in narrowing the gaps for your disadvantaged pupils.
For further information on the Pupil Premium and what you as a school needs to meet the Ofsted and Pupil Premium Grant requirements, please read the blog posting below.
WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS OF SCHOOLS REGARDING THE USE OF THE PUPIL PREMIUM AND HOW ARE THEY HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR ITS USE?
Many schools are receiving additional funding for their pupils who are eligible for free schools meals through the Pupil Premium Grant. This is also given for children who have been looked after for more than six months and children of service personnel. The purpose of the Pupil Premium is to reduce the inequalities in educational attainment that currently exist between disadvantaged pupils and their more affluent peers.
The Pupil Premium Grant is not ring-fenced by the DfE and schools have freedom to use the Pupil Premium as they see fit, based upon their knowledge of their pupil needs.
‘It is for schools to decide how the Pupil Premium, allocated to schools per FSM pupil, is spent, since they are best placed to assess what additional provision should be made for the individual pupils within their responsibility.’ DfE
As a school in receipt of Pupil Premium funding, you are accountable to your parents and school community for how you are using this additional resource to narrow the achievement gaps of your pupils. New measures have been included in the performance tables published annually on a national level. They capture the achievement of disadvantaged pupils covered by the Pupil Premium.
Under The School Information (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2012, Schedule 4 there is specified information which has to be to be published on a school’s website.
Section 9 of this regulation requires schools to publish:
‘The amount of the school’s allocation from the Pupil Premium grant in respect of the current academic year; details of how it is intended that the allocation will be spent; details of how the previous academic year’s allocation was spent, and the effect of this expenditure on the educational attainment of those pupils at the school in respect of whom grant funding was allocated’.
In addition, under the Ofsted Inspection Framework 2012, there is a stronger focus on improving the learning and progress of different groups and on narrowing gaps in standards. As a result, Ofsted carefully scrutinises the use of the Pupil Premium and the impact this is having on narrowing the gaps. Please note that this permeates across all four areas of the new Ofsted framework and your governing body has an important role in monitoring the use of the Pupil Premium and accounting for its effectiveness.
Equitable Education has produced a free Model Pupil Premium Policy Template for schools to use, with accompanying guidance. Both documents are available from the Guardian Teacher Network and can be downloaded here.
Equitable Education can provide workshops for your school and your governing body on the Pupil Premium. this which will be tailor made to meet the specific needs of your pupils eligible for free school meals. These workshops will also take you through the latest evidence based research of ‘what works’ and evaluation tools to ensure that members of your school community know how to narrow the gaps and can demonstrate impact. Please feel free to get in touch with Sameena Choudry on firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your school needs. We can also provide you with a Word version of the two documents produced by Equitable Education. These are available by e-mail from email@example.com
We look forward to hearing from you.
Many of you will be aware that the Pupil Premium is an additional amount of money given on an individual basis to schools for pupils eligible for free school meals (FSM) and for pupils in care who have been continuously looked after for six months. This year the amount has increased from £488 given last year to £600 and it will continue to increase in future years. The DfE also made an announcement in November 2012 that secondary schools “will receive an additional premium of £500 for each Year 7 pupil who has not achieved at least level 4 in reading and/or maths (maximum £500 per pupil) at Key Stage 2. The premium will be available to all state-funded schools with a Year 7 cohort, including PRUs and special schools”.
It is worth remembering that pupils eligible for free school meals (FSM) covers a wide range of pupils, with many, especially pupils with SEND and some minority ethnic pupils having higher rates of eligibility for FSM. Therefore, schools should consider how this valuable resource can be used the most effectively when considering the multiple needs or intersectionality of pupils who come under the category of being eligible for free school meals. The DfE has provided evidence and guidance notes to schools to assist them in the use of the Pupil Premium. These are available here. The DfE has also provided additional guidance for the use of the Year 7 Pupil Premium for pupils who did not achieve a level 4 in reading and/or maths at Key stage 2 “. This is available here.
Just a reminder that although the pupil premium is not ring-fenced, schools are expected to publish on-line though their school website details of how much Pupil Premium they have been allocated, how they plan to use it in the current year along with an account of how last year’s was spent. Most schools have included this information on their websites. What is less evident is the impact the Pupil Premium has had on the educational attainment of eligible pupils. It is also worth noting that schools are expected to publish this information on a school academic year rather than the financial year in which it is allocated, so it will require some calculation of amounts of funding per academic year.
If schools require any information on the points raised in this post or on how they can use the Pupil Premium most effectively to ensure impact on attainment based on the needs of eligible pupils in their schools, please contact Equitable Education on firstname.lastname@example.org
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