Pupil Premium: A headteachers guide

Paul Main

What is pupil premium for and how can it be used wisely to really narrow the attainment gap?

What is the pupil premium?

The Pupil Premium Grant is a scheme offered by the government to reduce the attainment gap for disadvantaged children in state-funded government schools in the United Kingdom. The PP Grant was launched in 2011, in response to the declarations made by various research papers which revealed that:

  • Disadvantaged students face more difficulties in achieving their academic potential at school; and
  • Disadvantaged students mostly do not perform as well in education as their peers.

This source of funding is a government initiative designed to improve educational outcomes for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. The aim of Pupil Premium is to ensure that every child receives a fair start in life and reaches their full potential. To achieve this goal, the Government provides additional funding to schools serving pupils from poorer families. This extra cash helps teachers to give these children extra support throughout their school career. This includes providing them with specialist teaching staff, better resources, and improved facilities. Pupil Premium is available to primary schools across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. To find out more visit www.pupilpremium.gov.uk.

The pupil premium is given to enable disadvantaged students to be supported to achieve their potential and have opportunities and experiences to support this. Although the state allocates this additional school funding, school leaders are responsible for using and distributing this additional funding after checking the students' eligibility for pupil premium funding in their schools. They may use all of the grants on to school or save some for funding activities to benefit any specific group, or all, of the looked after children in the school.

This targeted financial support can be used in a range of different ways within an education setting. The family circumstances can often be complex and schools need to provide unique support and provision for pupils entitled to this funding stream. The educational benefit depends upon how the extra funding is used. Organisations like the education endowment foundation provide guidance on where to focus provision. The Department for education also provides guidance but ultimately it is the school that makes the decision about the type and quality of provision.

Who can access pupil premium funding?

The pupil premium funding is distributed on basis of the number of students who are registered in the following categories (correct in 2021):

  1. Free School Meals: The government allocates £1345 for all the primary school pupils eligible to receive free school meals in the last 6 years, specified as the Ever 6 FSM.

The government allocates £955 for each secondary school child eligible to receive free school meals in the last 6 years, also specified as the Ever 6 FSM.

  1. Currently and Previously Looked-After Students: The state has allocated £2345 for both secondary and primary school students, who are, provided with accommodation, or, are currently cared for by the English local authority.

The state has allocated £2345 for each of the secondary or primary school eligible children who were previously under the care of local authority through adoption, through child arrangements order or special guardianship order.

Narrow the gap by adopting inclusive practice
Narrow the gap by adopting inclusive practice

Which school are eligible to receive pupil premium?

The publicly funded schools of the United Kingdom are eligible to receive pupil premium grants, mainly including:

  1. Voluntary-aided-schools;
  2. Non-maintained special schools;
  3. Local authority-maintained schools; and
  4. Academies and free schools.

How is the pupil premium used by the schools?

The government contends that schools leaders are the best to know the needs and annual income of their students' families. Hence, school leaders, mainly including, the Senior Leadership Team (SLT),  how to use the pupil premium grant in their schools.

As suggested by the Education Endowment Foundation, several school leaders acquire a three-tier strategy to the pupil premium funding which divides the grant into three categories:

  1. Academic Support: Schools may use the funding to provide additional academic support for students. For example, they may use the pupil premium to pay for one-to-one teacher support in the core subjects, to recruit additional teaching assistants for small group tuition, and to invest in additional intervention sessions such as speech and language therapy.
  2. Teaching: The Education Endowment Foundation encourages to invest in the professional development of educators and other educational staff to improve the education outcomes for students. The pupil premium can be used to organize professional development sessions and, to provide training for staff in their early career in education.
  3. Wider Educational Support: Alongside the educational support, students may face non-academic issues in the school. The pupil premium grant may also be utilized to resolve these issues that may relate, for example, issues with attendance or social, cultural, emotional and mental health issues. Also, the pupil premium fund may be used to fund educational trips, students counselling, transport, students catch-up sessions, school breakfast clubs, and extracurricular activities. The school breakfast club has also become a popular option. School pupil premium funding certainly has a wide remit and school staff are advised to seek advice before deciding how their allocations at school are invested.

Although some publicly-funded schools decide to use their model, the main objective to close the attainment gap remains at the top. State-funded schools often explore intervention strategies as a way of scaffolding learning for the most disadvantaged. Suitable intervention strategies might include the adoption of the Universal Thinking Framework that makes learning more accessible to everyone. This type of inclusive practice means that all pupils, regardless of family income, can access education.

Help disadvantaged children access the curriculum
Help disadvantaged children access the curriculum with our framework

How are schools held responsible for using the pupil premium?

Schools are required to maintain transparency by indicating how they are using the pupil premium funding. Some of the most important ways include:

  1. Online statement: The educational institutions, that are receiving the pupil premium fund, is expected to publish a strategy statement. Their online statement must be updated at least once a year, beginning from the late autumn term.
  2. Performance tables: Schools may disclose their performance tables to show their pupil premium strategy outcomes.
  3. Ofsted inspections: Schools may be asked to reveal their strategy to the inspector. They may be required to show examples, to prove the effectiveness of their strategy. One of the most cited questions inspectors are asking in 2022 is how are you supporting your disadvantaged pupils? Whether a teacher is delivering a music lesson or English lesson, they must be able to demonstrate how they are promoting educational attainment within the 'bottom 20%'.

What is Service pupil premium (SPP)?

The service pupil premium is also another kind of extra funding for schools, but it does not depend upon the disadvantage. The service pupil premium is added into pupil premium grants to allow schools to manage their spending more conveniently.

Schools are expected to receive £310 in 2021- 2022 and £320 in 2022 - 2023 for students:

The main purpose of Service children premium is to provide disadvantaged pupils with pastoral care.

Make learning visible and easier to access
Make learning visible and easier to access

How can Non-eligible students benefit from pupil premium grants?

Schools may spend pupil premium money to benefit non-eligible pupils. Schools can utilize their grant where ever they have the greatest need. For instance, pupil premium might be spent on those students who do not fulfil school meal criteria but:

  • act as a carer;
  • are children in care, who currently have or had a social worker in the past.

Spending Pupil Premium payments for improving teaching quality is the most useful way to benefit disadvantaged pupils under special guardianship. In this way, schools might inevitably help non- eligible pupils too.

How can academically able pupils benefit from pupil premium funding?

The state does not allocate pupil premium grants on basis of children's academic success in school. Local authorities and schools are provided with the funding according to the total number of disadvantaged pupils who are eligible for special guardianship.

It is because academically able students of low income families are at extreme risk of under-performance. Children eligible to receive pupil premium are the children from families in need, and they deserve just as much attention as less academically able students.

The pupil premium grant is a state initiative to provide additional funding to disadvantaged pupils, to reduce the inequalities between children. Research shows that children belonging to low income families normally face more challenges in achieving their potential and mostly, they do not perform as well in education as other students. The pupil premium enables these children to be supported to attain their potential and have opportunities and experiences to support this.

Using Writer's Block to help children access the curriculum
Using Writer's Block to help children access the curriculum