Pupil Premium funding is a key part of a school’s yearly budget – intended to be used (and increasingly monitored to make sure of this) to measurably and positively impact pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.
This comprehensive guide provides SLT, governors and others with information on every aspect of Pupil Premium – what it is, how much is provided per student, and how to make the best use of it.
What Is The Pupil Premium?
Pupil Premium funding is a per-child grant given to around a quarter of all pupils in England in order to reduce the gap in academic attainment between disadvantaged children and their peers. It was introduced by the Department for Education in 2011 in recognition of research showing that children from low-income backgrounds perform less well at school than others.
A similar scheme, the Pupil Deprivation Grant, was introduced the following year in Wales. While many poorer pupils are high achievers, statistically there are groups of children that face additional challenges and the Pupil Premium is awarded in recognition that these may impact on their achievements.
For some, this barrier is primarily one of low income, so the funding is given to pupils from poorer households. While all pupils in England and Wales receive Free School Meals (FSM) in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2, in most areas there are qualifications for this benefit in Year 3 and beyond.
These include families where parents receive income support, income-based Jobseekers Allowance and Universal Credit. Any pupil who receives FSM, or has done so in the last six years, qualifies for Pupil Premium funding.
For others, the barrier can come from above-average levels of upheaval, specifically children of those in the armed forces who may have to move more often. A smaller, Service Pupil Premium of £300 is attached to each service child.
While this explains the basics of the Pupil Premium, its uses and applications are as varied as the pupils who are eligible to receive it.
How Much Is Pupil Premium?
For 2019/20, Pupil Premium grants have been set at a range of levels depending on the age of the children. The eligibility for the basic levels of Pupil Premium is known as Ever 6 Free School Meals (FSM) to include pupils who are known to be eligible for FSM at any point since May 2012. For further details of current and previous levels of funding, see our blog on Pupil Premium Funding For Early Years, Primary and Secondary from 2016 to 2020.
Early Years Pupil Premium
This additional funding is for pre-school children to improve their education in settings (such as nurseries, schools and childminders) that offer children the free early years entitlement. It is currently set at £302 per child and can be used for interventions such a speech and language therapy. It is given to 3 and 4-year-olds who are living in England and have left care under an adoption order or a special guardianship order, or their parent/carer is in receipt of one of the qualifying benefits (such as Universal Credit or Jobseekers Allowance).
Primary School Pupil Premium
This is currently set at £1,320 for disadvantaged pupils in primary (from Reception to Year 6).
Secondary School Pupil Premium
Schools receive £935 for every secondary school pupil eligible for the Pupil Premium.
What Is Pupil Premium Plus?
Research shows that one group above all others faces particular challenges to educational achievement: children who have either been adopted from a Welsh or English Local Authority Care or who are still in the care system (otherwise known as looked-after or previously looked-after children). This group also includes those pupils who have left care under a Special Guardianship Order or a Child Arrangements Order (previously known as a Residence Order).
They are more likely to suffer disruption to their education as well as to have complex social or emotional needs, alongside other Special Educational Needs. This has a marked effect on their outcomes – for example, in 2017, 32% achieved the expected level of reading, writing and maths at the end of Key Stage 2, in comparison to the national average of 61%.
In an attempt to improve the outcomes of this group, a higher level of funding of £2,300 is attached to these pupils.
The Attainment Gap – Why We Need Pupil Premium
The attainment gap is the difference in academic outcomes between disadvantaged children and those from less impoverished backgrounds. It’s stubbornly persistent and difficult to minimise. In fact, one study indicates that at current rates, it will take 50 years to close. The gap begins in early years and is already evident when children enter Reception.
Of course, disadvantaged pupils aren’t one homogenous low-achieving mass, but all the research shows that across ethnic groups, there’s a correlation between deprivation and lower levels of achievement. Poorer high achievers in primary school are far less likely than their peers to achieve top GSCE grades; on average, they are two years behind their wealthier peers.
There has been progress in primary schools, with the gap in achieving a good Key Stage 2 pass in maths and English forecast to reduce from 24 percentage points to 21.5 by 2021. However, 2019 GSCE results show that progress in closing the gap has come to a standstill in secondary. For the first time since 2011, it actually widened
The reasons for this gap are various and cannot be solved by schools alone, but this extra funding is designed to put policies into place to close it by supporting Pupil Premium students in the classroom. The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) has not found a direct correlation between increased school funding and increased pupil attainment, what matters is how schools effectively manage these additional funds.
What’s more, the attainment gap cuts across all types of Ofsted ratings, from the Outstanding schools to those deemed Inadequate. It is an area that Ofsted is increasingly looking at when making its judgments, as we explain below. Equally, a school could be topping performance tables but still have a larger than average gap.
What Can Pupil Premium Be Spent On?
Effective ways of spending Pupil Premium funds vary across the country and the ages of pupils. The extra money should not go into filling general funding gaps in schools, but should be targeted to make real, measurable improvements to those children in receipt of the funds. Of course, it’s great if they end up helping all pupils but this is not the main goal. All schools have to report on how they have spent the money and to provide evidence of what works.
One great benefit of schools having to report on how they are spending Pupil Premium funding is the sharing of ideas of what has been shown to work.
The best ways that schools have used their funding are imaginative and tailored to the needs of their pupils. For some, attendance, or lack of it, is the biggest barrier to learning. Some solutions for this include fully funded breakfast clubs, early interventions such as phone calls to parents and carers on the first day of absence, and a system of rewards to encourage school attendance. Even something as simple as giving children an alarm clock can be key to helping them to get to school on time.
Interventions can be less literal than extra maths or spelling sessions. Children in receipt of Pupil Premium are far more likely to have social and emotional difficulties – perhaps as a result of extra caring responsibilities, parents with mental health issues or just the strain that worrying about money causes within homes.
Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) programmes can not only help children deal with these difficulties but can positively influence their academic learning. Strategies to raise children’s self-awareness, self-management and social awareness can be taught in tailored classes or as part of whole-class learning. Games such as charades where children have to guess what feeling is being acted or discussions around story books can help with this.
Pupil Premium And Cultural Capital
One of the areas in which disadvantaged young people can suffer is in what’s known as ‘Cultural Capital’ (a knowledge of the way that society works that can be encouraged by parents with such things as museum visits and discussions at family mealtimes).
The Brilliant Club is a charity that encourages children from underrepresented groups to attend highly selective universities, born of the fact that while 1 in 4 of the most advantaged quintile goes to highly selective university, only 1 in 50 of most disadvantaged quintile does. They do this through trips to visit institutions, additional lessons and activities, and a mock graduation ceremony.
Other elements of cultural capital can be encouraged through funded Duke of Edinburgh awards or other paid-for residential or language trips.
Some schools recognise that they are only one part of a child’s life and use funds to help parents support their children. This can take the form of increasing parental engagement with workshops to help literacy or IT skills or contract-style pages to involve parents in conversations about education.
Pupil Premium Best Practice
All the research suggests that it’s not how much additional funding but how it’s used. Effective use of Pupil Premium can be difficult to measure, with some interventions leading to immediate effects, while others have a longer-term, more subjective outcome.
With the help of Sir John Dunford, the former National Pupil Premium Champion, Third Space has compiled a list of 45 Pupil Premium Strategies (linked below). These range from high-cost and highly targeted interventions to low-cost but similarly successful solutions.
Worst practice, everyone agrees, is to use it to plug the gaps in school funding more generally, which is why Pupil Premium spending has to be transparent and targeted.
Schools that successfully utilised the additional funding were good at collecting data on both groups and individuals and monitoring these results over time. The impact of any current strategies was monitored and those that were not working, are adapted or replaced.
Heads and teachers were also effective in identifying the main barriers to learning in disadvantaged children and quick to intervene when progress stalled. They were also able to use existing evidence to judge the effectiveness of different strategies and train the staff to use them as well as ensuring that governors understood the Premium.
Above all else, high-quality teaching is key. The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), a charity working with the social-mobility charity The Sutton Trust to raise attainment for those from low-income families, calls good teaching ‘the most important lever schools have to improve outcomes for disadvantaged pupils’.
Of course, achieving this is challenging. But with support from senior leaders, specific courses and other forms of continuous professional development and encouragement, all teachers can improve.
There is now a wealth of documented experience and research on the most effective use of Pupil Premium. Heads, teachers and governors who keep up to date and apply this knowledge to the specific needs of their schools will be the ones most likely to close the attainment gap.
Looking for a maths intervention proven to accelerate progress for pupils in receipt of Pupil Premium?
Third Space Learning’s maths and KS2 SATs interventions enable pupils to make an average of seven months’ progress in just 14 weeks – double expected progress with schoolwork alone.
Not only do we use an initial Maths Level Test to assess pupils’ specific needs and personalise lessons to them, we regularly analyse pupil responses and feedback to improve these lessons further.
54,519 pupils have already benefited from our high quality maths interventions, and over 50% of them have been in receipt of Pupil Premium.
To judge for yourself whether Third Space could help your school, call 0203 771 0095, or book a free demo today!
Successful Pupil Premium Strategies
The reporting of Pupil Premium Funding means that there is lots of evidence from other schools about tried-and-tested Pupil Premium strategies.
Some of the general Pupil Premium strategies already being put into place include analysing Pupil Premium learners in order to gather information about the ways they like to learn and what their interests might be, in order to marry what goes on in the classroom with what goes on outside.
Teachers need to know who their pupils are so that thought can be given as to where they sit and who they sit next to. In general, pupils respond better to positive behaviour policies so thought should be given to the carrot rather than the stick. Think about any practical barriers to learning – be it not having enough breakfast or not having the right equipment.
In short, successful pupil premium strategies can reflect high-quality teaching more generally. Understanding the learning habits and behaviours of all pupils makes for better teaching, but evidence suggests that those from disadvantaged backgrounds are even more reliant on good teaching to achieve academically.
Pupil Premium Interventions
A range of interventions ranked by their cost and efficacy have been examined by the Education Endowment Fund (EEF) and collated into a toolkit for schools and teachers.
Using the evidence produced by the EEF, we’ve compiled a document outlining the best low-cost interventions that every primary can use as well as revealing the ones that have been shown to have little or even a negative effect.
Below is a short list; read Ten Low-Cost Pupil Premium Intervention Ideas to get the full details, as well as what to avoid.
3. Reading Comprehension
4. Mastery-based Learning
5. Collaborative Learning
6. Oral Language Interventions
7. Peer Tutoring
9. Within-class Attainment Grouping
10. Individualised Instructions
The Third Space Learning Guide to Effective 1-to-1 Interventions
Thinking of running some interventions yourself? Download our Guide to 1-to-1 Interventions for some advice on making them as effective as possible!
Education Endowment Fund Pupil Premium Report
The Education Endowment Foundation have collated their findings about effective use of Pupil Premium funding into a recently published report.
The report finds cause for optimism in the fact that the attainment gap in both primary and secondary schools has closed since the introduction of the Pupil Premium, both due to the extra funding, but also the additional focus that the policy has brought to disadvantaged students. They identify a few key areas that make the difference.
Great teaching and careful planning is key, aided by looking at the evidence provided by schools facing similar challenges. Quality teaching, as ever, is paramount as well as recognising that the needs of middle and high-achieving disadvantaged pupils also need to be met.
While a scattergun approach has its appeal, the most successful schools concentrate on fewer but rigorously implemented interventions.
EEF Report On Maths
The EEF has also produced an investigation around strategies to close the attainment gap in maths in Key Stages 2 and 3.
These can be summarised as eight key points. They recommend that teachers use assessment to gain knowledge of what pupils do and do not know and to build on this. Manipulatives and representations, in other words objects that are designed to represent mathematical concepts and can be felt and manipulated by pupils, are effective in all levels of maths learning (such as Cuisinaire or Numicon).
The report also outlines different methods of enabling and embedding problem-solving knowledge as well as encouraging pupils to seek connections between the different areas of their maths knowledge.
The ability to flourish in maths depends on pupils’ independence and motivation to do well and the report suggest various strategies to encourage this. The effective implementation of tasks will lead to tham having maximum impact.
The report recognises that while schools need to focus on improving core provision for all pupils, some children require additional support. This includes some proven catch-up interventions.
Lastly, the need to support pupils in the transition from primary to secondary-school maths is emphasised.
Ofsted & Pupil Premium
The attainment gap exists in all schools, whether Ofsted Outstanding or Inadequate. The watchdog recognises this and is including effective use of Pupil Premium as part of its accountability process. In other words, schools will be judged by inspectors on the evidence that they can show to prove that disadvantage pupils are progressing.
Ofsted will be looking for high awareness of the Pupil Premium fund from both school leaders and governors. This awareness should be backed by regular data collection and analysis to show how the money is spent and what impact it is having on pupils’ outcomes – though inspectors will not ask for an itemised list of pupil premium spending from schools.
A particular concern of Ofsted is that schools should not lump all eligible pupils into one group of low achievers. They will be looking for evidence that the varying needs of the eligible pupils are taken into account, be they high, middle or low-achieving. Any school that shows low expectations for their disadvantaged pupils will be negatively judged.
To find out more, read our blog on Ofsted & Pupil Premium Accountability
Pupil Premium Awards
In 2011, soon after the introduction of the funding policy, the D of E established the Pupil Premium Awards, an annual ceremony recognising schools that have demonstrated the most effective use of the funding for their eligible pupils.
Our article Pupil Premium Awards: What a Winning School Looks Like reveals the secrets of Pakeman Primary – one of the award-winning schools – and how they make the funding work for their pupils.
The Most Effective Pupil Premium Strategies
Third Space has examined strategies across the country to compile a list of the ones that have been shown to be most effective. Many of these come from the Education Endowment Fund toolkit, which neatly summarises the costs associated with different strategies as well as how many months’ progress they typically produce.
As Ofsted continue to increase their scrutiny around whether schools are making good use of their Pupil Premium grants, knowing which strategies are viable and which are becoming ineffective becomes more and more important.
To find out more, read 45 Pupil Premium Strategies For Cost-Effective Impact