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Ofsted Pupil Premium Accountability 2023: Guidance For Schools

Ofsted’s focus on Pupil Premium spending is inevitable come inspection time. While judgments are based on more than just the Pupil Premium, as part of the new Ofsted Education Inspection Framework (EIF), inspectors will want to see that the funding is being spent on effective strategies and initiatives and that the school’s leadership is monitoring and managing this well.

Clearly it’s having an impact; several previously outstanding schools have suffered downgrades because inspectors felt their Pupil Premium grant was ineffectively used. 

But it can be difficult to know exactly what it is Ofsted is looking for, and how you should be planning and preparing. There are patterns to follow and steps to take though, and this blog discusses the ones most likely to really make a difference at your next Ofsted inspection. 

While this article focuses just on the guidance from Ofsted, it’s also worth referring to our complete school leaders’ guide to Pupil Premium, as well as the most successful pupil premium strategies used by schools across the UK including John Dunford’s recommendations. We’ve also got our pick of the top low cost pupil premium intervention ideas.

See also:

Pupil Premium: Ofsted’s Advice

There are four key recommendations for the use of Pupil Premium funding in the Ofsted accountability process. Full details can be found in the school inspection handbook here, but these four can be summarised as follows:

  1. Schools will need to detail their strategy for narrowing the attainment gap on their website.
  2. They will be able to give inspectors information about the level of additional funding received across each year.
  3. They will then be able to detail how it is spent and how these spending decisions were made.
  4. Lastly their outcomes data should clearly demonstrate any differences made to the learning and progress of eligible pupils.

In short, they need to show clearly how much was spent, what it was spent on, and with what results.

Governors will be expected to show that they are aware of the importance of this spending and have robustly questioned how senior leadership are dealing with any variations in achievement between different groups.

Ofsted will make judgments of how effectively the governing body is doing this and it may ultimately affect what grade inspectors give for leadership and management – and so the overall grade given.

Ofsted & Pupil Premium 2023: Essential Documents And Research To Know About

As well as referring to the EIF, all school leaders should also be aware of the recent publications from the DfE and the Education Endowment Foundation on Pupil Premium Spending.

Policy Paper On Pupil Premium (DfE), February 2022

This provides you with the policy impetus behind the funding.

Pupil Premium: Effective Use And Accountability (DfE), December 2021

This contains information on how schools are held to account for their pupil premium spending and gives advice on what appropriate and inappropriate use of funding can look like: spending on non-academic outcomes such as attendance or mental health is welcomed.

The EEF Guide To The Pupil Premium (EEF), 2022

This document which is recommended by DfE outlines 5 key principles for Pupil Premium spending, namely:

  1. Schools can and do make the difference.
  2. Evidence informed teachers and leaders make better decisions and achieve better results from their pupil premium spending.
  3. High quality teaching is the most important lever schools have for improving outcomes for disadvantaged pupils, even as it benefits all in the classroom.
  4. Less is more when it comes to implementation: Selecting a small number of priorities and really focusing on them has a better chance of success than a long list that becomes hard to manage.
  5. Pupil Premium students are more likely to be low attaining than other children, but this is not true across the board. Tackling disadvantage can also mean supporting higher attainers to achieve at the same level as their peers.

Finally, the Ofsted report from surveys with 68 schools in 2012 is still relevant when looking at Ofsted’s recommendations and guidance for maximising achievement.

Plan Pupil Premium Spending Around The Needs Of Your School, Not For Ofsted

It can of course be difficult to gauge what good Pupil Premium spending looks like, because it is school, area, and pupil dependent. Heads and teachers need to balance how much an intervention costs, if it is short or long-term and what evidence there is for improved outcomes for disadvantaged pupils, as well as how they can provide specific evidence for its use in their own school.

While school leaders should always prioritise those policies that they think are right for their schools, heads will inevitably also be keeping an eye on what Ofsted might be looking for.

So as well as the points made above, what else can we glean about how inspectors will be judging your Pupil Premium spending for Ofsted. After all, from the new Ofsted Framework, and our research into Ofsted Deep Dives, we know they won’t be looking at the data, but you will still likely be needing it.

Key throughout is to show that those pupils in receipt of Pupil Premium are achieving well, that their attainment is improving and that the attainment gap is closing, or at the very least not widening.

Leadership With A Focus On Pupil Premium

While each school is different, both Ofsted and experts have identified some common traits to those that use the funding well and these are usually reflective of a good school in general. A strong governing body with a high awareness of the Pupil Premium and how it is spent is key.

pupil premium ofsted spending breakdown
An example of breaking down Pupil Premium spending, from St Eanswythes Primary School, Kent.

This might take the form of a designated ‘Pupil Premium champion’ on the board whose role is to oversee the spending and to increase awareness of it among fellow governors. This champion needs to question all Pupil Premium policies robustly and be prepared to challenge the senior leadership where necessary.

Similarly, a good Pupil Premium strategy is usually a reflection of good leadership more generally. Heads can appoint a member of their team to oversee the spending as well as making sure that they analyse the students’ data and performance consistently.

Gather And Analyse Data For Impact

The intelligent use of data is essential. It is not enough to know how many students there are in receipt of the funding, they need to be individually recognised and their particular needs identified.

This helps schools to avoid the assumption that all such pupils are low achieving. If a disadvantaged child is achieving well, then the funding is there to help them achieve even more highly.

Once data on pupils’ performance is produced it needs to be analysed in order to explore what might be a direct result of Pupil Premium spending. This requires regular reviews of impact, both internal and external.

This data is intended to improve school leaders’ knowledge of their Pupil Premium children and spending only – Ofsted inspectors will not ask for these records themselves.

Carefully Compare Pupils In Receipt Of Pupil Premium, And Avoid Stereotypes

Ofsted are particularly keen to check that schools are not underestimating or stereotyping disadvantaged students. The Ofsted School Inspections Handbook notes that inspectors will be investigating the extent to which leaders’ and managers’ high ambitions are for all pupils, including those who are harder to reach.

This includes ensuring that practices such as ‘off-rolling’ do not take place and that the way the school uses the Pupil Premium is founded on good evidence.’ It extends to any assumptions that ‘Pupil Premium’ is a synonym for special education needs, or that ‘free school meals’ has any negative connotations.

attainment gaps in england
A simple summary of the various attainment gaps, as researched by the EEF.

Schools need to compare the performance of disadvantaged pupils not to other eligible pupils nationally, but to all pupils, especially those within school, and adapt their Pupil Premium strategy accordingly.

For instance, in many London boroughs disadvantaged pupils perform significantly better than the national average across all pupils, reflecting the high benchmarks that have been set in some inner city areas. In fact, when looking for best practice, schools can do worse than look to London for ideas; of the top 25 areas doing best for narrowing the gap, 23 of them are boroughs in the capital.

Primary School Guide to the Pupil Premium

Primary School Guide to the Pupil Premium

Download our free guide to the Pupil Premium for easy access to all the information you could need!

Ofsted & Pupil Premium – What To Avoid

Low expectations of the Pupil Premium cohort is the principle issue from Ofsted’s perspective, but there are other elements of bad practice that will raise red flags.

These include:

  • Uses of Pupil Premium funding that have already been shown to be inefficient or even to have negative impacts e.g. repeat-a-year or setting and streaming strategies.
  • The indiscriminate use of funds on interventions that are both expensive and inefficient, such as using the money on teaching assistants whose performances are not managed well.
  • Indefinite one-to-one tuition and booster classes that do not relate to class training and are not audited are also an inefficient use of funds.

Third Space Learning Interventions – one-to-one tuition that stands up to Ofsted scrutiny

Subject interventions can have a considerable positive impact on pupil’s progress, but they can have little oversight and may approach topics not yet learnt or practised in classroom teaching. Not so with Third Space Learning.

Our primary maths and SATs interventions are carefully aligned to the national curriculum by our curriculum experts, and aim to build up pupils’ skills in more fundamental maths topics first, helping to plug any gaps they may have in their learning.

SATs lesson slide
An example revision slide from Third Space Learning’s online interventions. Here a SATs-style
question has been broken down to help build understanding.

We do this by having pupils take a maths diagnostic assessment before their first session, which lets us know where their specific needs are, to tailor lessons to better address these. With regular progress reports available, you’re always kept in the loop about how much progress they’re making.

As you can see, most of what Ofsted is looking for in terms of Pupil Premium accountability is well within your capacity to establish or modify. 

Given the wide variety of things to make ready or keep track of before an inspection, effective use of the Pupil Premium in your primary school can seem like an afterthought. But it’s a key part of what inspectors are looking at, and now you have the tools to make certain of it!

Read more: 

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Anantha Anilkumar
Anantha Anilkumar
Content Editor
As a member of the content team at Third Space Learning, Anantha helps to ensure that teachers everywhere can enjoy the blogs and resources created by the team. Before coming to TSL, Anantha worked as a teacher and a marketing analyst.
Primary School Guide to the Pupil Premium

Primary School Guide to the Pupil Premium

Download our free guide to the Pupil Premium for easy access to all the information you could need!

Download Now!

Primary School Guide to the Pupil Premium

Downloadable resource

Download our free guide to the Pupil Premium for easy access to all the information you could need!

Download Now!

The Ultimate Guide to Effective Maths Interventions [FREE]

Find out how to plan, manage, and teach one to one (and small group) maths interventions in primary and secondary schools.

Includes a 20 point checklist of techniques to improve your one to one teaching.

Download free