Pupil Premium helping to close attainment gap

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Schools are using the Pupil Premium more effectively than ever before, says Ofsted.

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The majority of schools are using the Pupil Premium effectively, says Ofsted

The inspectorate’s progress report on how well schools in England are using the Pupil Premium to raise the attainment of disadvantaged pupils, reveals that overall school leaders are demonstrating a strong commitment to closing the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged children by using targeted interventions.

The report is based on evidence from 151 inspections carried out between January 2013 and December 2013, a 'textual' review of 1,600 school inspections reports published between September 2013 and March 2014, and national performance data for 2013.

Pupil Premium funding is allocated to schools for children who are eligible for Free Schools Meals (FSM), looked after by the local authority or whose parents are currently serving in the armed forces. Schools currently receive £900 per primary pupil. This will rise to £1,300 in 2014/15.

Ofsted found that most schools are using the Pupil Premium to pay for additional teaching staff, ‘booster’ classes, reading support, ‘raising aspiration programmes’ and learning mentors. Other common uses of the funding include paying for after-school, weekend and holiday sessions. Spending is typically focused on English and maths.

According to the inspectorate, there is a strong association between a school’s overall effectiveness and the impact of the Pupil Premium.

Of the 151 schools sampled, the attainment gap between children on FSM and their peers was reducing in all of the 86 schools judged good or outstanding.  In 12 of these schools, the attainment gap had narrowed to virtually nothing, says the inspectorate.

However, the report also shows that weak leadership and governance remains an obstacle to narrowing the attainment gap in a minority of schools, particularly those judged as inadequate.

Ofsted’s chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw said, ‘One of the greatest challenges this country faces is closing the unacceptable gap that remains between poorer children and their better-off classmates when it comes to educational outcomes.

‘As chief inspector, I am passionate about improving the prospects of our least advantaged children so I am encouraged by the clear signs in today’s report that more effective spending and monitoring of the pupil premium is starting to make a positive difference in many schools.

‘The success of London illustrates vividly that poverty should not be an automatic predictor of failure and so the government needs to tackle those parts of the country like Barnsley where poorer children are still getting a raw deal.

‘Ofsted, for its part, will continue to focus relentlessly on how schools are using this money to ensure these pupils don’t get left behind.’

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) said,
'We welcome interventions that provide support for those children in most need. However, it is essential that money is well spent and that schools are able to call upon sound evidence and research to determine how it can make the best impact for those in need.
 
'We should not be fooled with thinking that the pupil premium alone will help. The government needs to give much more serious consideration into the effects of poverty on learning and the impact of its policies, which are forcing families into food banks.'

She also highlighted the wide variations of the achievement of poorer pupils in test and exams at Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 4 across local authority areas.

'In London, many boroughs have above average the numbers of pupils on free schools achieving five or more GCSEs, while eligible pupils are least likely to achieve this in Barnsley, Portsmouth, South Gloucestershire and North Lincolnshire,' she said.