Used properly, discretionary spending is a welcome tool in the head teacher’s armoury to assist disadvantaged pupils.
Get it wrong and governors face the wrath of Ofsted.
Yet Pupil Premium, one of the most valuable funding streams available to head teachers, is also one of the most misunderstood by governors.
This can result in funds being spent in ways that have little or no effect on disadvantaged pupils.
With funding valued, in some schools, at many hundreds of thousands of pounds annually, the education, reputation and management stakes are huge and governors are under increasing pressure to demonstrate that disadvantaged children eligible for free school meals are benefitting.
The first step is ensuring governors understand exactly where funding comes from and which children in each year group are “premium” pupils.
One suggestion is breaking down the process in three stages to allow governors to ensure efficient spending:
1. Interpreting pupil data.
2. Examining the evidence.
3. Evaluating the results.
All schools receive annual data, known as “Raise”, on pupil progress, highlighting where vulnerabilities are likely to be found.
If governors understand this data, spending the Pupil Premium should be simple. However, if they cannot, then it becomes difficult to set out a Pupil Premium strategy.
Schools have also been reminded to not group together all their Pupil Premiums. Access to a free school meal does not mean pupils are intellectually disadvantaged. Some will be achieving at expected levels with others showing significant strengths in some areas, and weaknesses in others. Therefore, the funding should not necessarily be spent on summer schools, catch-up sessions or one to one teaching.
The core of the pupil premium should be based on the quality of teaching in the classroom.
Funding should always be spent on disadvantaged children rather than assisting the school to meet its accountability targets.
The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) has created a Pupil Premium Tool kit to help schools decide how to spend their funding through graphs, mapping cost of interventions against effectiveness to ensure governors can spend their funding efficiently.
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