John Leech MP writes… It is not just the Leader’s job to sell the Pupil Premium

The Pupil Premium is one of our biggest achievement in government, and helps the poorest children in our country bridge the gap when it comes to the quality of education they receive. Manchester has had an extra £19 million this year, and the overall spend is some £1.25 billion this year, increasing to £2.5 billion by 2014/15.

The Pupil Premium ticks all the boxes for the Party. It is designed to help the most disadvantaged, it allows schools to spend the extra money flexibly, and it is new money on top of the school budget.

So why are we not shouting about the Pupil Premium more?

It’s not because of the lack of Leadership from the top. Both Nick and Sarah Teather are always banging on about it. Sarah even came up to Manchester during the elections to help spread the word.

Our problem is that we on the ground aren’t backing up the national campaign. We are allowing our opponents to set the media agenda, and we’re too busy/scared/apologetic/unfocused/lazy to do anything about it.

Then we blame the Leadership.

We knew Nick was talking about this on Monday. We got a briefing on Friday from the Whips Office which included the figures by LEA and Constituency, and all the key facts.

It took about half an hour’s prep, which was done on Monday morning and our eleven tweets were out by lunchtime.

This is not brain surgery. It is about all of us doing all we can to get our message across. It not just Nick’s job. And the Pupil Premium is one of the best messages we have.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* Cllr John Leech was Lib Dem MP for Manchester Withington until 2015 and is now an opposition councillor in Manchester.

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22 Comments

  • Peter Watson 15th May '12 - 5:13pm

    @John
    Providing extra resources to the less well-off school children is definitely a good thing.
    You point out some sad facts that children from families with less money are less likely to do well in school and further education.
    But then, without filling in the blanks, you expect us to follow you on a huge leap of faith that the Pupil Premium is bound to help these kids catch up and move forward.
    You can’t just take a few facts about the lack of social mobility, throw some extra money at some schools, fire off tweets, and then claim to have fixed broken Britain.
    The pupil premium can only be a means to an end: it has the potential to fund projects that could make a difference but it is premature to claim victory before we see where the money goes. Without monitoring, co-ordination, good targets, etc. we might just end up with well-funded sink schools.
    Furthermore, success in school needs positive influences outside school. The pupil premium can only contribute to improving social mobility if it is coupled with other social policies that allow kids at a young age to see that education is important and something from which they will benefit for the rest of their lives.

  • @ Peter Watson

    I would absolutely echo your thoughts on this. As I have posted on other threads, the suprising truth is that if you correlate spending per pupil with percentage achieving five good GCSEs, there is actually a negative relationship between the two. i.e. where more is spent on average, results are actually worse.

    We need to look a little bit deeper beyond spending per pupil and look at non-school cultural factors and in particular how we can shock certain families in particular demographic groups out of undervaluing their children’s education and into realising that it really is their only chance in life. If we neglect what is happening outside school, we are setting ourselves up for failure.

  • Richard Shaw 15th May '12 - 7:01pm

    In addition to the Pupil Premium (which is a great thing for us to shout about) we can help many disadvantaged children by reducing the length of the summer holidays, increasing the number of and equalising the length of school terms. While in school poorer pupils learn at the same rate as more privileged children. It is during the holidays that they fall behind is the amount they fall behind and fall more behind the longer they are out of school for any single period. This is due to the lack of activities or learning at home to reinforce what they learned during the school year and, unless they have lots of additional learning time during the school year, they’ll never catch up.

    I believe Nottingham City Council have already started doing this (or are planning to do so) and I think this is something we should do nationwide. I think it could make just as great a positive impact on disadvantaged pupils as the Pupil Premium and would prevent some of the issues on which the PP is having to be spent.

  • Richard Shaw 15th May '12 - 7:03pm

    *It is during the holidays that they fall behind and fall more behind the longer they are out of school for any single period.

  • Helen Tedcastle 15th May '12 - 8:11pm

    @RichardShaw: ‘This is due to the lack of activities or learning at home to reinforce what they learned during the school year and, unless they have lots of additional learning time during the school year, they’ll never catch up. ‘

    So you’re really arguing that underachievement is not the ‘fault’ of schools but parents. That’ll go down well with families at a time when the party has just been hammered at the polls.
    Also it kind of completely undermines Ofsted and current Education Secretary, Michael Gove. Not that I’m sorry about that but restructuring or taking away holidays from children is not necessarily going to improve achievement, if the culture at home is hostile or indifferent to education.
    What is needed is a return to letting teachers teach and putting a stop crippling their professionalism with endless targets and constant so-called, top-down reforms from passing politicians.

  • Tony Dawson 15th May '12 - 9:03pm

    @Helen Tedcastle

    “..it kind of completely undermines Ofsted and current Education Secretary, Michael Gove.”

    So who’s not buying into it then?

    As a long-term School and University governor over several decades I have no particular faith in the pupil premium having its intended consequnces. Too many schools of my acquaintance waste sizable chunks of the cash which they are allocated already, even if their governors are not over-stuffing the head teacher’s salary. I know of few greater wasters of energy than state schools.

  • Richard Shaw 15th May '12 - 9:06pm

    @Helen

    Unpalatable as it might sound it is actually the case. Poorer families tend to not have as much disposable time or income to spend on reinforcing education taking place in the classroom, either in the form of materials (e.g. books, computing equipment, etc.) or visits to museums. It’s not a judgement on the intentions of the parents but a reflection of their circumstances. It’s not the only cause of poor attainment but is a significant factor which shouldn’t be ignored out of hand.

    Now you can either spend money on ‘treating’ the problem caused by extended breaks from education by giving more resources to parents or schools or you can help prevent the issue by minimising the amount of time children are out of school at a time. Their total days off need not change just the amount off at a single time.

    I don’t see how it ‘kind of completely’ undermines Offsted or Gove. It’s still important that children receive the best quality possible education, but it’s also important children are not away from that quality education for too long as that undermines and undoes the hard work of teachers. As for ‘letting teachers teach’ I think ‘letting children learn’ would be more appropriate since their educational needs come first, hence my original suggestion.

  • “Our problem is that we on the ground aren’t backing up the national campaign. We are allowing our opponents to set the media agenda, and we’re too busy/scared/apologetic/unfocused/lazy to do anything about it.”

    Disgraceful – I hope you’ll reflect on that and apologise.

  • Helen Tedcastle 15th May '12 - 10:03pm

    @Richard Shaw: ‘As for ‘letting teachers teach’ I think ‘letting children learn’ would be more appropriate since their educational needs come first, hence my original suggestion.’

    It’s both. Without good teaching children don’t learn.

    You ‘re arguing for a restructuring of the holidays so that children don’t lose their entitlement. That’s reasonable as a suggestion. I think that you are describing enrichment activities and for this you would need to inject considerable resources including staff increases – the PP is a drop in the ocean of what is needed to really transform life chances. Plus, calling a halt to Gove’s elitist education policy would also stop the return of social and class divisions.

  • Christine Headley 15th May '12 - 10:39pm

    Does anyone know what will replace Free School Meals as the qualifier for Pupil Premium when they are subsumed into the universal benefit? I doubt that the baby and the bathwater are going overboard at the same time, but it would be nice to be sure that someone has thought this through.

  • jenny barnes 16th May '12 - 8:41am
  • Peter Watson 16th May '12 - 2:32pm

    @Dave
    “It’s not a golden bullet, and I don’t think anybody’s pretended it was.”
    Sadly, people do pretend it is.
    John Leech above states as facts, “PP is designed to help those from the poorest backgrounds, to help them catch-up with their richer fellow pupils.” and “By targeting the most disadvantaged and helping them catch-up, the PP helps whole classes move forward faster.”, He also implies that it will lead to more kids on free school meals getting 5 good GCSEs and going to Oxbridge
    Nick Clegg said recently, “And that is what the Pupil Premium is for: to equip every school to support pupils from the most disadvantaged backgrounds, to help us build a more socially mobile Britain where ability trumps privilege, where effort trumps connections, where sharp elbows don’t automatically get you to the front.”
    More money for the education of the poorest is a good thing, but the Pupil Premium is no magic wand.

  • Peter Watson 16th May '12 - 2:43pm

    @John
    Re. “fact 5. This money comes on top of the schools budget, which has been protected in the Department for Education budget”
    Yes, we have introduced the Pupil Premium, but our manifesto stated (p98), “Instead of ring-fencing education, we are doing better than that by bringing in new money to fund the Pupil Premium.” If the Pupil Premium we have introduced simply takes money from one part of a reducing education budget and moves it elsewhere, robbing Peter to pay Paul, then it is only half of the policy we wanted.
    And before anybody says, “What about the deficit?”, of course there is less money to go around. But that is no excuse to fool ourselves into thinking that the Pupil Premium has magically produced new money for education of the poorest. You need to demonstrate that the money for the Pupil Premium has not come at the expense of other policies that benefit the less well-off.

  • Peter Watson 16th May '12 - 6:16pm

    @Simon Shaw
    What I challenge is the assumption and implication that the Pupil Premium will automatically lead to those things. Making baseless and unrealistic claims for the policy makes it look silly: it simply redirects some extra money to schools with poorer children, which is something to be proud of, but the resulting spending could be good, bad or indifferent. Elsewhere on this site, Rick Muir points out that the measures against which schools are assessed will influence how they choose to spend the money and in some cases this is contrary to the things trumpeted by Clegg and Leech, and possibly contrary to the best outcomes for the pupils.
    The pupil premium could be spent on many useful things. If schools choose to invest it in giving their children valuable skills through vocational training then we just look ridiculous if we talk about Oxbridge. Besides which, there is evidence that schools are using the Pupil Premium to replace cuts elsewhere, e.g. music teaching previously provided through local authorities.
    My principle point is that investing more money in the education of poorer children is good. But the pupil premium is hyped as a radical way to transform social mobility when there is little certainty that it will do any such thing. It may be an addition to school budgets but it has been redistributed within a reducing wider education budget so the nett effect could be nothing or even a worsening situation. The desirable goals of better qualifications and opportunities for poorer children, a more meritocratic society, need a coherent set of educational and social policies, not just a bit more money redirected to some schools. Even in the best scenario of no overall cuts to education and social funding, the pupil premium would only ever be a means to an end, and by overstating its potential benefits I think damage its credibility is damaged.

  • Helen Tedcastle 16th May '12 - 8:36pm

    I could certainly get excited over the launch of the Pupil Premium if it hadn’t been followed today by Gove’s announcment that he proposes to end national pay scales for teachers and a business-like version of performance-related pay put forward.An interesting move. At the same time as Lib Dem proposals roll out to help level up the gap between rich and poor children, the Tories (was Nick Clegg consulted?), plan to divide and rule between teachers, between subjects and between schools. A race towards low pay will ensue except in affluent areas, where the good intake, leafy area and supportive parents offers an enticement for the well-qualified graduate, over a grotty inner city.
    Unfortunately, children are not contracts and as human beings are notoriously difficult to get to perform to order -like circus animals- especially those who don’t care for academic study.

    Pupil Premium yes- destruction of Teaching as a national service – no.

  • David Allen 17th May '12 - 2:53pm

    Richard Shaw said:

    “While in school poorer pupils learn at the same rate as more privileged children. It is during the holidays that they fall behind..” “Poorer families tend to not have as much disposable time or income to spend on reinforcing education taking place in the classroom, either in the form of materials (e.g. books, computing equipment, etc.) or visits to museums. ”

    I would like to know whether these interesting findings apply because the holidays tend to slow poorer kids down, or because the holidays tend to speed middle-class kids up. I suspect that many children actually do a lot of their best learning out of school, when they are with motivated adults who care about what they are doing.

  • “I suspect that many children actually do a lot of their best learning out of school, when they are with motivated adults who care about what they are doing.”

    Indeed. And not solely the preserve of the well off, although it is much harder when there is only one motivated adult who isn’t around much.

  • Ben Jephcott 17th May '12 - 7:48pm

    The trouble is that many activists are far less motivated than they were because of the relentless tidal wave of Tory-inspired mood music coming out of the Coalition in most areas. The ‘message’ seems more and more classically Tory and less radical, progressive and Lib Dem. And in education it is not just the music but the substance. We tried really hard to persuade people to go to target wards but it was not easy.

    The pupil premium is a good thing but everything else Gove is doing has completely lost the confidence not just of teachers but also governors, academics and everyone involved with state education outside a tiny handful of schools, mostly in London where circumstances are highly unusual. Sarah’s SEN announcement yesterday was a refreshing change but she only has a pretty narrow remit to work with.

    These tweets are actually better than most as they are purely factual, they don’t come over as spin as many political tweets do.

    I am a strong believer in reasonably courteous but direct and hard-hitting differentiation between us and the Tories, we have been very tough on the Tories in Shropshire and not just on local issues but nationally too.

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