Opinion: Pupil Premium funds must be targeted at the disadvantaged

Recently, the schools budget for disabled children was ring-fenced, so as to designate the funding in schools, colleges and academies. However, the pupil premium money (At present £935 Per 11+ student is free to be used by a school in any way they so choose. Today I had a conversation with the head teacher of my VI form (Who, for reasons clearly, shall remain un-named, as shall the VI Form) to discuss how the pupil premium money for the students at a disadvantage, was being used.

I was horrified to be told that the money going into the school is being used to provide “extra English and Maths lessons to benefit the wider school” There was absolutely no provision for the money to be used to help those students who were at a disadvantage!

As a Liberal Democrat I believe that sharp elbows do not always get you to the front of the queue, and your household income should have no impact on your education and your chances of success.

This practise of diverting the money away from the children to whom it was intended is a decision for the governors of the school; there is absolutely nothing in the way of a parliamentary bill to suggest that the money must be used correctly.

I’m not saying we don’t need to invest in wider education, because we do – but if we don’t use the money for disadvantaged children correctly, then we have a failing education system. The disability funding for schools was ring-fenced for the very same reason I am outlining here. I believe it should be Liberal Democrat party policy to ensure that this money is used correctly by schools, at the same time as upping the education spending as in our 2015 manifesto.

* Benjamin Denton-Cardew is Liberal Democrat Youth Representative for Mid Suffolk and Independant MYP For Central Suffolk & North Ipswich

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12 Comments

  • Glenn Andrews 6th Jun '15 - 10:50am

    Surely the whole point to pupil premium is to encourage schools to bring in pupils from all social backgrounds and bring about less selective and more diverse social mix within all schools thus benefited all pupils…. surely targeting funds in the manner you suggest would reverse that.

  • @Glenn Andrews “bring in pupils from all social backgrounds and bring about less selective and more diverse social mix within all schools thus benefited all pupils”

    Having less selection and highly diverse social mixes in schools doesn’t benefit all pupils. For some pupils it could actively hinder their educational progress.

  • The point is that having a number of disadvantaged children in a school brings pressure on the teaching staff..the money should be used in a way that allows staff numbers to reflect that additional pressure and increase one to one teaching. Some Schools in my area appear to encourage parents of children at a disadvantage, so as to attract pupil premium and then spend it on supporting brighter children to meet their targets and obtain good ofsted reports. So is it a responsibility of ofsted to be satisfied that the money is being spent as expected or do they look the other way and only judge the school on the basis of standard formulae?

  • The pupil premium is certainly being targeted at children from disadvantaged backgrounds in my own childrens’ high school, as well as the primary school where my sister teaches.

    Unfortunately, though, the way this often works in practise is that children who disrupt normal lessons and prevent other children from getting the full benefit of being at school are then able to catch up on what they’ve missed thanks to one-to-one tuition paid for by the pupil premium. I only offer this as an observation.

    The problem with the pupil premium is that the lack of ring fencing means it’s the ultimate “throw money at it and hope for the best” kind of solution that Labour were often criticised for when in office.

  • Nick T Nick Thornsby 6th Jun '15 - 12:31pm

    Strongly disagree with this. As a point of principle it should be the liberal position that schools are able to spend pupil premium money as they wish, and for practical reasons it makes sense – how will we know how it is most effectively spent unless that freedom to innovate exists?

    That does not of course mean that there should not be close scrutiny of how it is spent, and if schools spend it in ways that don’t produce results that should be made clear and have consequences, as David Laws repeatedly said in the last parliament.

  • A Social Liberal 6th Jun '15 - 1:29pm

    NIck

    this is what the 2010 manifesto said about the pupil premium

    “We will

    *Increase the funding of the most disadvantaged pupils, around one million children”

  • Alan Sherwell 6th Jun '15 - 4:27pm

    As a Chair of Governors, I can confirm that schools have freedom to allocate PP money as they like. However, they have parallel duties to reduce the gap between disadvantaged students and the population as a whole and to account for how PP money is effectively used to that end. Reducing the gap is a big Government drive (one of the few things Gove was right about) and, if a school is simply allocating money to general expenditure and the gap is not reducing or is not reducing fast enough and the school cannot show that its use of PP is value for money when Ofsted come calling, there will b a deal of pain. That failure alone would most likely be enough to prevent the school being “Good”. So it is allowable – rightly as we support local autonomy – but it is a seriously high risk strategy.

  • @Alan Sherwell
    Spot on.
    I am sure that my Governing body is not unique in being shown regular graphical representation of the convergence in outcomes between disadvantaged students and others.

  • William Jones 7th Jun '15 - 10:24am

    Sometimes it is necessary to raise standards for all to bring up the disadvantaged, especially were there are a large number of the cohort receiving pupil premium. Headteachers, governors and SLTs must have the freedom to spend pupil premium in the way they consider most effective.

    OfSted inspections also make comments on expenditure of pupil premium. So obvious abuses of it will be flagged.

  • Peter Bancroft 8th Jun '15 - 1:30am

    I don’t think that the liberal answer with the pupil premium is to make spending decisions in Whitehall. I believe that schools are much better placed to understand their own students than upper middle class civil servants and so I’d oppose any attempts to take the ability to run schools out of the hands of people who run schools.

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