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Pupil premium used to offset budget cuts

Sutton Trust report shows 'small but increasing' number of schools diverting funds meant for supporting disadvantaged pupils

Posted by Stephanie Broad | June 17, 2016 | Law, finance, HR

A small but growing number of schools are using their funding for disadvantaged pupils to offset budget cuts elsewhere, according to new polling published by the Sutton Trust and the Education Endowment Foundation today. Six per cent of teachers reported this as the main priority for their school’s pupil premium spending, an increase from two per cent in 2015.

The survey of 1,607 teachers, conducted by the National Foundation for Educational Research as part of their Teachers’ Voice Omnibus survey, found that one in five didn’t know what the main priorities for their pupil premium funding was. The most common priority for spending, identified by over a quarter of teachers (28%), was on early intervention schemes. Thirteen per cent said that more 1:1 tuition was a priority and 10% said teaching assistants. 

Virtually all of the senior leaders surveyed believe that the pupil premium has allowed them to target resources at raising the attainment of their poorest pupils. Ninety-eight per cent of primary and secondary leaders and four our out of five classroom teachers (79%) agreed with this statement to either a great extent, to some extent or to a little extent. 

When asked how their school decide what approaches and programmes to adopt to improve pupil learning, 63% of secondary senior leaders said they considered research evidence on the impact of different approaches and programmes; six out of 10 secondary senior leaders said that they used the Sutton Trust-EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit too, an increase from 48% in 2015. The Toolkit is also becoming more recognised among classroom teachers, as well as senior leaders. Over one in four said they used it to decide which approaches and programmes to adopt, an increase of 10 percentage points on 2015.

Sir Peter Lampl, Chairman of the Sutton Trust and of the Education Endowment Foundation, said today: “It is worrying that a growing number of schools feel they have to use funding for disadvantaged pupils to offset budget cuts. The pupil premium is a key lever for raising the attainment of disadvantaged pupils and it’s vital that it continues to be focused on their education.” 

Sir Kevan Collins, Chief Executive of the Education Endowment Foundation, said today: “It’s great to see a majority of school leaders are now using our Teaching and Learning Toolkit to decide which programmes and approaches to adopt. Better use of research can help schools spend their resources in the most efficient ways and make a real difference to outcomes for disadvantaged pupils.” 

School leaders’ union NAHT said this highlighted the pressure school budgets face, in light of reports that schools will not be able to balance the books within four years.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of NAHT, said: "The pupil premium has become a vital and well understood tool for narrowing the gap for children from families with lower incomes. It shows the value of giving school leaders a resource and then letting them decide how best to use it for the benefit of the children in their care. 

"The EEF toolkit is a great piece of work that school leaders use regularly and is an example of what can be achieved when best practice is shared, owned and endorsed by the teaching profession itself.

"When schools are inspected by Ofsted they are expected to demonstrate that they are spending their pupil premium money wisely. This gives school leaders guidance and parents the confidence that their children are being helped.  

"The real question raised by the Sutton Trust report is the strain that school budgets are under. NAHT's Breaking Point report last November showed the extent to which some schools are struggling to make ends meet, with nearly two thirds of school leaders making significant cuts or dipping into reserves to stave off deficits.”

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