As School Business Leaders we have a critical role to play in overseeing spending of the Pupil Premium Grant, to meet the needs of disadvantaged learners and contribute to furthering social mobility.
A recent review of Pupil Premium funding, confirmed “our first important finding is that the gap is closing, but at a very slow rate. Indeed, despite significant investment and targeted intervention programmes, the gap between disadvantaged 16 year old pupils and their peers has only narrowed by three months of learning between 2007 and 2016”
Closing the Gap; trends in educational attainment and disadvantage, August 2017
There is a growing concern that funding cuts may dilute the future impact of the pupil premium. “There are encouraging signs that pupil premium is being put to good use, but funding cuts may undermine its future success.”
School Funding in England since 2010; what the key evidence tells us, NFER, January 2018
In the Sutton Trust teachers’ poll 2017, 30% of head teachers reported that Pupil Premium money was being used to plug gaps in school budgets. With school funding under significant strain, schools business leaders will need to apply their collective skills to identify ways to cover day to day costs, without resorting to using funding targeted for disadvantaged pupils for this purpose.
To maximise impact of the pupil premium, schools are required to:
carefully identify the barriers to learning, both inside and outside school, for disadvantaged children
put in place strategies to remove these barriers so that inequality is reduced between disadvantaged learners and their more affluent peers
have a clear view of what the impact of the planned strategies will be on the achievement of targeted pupils. It is a waste of money to continue to pursue a planned intervention that is not impacting on the progress of vulnerable learners.
The expertise of school business managers is key to:
budget effectively, providing a detailed plan identifying how the Pupil Premium grant will be allocated to meet the needs of the learners
research the costs of various interventions that senior leaders have identified as meeting the specific needs of learners, so that the school has sufficient information to make an informed choice about the value for money of various initiatives
identify ways to use management information systems effectively to bring together the tracking of expenditure on interventions, attendance, attainment and qualitative data, to evaluate the impact of pupil premium interventions
use data to support regular reviews of pupil premium expenditure for the leadership team and the allocated pupil premium governor, with appropriate feedback. This will help to develop the financial literacy of the leadership team and the governing body - enabling them to challenge the appropriateness and effectiveness of this expenditure within the school.
act as a critical friend and challenge whether the strategies planned by the school present good value for money. The latest reviews of pupil premium have demonstrated that funds are being invested more in evidence based practice (NAO 2015). The Education Endowment Fund provides case studies on good practice and a model for evaluating value for money which over 60% of secondary school leaders say they now use: https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/resources/teaching-learning-toolkit
The school’s website must of course be compliant with statutory requirements. There is clear direction from the government about what a school must publish and there are very specific instructions in relation to pupil premium expenditure.
The Teaching Skills Council format for recording the school’s strategy for pupil premium expenditure is helpful and will support your school with compliance. You can also commission a pupil premium review: http://www.tscouncil.org.uk/resources/guide-to-effective-pupil-premium-review/?nocache=1
You can be sure that, well in advance of an inspection, Ofsted will have scrutinised your school website. The following Headteacher Update, March 2017, from the National Pupil Premium and Ofsted Conference; “What Ofsted looks at” is informative: http://bit.ly/2Ey6J1a
As School Business Leaders, we have a vital role to play in closing the gap, enhancing the impact of pupil premium funding, through challenge and effective monitoring.
By Claire Edwards - May 2018