By Vivienne Russell | 11 February 2013
A ‘significant minority’ of schools are not using their pupil premium funds effectively, Ofsted head Sir Michael Wilshaw said today.
The pupil premium, introduced by the coalition government in April 2011, provides schools with top-up funds for each of their pupils who are in local authority care or from low-income families. The money is meant to be spent on improving the attainment of deprived children but how schools do this is up to them.
Ofsted visited almost 70 primary and secondary schools last term to determine whether they were making the most of the funds. Its findings were collated in a report, Pupil premium: how schools are spending the funding successfully to maximise achievement, published today.
Wilshaw was critical of the way a minority of schools recorded and monitored pupil premium expenditure. He said: ‘Some schools still lack good enough systems for tracking the spending of the additional funding or for evaluating the effectiveness of measures they have put in place in terms of improving outcomes.
‘We will continue to take an active interest in this issue in the coming months. Where we find funding isn’t being spent effectively on improving outcomes for disadvantaged pupils, we will be clear in our criticism.’
But there was praise for the growing number of schools that were using the funding effectively. Wilshaw said Ofsted had found evidence of some ‘very good practice’. He added: ‘Crucially, many of these good schools are concentrating on the core areas of literacy and numeracy to break down the main barriers to accessing the full curriculum. They are also focusing on the key stages of a child’s development in their school career.’
Ofsted highlighted some common factors seen in schools that used the pupil premium effectively. These included: careful ring-fencing that ensured the funds were used on the target group of pupils; a thorough analysis of which pupils were underachieving and why; the use of evidence-based approaches and deployment of the best teachers.
In contrast, schools that were less successful in spending the pupil premium were not clear about what it was intended to achieve, spent the funds indiscriminately on teaching assistants and lacked a clear audit trail to account for it.
Responding to Ofsted’s finding, Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said it could take time for schools to determine how best to spend their pupil premium funds and put in place the appropriate strategies and resources.
He added that head teachers should retain discretion over how the funding is spent. ‘It is essential for schools to have the flexibility to create solutions to suit their own particular circumstances. But it is also right that schools should be held accountable for explaining how they are using the money to raise attainment for disadvantaged pupils,’ said Trobe.