Schools must make better use of pupil premium, warns Ofsted

20 Sep 12
Schools that do not use their pupil premium funding effectively could lose discretion over how it is spent, Ofsted warned today.
By Vivienne Russell | 20 September 2012

Schools that do not use their pupil premium funding effectively could lose discretion over how it is spent, Ofsted warned today.

In a report on use of the cash, which is paid for every child on free school meals, the education watchdog found many schools did not separate the pupil premium from their main budget. Half of the schools surveyed for the report said the cash made little or no difference to the way they work while two-fifths, mainly primary schools, said they were spending it on extra teaching assistants.

In future inspections, Ofsted will be judging how well schools are serving their more disadvantaged pupils. Their use of the pupil premium money would help inform this judgement.

‘If schools do not target pupil premium money effectively, then government should consider ring-fencing, payment linked to outcomes, or other mechanisms to improve its use,’ the watchdog said.

In July, the Sutton Trust education equality charity said its research showed pupil premium funds were not being targeted at the most effective educational interventions.

Commenting on Ofsted’s findings today, trust chair Sir Peter Lampl said: ‘Ofsted is right to highlight the importance of the pupil premium being spent as intended, to narrow gaps in attainment between rich and poor children. It is vital that the money intended to boost standards for the poorest pupils is used effectively to narrow those gaps.’

But head teachers said it was too early to draw conclusions about the pupil premium. Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of the School and College Leaders, said: ‘Many schools only saw the money in their budgets in the middle of last year and initiatives don’t happen overnight.

‘Schools saying that they have not changed what they do because of the premium is not the same thing as saying the money is not being used to support disadvantaged pupils.’

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, added that pupil premium money merely made up for cuts in the education budget elsewhere.

‘As a profession, we do need to make better use of evidence about what works with regards the pupil premium. But it is unfortunate that Ofsted’s default response is a threat to remove discretion regarding spending, which thoroughly undermines the intent of the initiative,’ he said.

From this month, the government is requiring schools to publish online information about how they are using the premium.


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