PAC: school funding variation limiting impact of pupil premium

9 Oct 15

The school funding formula is undermining the effectiveness of the pupil premium scheme, MPs have warned.

The payment was introduced by the coalition government to give schools extra funding for every pupil in receipt of free school meals.

Currently, £1,320 is provided for pupils in reception year to year 6 and £935 for those between year 7 and year 11. Between 2011/12 and the end of 2014/15, the Department for Education distributed £6bn in pupil premium funding.

A Public Accounts Committee probe found that, since its introduction, the attainment gap has closed overall by 4.7 percentage points in primary schools and by 1.6 percentage points in secondary schools.

But it also highlighted variations in general funding given to schools, even those dealing with similar levels of disadvantage. Some schools receive around £3,000 a year more than others for each disadvantaged pupil.

“While the Department for Education has demonstrated the potential of this investment, more must be done if that potential is to be fully realised,” said PAC chair Meg Hillier.

She suggested the department set out a clear timetable for completing its review of the schools funding formula and make sure this review led to a more structured and evidence-based approach.

“Without progress on these points, the Public Accounts Committee does not believe disadvantaged pupils across the country can receive full value from pupil premium investment,” Hillier added.

“That could mean many children it is designed to help will miss out on potentially life-changing benefits at a crucial stage in their development.” 

The report also called on the DfE to do more to develop best practice and some benchmarks for effectiveness on use of pupil premium funding.

Responding to the report, a DfE spokesman said: “It is encouraging that this report recognises the extent to which the government has been able to narrow the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers.

“We are determined to ensure every child, regardless of background, is given an education which allows them to realise their full potential and we are committed to do more to tackle educational inequality. We will now consider the findings of the Public Accounts Committee carefully and respond later this year.”

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