Divert pupil premium cash to low achievers, says report

Pupil premium cash should be diverted away from high-achieving pupils from poor homes and towards those who start school with low levels of attainment, according to a report published today.

The move would lead to the current allocation per disadvantaged pupil being halved, with the remaining money redistributed to those who are both disadvantaged and have low attainment.

The proposal is one of a series of measures put forward by the Fair Education Alliance, a coalition of organisations involved in education and child welfare committed to closing the achievement gap between the most disadvantaged children and their wealthier peers.

But the government’s pupil premium champion warned against any redistribution of the cash and said it was important that high-achieving pupils also fully benefited.

The alliance – bringing together 26 bodies including Teach First, Barnardo’s, the Future Leaders Trust and the NAHT union – today published its first report on progress towards its five national targets.

Although the report says there are signs that the gap is being narrowed in some areas, such as primary literacy and numeracy and GCSE attainment, there is still a clear “class ceiling” where success is largely the preserve of the wealthy.

And, among a series of recommendations, the alliance calls for a redistribution of pupil premium money, which this year stands at £1,300 for primary pupils and £935 for secondary students.

Kiran Gill, policy officer at Teach First and author of the report, said the change could mean a shift in funding allocations away from schools that are in deprived areas but have high levels of achievement.

“There are some areas with high levels of economic deprivation but where they have been doing really well in educational attainment, and those schools have got almost a surplus of this money,” she said.

“That could be spent in areas where they might have a similar proportion of low-income pupils but multiple problems in education. It is about the money being used where it is most needed.”

She said the revised allocations would be fixed when a child entered a school, to avoid punishing schools where pupils made good progress.

The report also proposes extending the destination measure of school leavers, so schools are judged on the outcome for pupils eight terms after key stage 4, instead of two as at present. This would allow time to see whether students were able to sustain a place on an apprenticeship course or at university, Ms Gill added.

But John Dunford, the national pupil premium champion and a former general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, warned against changing the allocation formula.

“Doing this would downgrade the importance of the message that bright pupil premium children need money to be spent on raising their aspirations and expectations and compensating for the narrow experiences they have outside school,” he said.

The pupil premium was still relatively new and a radical alteration could be destabilising, he added, potentially undermining one of its most appealing features: that it is up to schools how the money is spent.

Related stories: 

Reforms are keeping achievement gap from closing, says pupil premium tsar – 10 October 2014

Pupil premium children to get priority admission to schools under new government plans – 23 July 2014

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