Education secretary Nicky Morgan is set to warn schools they must not spend pupil premium funding in a “scatter-gun fashion”.
In a speech at a London summit on the pupil premium today, Ms Morgan will say it is “not enough” for schools “just to hope that the pupil premium reaches the right children”.
“Evidence from the National Audit Office and Education Endowment Foundation shows that in too many cases, it still isn’t getting there,” she will say, adding that schools must ensure “careful application of the funding” to make sure it reaches the most disadvantaged children.
A report published yesterday by the NAO found more than three-quarters of schools were at risk of “diluting” the benefits of the pupil premium by using the cash to help all children, rather than the most disadvantaged.
A separate report from the EEF and the Sutton Trust calls on the government to reward schools for using the cash effectively.
The pupil premium is additional money given to all schools for every child they have that has been in receipt of free school meals over the past six years.
Ms Morgan will say in her speech to the Sutton Trust and Education Endowment Foundation summit that she will “challenge every school to follow the progress of their most disadvantaged children ever more closely”.
She will say that schools should not use the pupil premium to offer “extrinsic rewards like money or free tickets”, which “have very little effect on teenage motivation and GCSE grades”. And she will praise the Ark Charter Academy in Portsmouth, which has introduced longer school days and the Parkfield Community School in Birmingham which has set up parental workshops.
“Both schools have boosted the attainment of pupils, and I want innovation like this to be the norm, not the exception,” she will say.
Ms Morgan will argue that “even in the best schools” there is a risk that “there’ll be one child, hiding at the back of the classroom, who will leave with fewer qualifications, and fewer prospects, than his peers… because for one reason or another, ‘average’ was always considered good enough.”
She will repeat her criticism of the “soft bigotry of low expectation”, arguing that “the days of ushering children from poorer homes towards so-called ‘easier topics’, that made their lives harder in the long run, are over.”
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT heads’ union, told TES political pressure on schools sometimes prevented them from using pupil premium in ways that would be effective.
“The need to demonstrate how pupil premium money has been spent means schools tend to buy in concrete interventions that you can point at, such as investing in one-to-one tuition,” he said. “Something like sending teachers on a course about how to give feedback is effective [for disadvantaged students] but it’s hard to draw a line between what you’ve done and how it benefits pupils.”
Mr Hobby said that one of the best uses of pupil premium funds would be to increase teachers’ pay in order to attract the best teachers, because “a lot of research shows the single most important thing for disadvantaged children is a great teacher”. However, he said, few schools were using the funding in this way.