Effective teaching should be the "top priority" for pupil premium spending, and the funding can be used to help non-disadvantaged children as well as those who are disadvantaged, a government-backed research organisation has said.
The document sets out a series of myths around the funding, the first being that “only eligible children can benefit from pupil premium spending”.
Quick read: Pupil premium 'failing to target the poor'
It says that while the funding is designed to help raise the attainment of disadvantaged children, “many of the most effective ways to do this – including improving the quality of teaching – will also benefit other groups: that is fine.”
Sir Kevan Collins, chief executive of the EEF, said: “We’ve published new guidance to help schools spend their pupil premium to maximise the benefit for their students.
“Crucially, we want to strengthen the ways the premium can be spent to recruit, retain and develop great teachers for all children.”
The document says that schools should consider a “tiered approach” to pupil premium spending, with “teaching” listed first.
It says: “Spending on improving teaching might include professional development, training and support for early career teachers and recruitment and retention.
“Ensuring an effective teacher is in front of every class, and that every teacher is supported to keep improving, is the key ingredient of a successful school and should rightly be the top priority for pupil premium spending.”
Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU, welcomed the new advice but blamed “mixed messages” and the accountability system for schools thinking they have to use pupil premium money to solely benefit disadvantaged children.
She told Tes: “They felt they had to prove, in a results-driven system, you have got this extra money for pupil premium children, so what specifically are you doing for them.”
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, described the advice as “liberating” for schools.
He told Tes: “I think it’s quite helpful in breaking down some of the silos about spending. I was a head and we used to debate ‘should we be buying resources that we only give to the pupil premium child’.
“I think what this is saying is that that might be the right thing to do, but actually if you really focus on the quality of teaching, explaining things better, then actually other children who are in that group or that class are also likely to be the beneficiaries, so you use as your starting point ‘what do we do for the disadvantaged’, and you drive it through quality of teaching.”
Other myths listed by the EEF include that the pupil premium has to be spent on interventions, and that a pupil premium strategy can be separated from a whole-school strategy.
The document also stresses that while data is valuable when it supports decision-making, “the measurement and comparison of internal class or school gaps is less likely to provide useful information and isn’t required by the Department for Education or Ofsted”.