Let's look at the facts

3rd August 2012 at 01:00

Gerard Kelly's editorial "Use or lose the pupil premium, but use it wisely" (27 July) argues that schools pay insufficient attention to educational research. I'm inclined to agree, but he also unwittingly proves that the press often misreports research findings.

The story ("'Zero impact': survey finds flaws in pupil premium use") opens with: "Schools are wasting millions of pounds of pupil premium funding by spending it on projects that show little evidence of providing value for money ... ". But there is nothing in the survey to support such bold claims.

The bald facts are that the Sutton Trust has issued a "toolkit" providing research-based advice on uses for extra money and has commissioned the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) to ask teachers about their school's priorities and basis for decision making. This revealed a low level of awareness and that teachers thought most spending decisions added up to extra staffing.

While it is disappointing that the Sutton Trust's advice has not made more impact, this is not, of itself, evidence of schools wasting money. In focusing on the negative story, the article also neglected other interesting findings. For example, significant numbers identified "offsetting budget cuts elsewhere" as the priority. The NFER report concludes that teachers believe their school uses informal evaluation methods that "include trial-and-error approaches and learning from the experiences of other schools. While a large proportion of teachers believed that decisions in their school are based on research evidence, it is unclear what evidence they are using." But don't take my word for it - look at the original material at: bit.lyOoxIty.

Alan Parker, A trustee of NFER writing here in a personal capacity.

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