Schools need to take advantage of more effective pupil premium strategies

Schools with the most effective pupil premium strategies can account for every pound spent, according to new research.

The National Governance Association (NGA) published the findings after polling more than 875 trustees and governors and studying 36 pupil premium strategies.

The report looks at how schools spend pupil premium funding, which is allocated to publically-funded institutions to raise the attainment of disadvantaged pupils of all abilities.

Failure to target support where it is most needed ranked among the most common shortcomings, the NGA said.

For example, the majority of schools identify family life, low attendance and social and economic barriers as hurdles to success, but the most common strategies centre around academic learning, such as literacy and numeracy support.

The NGA recommends that governing boards take a more holistic approach to their pupil premium spending to better address “specific barriers to learning that hold back pupil premium students”.

It further found that the best schools “account for every pound spent” –rather than use “rounded numbers or vague estimations”.

It also found that just 71.6 per cent of respondents’ schools ring-fence their pupil premium. While it is not a legal requirement to ring-fence the pupil premium, the NGA found that those that don’t may use the pupil premium to subsidise spending commitments that would usually be funded by the school’s core budget.

Emma Knights, Chief Executive of the NGA, said: “This report demonstrates how crucial the pupil premium is to the education of disadvantaged pupils, yet that it is hard for governing boards to consistently spend in a targeted manner.

“NGA suggests that the pupil premium should form part of the core school budget, which would provide more assurance about the future of the additional funding, while allowing schools more flexibility in using it.

“Schools should still be required to report on the progress and attainment of disadvantaged pupils. The gap is closing, but there is still much to do which is why the pupil premium remains hugely important.

“Governors and trustees are extremely committed, but do face challenges in effectively developing pupil premium strategies and therefore I hope these findings can accelerate their progress and that of their pupils.”

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