The Pupil Premium – Has it helped?

COMMENT – The introduction of the pupil premium was welcomed by most schools last year. Given that a number of schools in our locality have a high number of children on free school meals, this was a significant amount of money – I had my reservations on where this money was coming from and what conditions had been given in its use.

A report in the Independent by Richard Garner (December 2010) commented that the pupil premium ‘robs Peter to pay Paul’ and that the money is recycled and being taken from those in leafy suburbs who do not have the same number of children eligible for free school meals.

Having recently looked at attainment and progress data for these schools, it is interesting to see that many schools in ‘leafy suburbs’ do better than those schools which are within ‘deprived’ areas. So a controversial question I know would be – why do those schools need extra money when they are doing well already?

I must say at this point that I am bias to this argument coming from a school with over 50% free school meals.

I believe that some schools saw this money as additional funding to pay for new swimming pools or a new car parking space. We did not and budgeted carefully so that it was completely transparent how this money was being used to ‘close the gap’.

The pupil premium for schools has allowed for much more targeted interventions aimed at improving the outcomes for the children. Improving staffing levels – having made severe cuts just three years ago – has shown a vast improvement in the progress of children. It has shown that peers, who may not receive free meals, are feeling the benefit too by being able to have more time with the teacher, thus the whole class now has an opportunity to learn.

Had this money not been available, I wonder how schools like ours would have survived with no increase in budgets, a skeleton staff and increased prices for energy, rates and pencils.

I would like to clarify, however, that not all children who receive free meals need this additional ‘support’ to reach targets. Some of these children are now accelerating and achieving level 6 at SATS. (SATs – perhaps that is another topic of discussion?)

Overall, while I empathise with those schools that did not do well from the introduction of the Pupil Premium, I accept it with open arms. Children richer or poorer should have the same opportunities in life, and if that comes from £600 extra in to a schools budget, then great.

A footnote to this is that the majority of schools, leafy or not, received a slice of the pupil premium pot and so benefited, even if it was only by a small amount.

Please submit your comments below.

Grahame Colclough is a School Business Manager in a large Primary School in Stoke on Trent. Before working in schools, Grahame worked in Customer Service Management in Telecoms, HR for a large Manufacturing Company and in an Online Bingo Call Centre.

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