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New measures aim to reduce attainment gap

29/07/2013 Kelly
The government has this month announced a range of measures designed to ensure staff in education jobs use the pupil premium effectively in supporting underprivileged pupils.

Having analysed the way this funding is currently being utilised, it is taking steps to increase schools' accountability for their usage of the pupil premium, as well as to encourage best practice.

The pupil premium and the attainment gap

When it was first introduced in 2011-2012, the pupil premium entitled schools to £488 of extra funding per year for each of their pupils who was either eligible for free school meals or had been in care for at least six months continuously.

This academic year, the premium was increased to £623 while eligibility was also extended to all pupils who had been entitled to free school meals at any stage in the past six years, meaning it now covers 27 per cent of the country's schoolchildren.

In 2013-14, the annual amount allocated per pupil will rise to £900, while a total of £2.5 billion will be allotted to schools through the initiative in 2014-15.

It is hoped that this targeted funding will help reduce the country's attainment gap, with just 68 per cent of children eligible for the pupil premium achieving a level four or above at key stage two in 2012, compared to 84 per cent of other pupils.

Furthermore, only 38.5 per cent of pupils eligible for the premium achieved at least five GCSEs, including in English and maths, at grades A*-C last year - something that was accomplished by 65.7 per cent of all other pupils.

Pupil premium facilitates new support for pupils

A government-commissioned report has now highlighted the ways in which schools are currently utilising the pupil premium.

Most of the schools polled for this study said they had increased the support they offered to disadvantaged pupils following the introduction of this new source of funding and planned to introduce new means of assistance in the coming year.

The survey also revealed that more than 95 per cent of schools are monitoring the impact of the support they are providing for the pupils they target the funding at.

Meanwhile, 70 per cent are using evidence from other schools to help them decide how to spend the pupil premium, with 45 per cent also drawing on academic research.

New measures aim to increase pupil premium accountability

To ensure the pupil premium is being used effectively, the government has announced that schools will in future be held to account for the attainment of their disadvantaged pupils, the progress these pupils make and the in-school gap in attainment between disadvantaged children and their peers.

As of September 213, this information will be published in performance tables, while Ofsted will also make the performance and progress of pupil premium pupils a more central focus of its inspections, with schools unlikely to achieve an 'outstanding' rating if they are found to be failing on these criteria.

Schools minister David Laws commented: "We introduced the pupil premium to give head teachers a funding boost to achieve that aim and the evaluation showed promising signs of its impact.

"However, there is much more to be done. Disadvantaged pupils' attainment is unacceptably low compared with their peers. Schools must shoulder the responsibility to reverse that and the government must help them do that as well as hold them to account."

Pupil premium review and champion introduced

Schools will also as of September participate in pupil premium reviews in the event that Ofsted deems them to require improvement in any categories for overall effectiveness and leadership and management and is also concerned about attainment among disadvantaged pupils.

Through this review, schools will assess how they utilise the pupil premium, supported by a head teacher from another school with a strong track record in this area, in order to develop a strategy for using it more effectively.

Moreover, the government is also appointing Dr John Dunford, the chair of the Chartered Institute of Educational Assessors and former general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, to the new role of pupil premium champion.

In this position, Dr Dunford will be responsible for highlighting and sharing examples of the best uses of the pupil premium, as well as informing the Department for Education of any concerns voiced by school leaders and staff in teaching jobs.

Posted by Alan DouglasADNFCR-2164-ID-801617907-ADNFCR
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