The government has hailed a new Ofsted report as evidence that the pupil premium is benefiting youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds.
According to the report, the pupil premium is generally being spent more effectively than at any time since the funding was introduced in 2011.
Ofsted states that leaders are showing a strong commitment to tackling the attainment gap, forensically targeting pupil interventions and establishing robust tracking systems.
The report reveals that, as a result of this approach, the attainment gap between advantaged and disadvantaged pupils is closing in all schools judged 'good' or 'outstanding' by Ofsted. In many institutions, rapid progress is being made in this area and 12 schools have virtually eliminated the gap entirely.
Progress is also being made in around two thirds of schools in the sample which were judged to require improvement - although the gap is closing more slowly in these institutions.
Ofsted says that in a minority of schools, particularly in those judged inadequate for overall effectiveness, weak leadership and governance remains an obstacle to narrowing the attainment gap.
The inspection body credits its own emphasis on the issue with improving performance, as headteachers are well aware that their schools will not be judged positively unless they can show they are focused on improving outcomes for eligible pupils.
In some cases, previously outstanding secondary schools have been downgraded after inspectors decided the pupil premium was being spent ineffectively and the attainment of disadvantaged children was lagging behind other groups.
The report found that common uses of the pupil premium include hiring additional teaching staff, setting up booster classes, implementing raising aspiration programmes, providing reading support and introducing 'learning mentors'.
Commenting on Ofsted's findings, schools minister David Laws said: "The pupil premium is transforming the life chances of pupils across the country, helping to build a stronger economy and a fairer society.
"By increasing the pupil premium budget to £2.5 billion this year, extending the policy to three and four-year-olds and giving all infants free school meals, there can be no doubt that the government's priority lies in helping all pupils achieve their potential."
Posted by Alan Douglas