Ofsted says poor pupils losing out on 'premium' funds


Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw: "The survey revealed some rather disturbing findings"

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Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw says a flagship policy to target extra funding at poor pupils in England is having little impact on many schools.

A snapshot survey of 117 schools in poor areas suggests the extra £600 per poor pupil a year made little or no difference to support for them.

Sir Michael said it was a "real worry" if cash was being diverted to "tarmacking playgrounds".

Schools minister David Laws said schools would be held accountable.


  • The pupil premium was introduced in April 2011 for pupils in England from low-income families
  • In 2011-12 it was set at £488 per pupil - £625m in total and in 2012/13 it rose to £600 - £1.25bn in total
  • The premium is available for children eligible for free school meals and pupils in care
  • It has been extended from 2012-13 to pupils who have been eligible for free school meals at any point in the past six years
  • Schools are free to spend the extra funding as they see fit but from September 2012, the government requires schools to publish information about how they use it
  • There is also a service premium for children whose parents serve in the armed forces; this was £200 in 2011-12 and rose to £250 for 2012-13

Under the scheme, schools in disadvantaged areas in England are allotted £600 per head to help give extra support to poorer children. Those from disadvantaged backgrounds often do not do as well as their more advantaged peers and the funds are aimed at helping to bridge the gap.

The National Union of Teachers said the funding was being used in many schools to plug holes in their budgets.

The Ofsted report, which surveyed and inspected nearly 300 schools in total, found that half the schools thought the pupil premium was having a positive impact on raising achievement, but it said few could provide evidence to back this up.

Speaking about the results of the snapshot survey on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Sir Michael said: "We found that over 50% said that it was having either little or no impact on the way they organise and manage their schools in relation to the use of money on poor children.

"We find that surprising - this is a large chunk of public money."


Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said the government had introduced the pupil premium at the same time as cutting school budgets elsewhere, so overall the amount of money in the front line in schools was exactly the same after the pupil premium.

"Actually what you see in Ofsted's data is that schools have invested in extra teachers and extra teaching assistants, by and large, so that they can give extra help for these pupils.

"So I think (support) is going to the disadvantaged pupils. What I worry about is, is that the best way to help them?"

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers said the premium's "low rate and uneven distribution" meant it was not sufficient to protect schools against cuts to their funding.

"Inflation will soon erode the value of an already-frozen schools budget. As a result of this funding crisis schools are being placed in the untenable position of having to use the pupil premium to plug gaps in existing provision and not for entirely new initiatives," she said.

The pupil premium is a key coalition policy, initiated by the Lib Dems.

Mr Laws said the government would not wish to micromanage schools.

But he added: "Critically, while we're giving those schools freedom to use the money as they think best, we are also putting in place an accountability mechanism which will ensure that they use the money in the right way."

He said this meant that during visits to schools, Ofsted inspectors would "look at whether the schools are closing the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged pupils."

Then inspectors would "look at the ways they are using the money" and be "critical" where this was not effective.

Martin Johnson, deputy general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers said: "Ofsted is supposed to make independent judgements. Its pupil premium report shows that it is now simply a ministerial mouthpiece, giving more credence to poor quality research and political spin.

"Schools are suffering real cuts to funding, and rumours are circulating of a big hit in the Chancellor's autumn statement, so it would be perverse of schools not to use the pupil premium to plug gaps in their funding."

The report comes as other Liberal Democrat policies come under scrutiny, with party leader Nick Clegg and Business Secretary Vince Cable apologising for breaking their party's pledge to oppose increasing student tuition fees.

The shadow schools minister Kevin Brennan said: "A year and a half after being introduced, this report shows that the pupil premium is not working in the way it was intended, because it fails to offset the cuts the Tory-led government has made to the schools budget."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Having a curriculum which engages most pupils and keeps them engaged instead of alienating them, would do more than political platitudes to solve this problem. Simplistic approaches like those of Mr. Gove and Sir Michael Wilshaw, just makes things worse.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    It is a nonsense. What does he expect? The spurious 'disadvantage' is not of a disability that needs extra help. Their parents are less well off than some others, big deal, makes no difference in educational affairs they get the same lessons as anyone. Does Clegg mean use it to pay for silly school trips for the less wealthy? Or hand cash to the child!

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    his laws involved in the "black stuff"business-he's not to bending the rules and the odd false claim-ive a driveway want's doing-any chance of him sending a team round-no questions asked no VAT-lubbly-jubbly-nice to see an honest minister given a chance or should that be second chance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    Dale Maily's are out in force i see.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Instead of £600 a pupil you need to lump the money in to getting class sizes smaller

    This is the best way to improve school standards. This requires investment in more teachers& larger schools.

    The issue of course being this government refusing to invest even if it is in the long term interest of this country

    A more skilled workforce in the future is the best way of improving our economy

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    @ rt6774

    Of course it’s these darn children that are the real problem! How could the government miss this!

    Perfect solution; no children = no problem.

    How can you justify this absolutely crazy notion! Children really really are our future. We should try to educate them, not eradicate them!

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    You've got to water your flowers and cut your weeds.

    Ofsted is a major weed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Here's an idea - instead of saying 'sorry' how about removing the insurmountable obstacle of debt in poor peoples eyes by tripling tuition fees Lib Dems. Perhaps then poor children could aspire to a university education too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Blame the parents

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    This policy falls into the old trap of believing that money solves everything. It just doesn't. Attitude and ambition are what counts and giving money to schools "to spend as they see fit" (LibDems again showing the way in naivety) will be a black-hole.

    Better off to pick out the promising kids in disadvantaged schools and focus the money there. "Fair?"...not really. "Effective?"...probably!

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Poor pupils eh?
    My family was REALLY poor during the war,and guess what we did?
    Well,my dad went to work 25 miles away on three shifts,and came home very tired.
    My mother ensured my brother and I was ok,kept the house in smart nick and helped out her sisters and parents as well!
    Govt has created a dependent Socialist society.
    Stop pouring money into immigrants.We could look after owncitizens

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    The problem in a lot of families is that is not seen as 'cool' to learn or read books, especially amongst boys.

    Money will not fix this attitude.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Schools should just be given any money due to them and be allowed to spend it as they feel fit. If they fail, if money is wasted, then they have to account for their decisions. When government becomes as good at spending money as schools, then they can dictate to them, until then, they should just butt out.

  • Comment number 14.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    I am fed up having to subsidise the choice of people to have children
    or people who come to this country as immigrants to have their children subsidised by the state through taxes

    The people who seem to be taxed the most are solo people .


  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Unless the money is ringfenced it will inevitably be spent just as part of the total school budget. What Ofsted should also look at is how disadvantaged children are being helped within the individual school environment and what results are being achieved with them, not simply audit trailing the money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    5 ronaldo
    perhaps they should be like the rich upper class parents who send their kids off to private boarding school so that they don't have to look after their kids, and they can addle their minds on Bolli, and coke!

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    They've GOT to gets maths sorted out or a huge pool of talent will be lost

    I was rubbish at maths at school and it wasn't until the internet came along that I discovered that I love maths and computers

    Maths is a solutions based subject and at school the maths people convince you that there is only one way to skin a cat

    But in reality there's a heck of a lot of ways to skin a cat

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Giving money with one hand and taking money with the other has the inevitable result, nothing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    "Those from disadvantaged backgrounds often do not do as well as their more advantaged peers"

    Hang on. So are poor children not performing as well as 'rich' children at the same schools?

    If that's the case then throwing £600 at that pupil is going to achieve absolutely nothing. The problems lie at home, and poor parenting.


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