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 67.

    Isn't it good that all the children can benefit form the extra cash? In primary schools having good quality play ground /equipment can be a huge benefit to 'disadvantaged' kids who aren't able to play safely otherwise. Do you stop the other kids from using it? Or using the additional IT resources? (And yes, you can learn some very important skills from play!)

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    Colleges for over-16s (6th Form & FE) are audited annually to check on how their money is spent. Some of funds are ring-fenced and MAY ONLY BE SPENT FOR THE PURPOSES SPECIFIED. Any incorrectly spent money can (and will) be clawed back.

    Why not have the same for schools?

    (I can hear the howls of protest already ...)

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    For a school that is really struggling financially to provide a good standard of education, as many are, that £600 is probably not going to "fill" any particularly large gaps anyway,..

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    in 1995 Eton College, a registered charity, received £4.6 million for playing fields. Thats about £3500 a pupil.

    £600 sounds a bit low in comparison but there again Eton is producing a continuous stream of potential political leaders.


  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    26. You could not be more incorrect. Parental income has, generally speaking, a huge impact upon a child's educational development. The correlation between wealth and educational attainment is well-documented and the subject of a series of sound research papers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    Never mind Premium funds

    Welsh schools have been underfunded for years & as ordered by Welsh Assembly. £600 per pupil per year less than pupils in England.

    Hence the lower maths & literacy rates for pupils living in Wales.

    Head teachers complain & lament comparing their budgets to schools over the border, but Welsh Assembly does nothing, hoarding education money but spending it on what?

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    We were poor & were looked down upon from other parents and teachers at the school. My Mother was told by a teacher that I was deaf & blind & they couldn't see me doing anything with my life
    Despite the prejudice I passed the 11+ & got 2:1 degree. I delighted myself with a visit back to the school to see the same teacher a few years later

    A poor start doesn't = bad education

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    Here we go again! Does Sir Michael know ANYTHING about what schools have to put up with? Does he realise the major cuts in the education budget are causing problems for ALL children which SADLY means the money for the underprivileged children has to be diverted for the benefit of all.If general funding had not been cut then perhaps the pupil premium would not be seen as a political gimmick.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    1) Vouchers instead of cash for food/books/uniforms etc

    2) Bring back assisted places for Grammar Schools

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    Parents, parents, parents. Extra money doesn't do anything for an unmotivated, unsupported child. I'm not saying that all poor people are lazy and workshy, but there does seem to be a strong correlation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    Decades of generational derivation and exclusion will not broken by an additional pot of money that will often be filtered in to other priority areas. Much more is need to move young people on. How about the arrogant, affluent classes reading a little more on the ideas of meritocacy, equal distribution of wealth and the end to private schools.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    48. farkyss Stupid people breed stupid kids. Darwin 101.

    This comment shows a lot of ignorance. What about children with learning difficulties? They come from all sorts of families.
    Also re Free School meals, many people who need them, can't claim cos their pesky parents work and receive Working Tax Credits... not everyone can be in a highly paid job, someone has do stack shelves, etc...

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    Extra funding or not, just because a child claims free school meals should not impact on the quality of education it recieves. Which just goes to show that extra funding is a waste of money

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    Schools minister David Laws said schools would be held accountable.

    I was beginning to wonder when we'd see a sentence with 'David Laws' and 'accountable' being used together. And here we have it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    i came from a "not well off" family but did well at school; that was down to my parents NOT money; they took the time to sit and educate me after school; its parenting not money !

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    Funding has nothing to do with it. What matters is a pupils willingness to learn - alot of which comes from the parents. It doesn't matter the 'class' they come from, in most cases if the parents do not encourage or stimulate a child then they will not be 'bothered', they will mess around a stifle the rest of the class. Throwing money at the problem will not solve it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    Schools in particular Academy schools are becoming businesses and few of the Head Teachers /Governors have the business acumen to manage 'a business' hence the lack of results on investment.

    Also the SATs results are nothing special these kids are so heavily primed and in some cases given extra time & help (during the tests) to ensure school targets achieved it's beyond a joke!

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    As a school we know far more pupils are eligible for free school meals than actually claim it. The problem appears to be the "stigma" attached to claiming free school meals.We tried to address this with confidentiality but some famillies just would not claim what we were fairly sure they were entitled to.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    I don't really see how £600 per head could help bridge the gap between poorer and wealthier students in the first place. Surely extra school funding just helps the school improve in general rather than target underacheiving underpriveligded students.

  • Comment number 48.

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


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