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 167.

    Clegg mentions a checking mechanism, but what exactly is that checking mechanism? It seems to me that there is an intention to appear to be doing something, while actually doing nothing. Help should take the form of some extra teaching to make up for the lack of help these students will get at home. It is also important to try to diffuse the anti-education social more that exists amongst the poor.

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    Once again the poorest and most vulnerable in society are being made to suffer under a tory government.

    This all comes down to the fact that the education sector like all public services needs more money. Sadly the tories are more interested in helping big business (take today's announcement on broadband).

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    This is in essence a redistribution of education money from middle class schools to inner city schools.

    It is not possible to say why inner city schools might need more money to teach pupils under threat of being moderated.

    If you agree that education should be means of wealth redistribution then fine. I don't

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.


    I could not agree more .. if your thick, you are thick !

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    a lot of the less promising kids seem to be bored or unhappy, maybe a change of 'how they are taught' should be looked at, some of these less promising kids may shine through if they are taught differently, more practical work in science rather than just theory & writing, let them experiment. make lessons fun!! a happy environment is a productive environment. i still think class sizes are too big

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    Oh hi there again David Laws. Is that how it works now? You resign because of wrongdoing, with the knowledge you can just return in a few years anyway? Sounds more like an extensive holiday than a punishment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    to Guiseley Pete,
    even if that child is inherently low ability, has been raised with a poor attitude, comes from a dysfunctional background with unsupportive parents, and has been brought up knowing that he can go his entire life without having to lift a finger? How is that the teacher's fault?

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    @142. Myself
    A noticed my comment has been bypassed why? Is it that the truth hurts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    We all know money doesn't solve the probelm. Put that money into teacher training. We can only bridge the gap with improving teacher methadology.

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    "It's nothing to do with how much money you have, it's what you do with it."
    Well it's both really isn't it?

    "It's nothing to do with money, it's about parenting."
    Well it's both really isn't it?

    And merely bleating anecdotal evidence of ones own personal experience means very very little unless you wish to make the age old mistake of univeralising from the particular.

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    Interesting to note is the reverse effect to what is discussed here. There's plenty of potentially very bright kids being brought down by being mixed in with bad classes as a result of being poor (For various reasons). There's also plenty of kids being forced through high class schools by rich parents and expecting a genius at the end and not getting one. Balancing of the two groups is needed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    It doesn't matter how much money you spend on a child's education, if their thick, their thick. You may get a good job if you ware the right tie but if your not very bright it will show up, ie. many of those in government, quite few members of the royal family, almost all union leaders and, actually, quite a lot of teachers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    Re - 18 Anglophone - re Attitude and ambition as what counts - What, or is it which? Planet are you from. Modern life is the brick wall that people butt their heads into daily in enervated frustration. Grow up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    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.

    Such hypocricy from this government. How much road tax do they divert from road maintainance to other ventures. Perhaps the government should be held accountable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    I think there are too many people in the world for this kind of welfare anymore. Means-tested parenting would ultimately benefit society more. Difficult to implement and enforce, mind.

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    The failure of this policy must be seen in the context of the cuts to education in general. Attempts to help disadvantaged students are crucial, but will struggle to succeed while school standards in general are falling due to budget cuts. Only when sufficient funding is restored will progress in the equality of education be truly successful.

  • Comment number 151.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    This report is quite alarming as it suggests that schools receive a £600 per head payment but have no direction on how they should spend it.

    My son is autistic and has further funding, but we see how it is used. He has a one-on-one support worker and specialist learning aids.

    In the case of poor children, I fear that schools are fighting a losing battle against poor parenting anyway.

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    Freezing budgets doesn't freeze the ever increasing numbers of pupils that have to attend the same school. This is the crux of the problem, and politicians don't want to deal with this. A frozen budget should at least match the annual increase in enrolments as well as inflation, otherwise the tax payer is being told half the story. The redistribution of funds to tackle the shortfall is no surprise

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    I may be on a low income and receive working tax credit (as a divorced mum) but my son is a credit to me - taking his GCSE French this summer at aged 14 - and passing with a B - I couldn't be more proud! So its nothing to do with how much money you have - its what you do with it that counts!


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