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 187.


    I wouldn't accuse you of being a thicko, but your spelling and grammar are just appalling.

    Many kids are not academically inclined, which doesn't mean they're thick, they may have other potentialities that could be developed. The one size fits all approach to state education is what is really stupid!

  • rate this

    Comment number 186.

    #139 Hilary.

    I echo your sentiments, the problem is exacerbated by the fact that one often finds that the "political" members of the teaching profession are regrettably, more often at some union meeting or other, moaning and whingeing about "Edukashun" when they would be better off in front of a class.

  • rate this

    Comment number 185.

    I was brought up on the poorest council estate in my town. Even at school my results were good, managing first place a few times, and I went to one of the best universities in the country. I can honestly say that the people I met had learnt the right things, and were averaged a bit smarter at uni, but not the enormous difference our society tries to say there is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 184.

    People asking for the government to pay for private schools for disadvantaged kids are kind of missing the point of private schools.

  • rate this

    Comment number 183.

    Well done, 156. bagwag for illustrating your own point, with your spelling and grammar.

    If spent correctly the £600 premium could help, especially as for most schools there would be lots of children from similar a demographic within catchment. It's really about how intelligently the school uses it, an extra teaching assistant for key lessons to maintain focus or remedial lessons for example.

  • rate this

    Comment number 182.

    this is a LibDem policy so its no surprise that it is basically useless. There are many better ways to spend this money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 181.

    The govt seems to have money to put into new Free Schools or Academys but not to repair old crumbling school buildings (often in poorer communities). Maybe if these Schools were given as much attention as the Academys, then this would filter through to all the pupils who attend. It can't be good for the pupils or staff at these Schools and must have an adverse effect on their education.

  • rate this

    Comment number 180.

    People make a difference to underperforming students -a school would need 30 free school meal pupils to afford I learning support assistant -three times that for an extra teacher- school budgets are being cut at 1.5% per annum-you can see the scale of the problem-perhaps schools should use the money on learning support apprenticeships that might make a difference but the red tape is mind boggling

  • rate this

    Comment number 179.

    Its shame that this policy again shows the error in Liberal thinking (that everyone is born moral, motivated and with strong potential and that the world lets them down) The fact is these need to be taught. The funds should have been targeted at after school care, i.e parents could work extra hours whilst their kids were looked after at school where they could do homework/activities et cetera

  • rate this

    Comment number 178.

    We live in a thoughts and feelings dependency culture where responsibility is the job of someone else. Until education is valued by pupils and parents as the only way out of poverty they can throw all the money they like at the problem, it won't make any difference.

  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    Bagwag, have you seen the state of your grammar and spelling? 'If they're thick, they're thick' as you say. I'd love to see you pass a degree, a post-grad, a literacy and numeracy certificate, and then try to successfully pass it on to others.
    Glass houses and all that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    At my school ANY monies coming into the school go directly: gates, signs, japanese gardens! You could not make this up. Add to this the stigma of being "poor" and recieving funds is degrading. One question though - why cannot this money being given direct to the parents? No guarantee it will be spent wisely but one thing is for sure both govt and headteachers at present are clueless.

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    The govt. should open up a grammar school (please NOT academies) in every local authority in the UK thereby giving every bright child a chance of achieving his/her aspiration.
    People who want to see the return of grammar schools are effectively saying we can improve educational standards by making the vast majority of children attend seconday moderns.

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    OMG more bleding heart nonsense. Being given the opportunity for a free education should be enough for anyone - it's an OPPORTUNITY, it can never be a GUARANTEE
    There are so many "pupils" who just don't want to be there, pay no attention and will have no qualifications whatever you do - short of a radical shake-up of the social problems in this country, like (benefits culture, fathers rights etc)

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    #147. Guiseley Pete.
    Almost got it right.
    The emphasis in education policy should be to ensure no child leaves primary school illiterate or innumerate.
    Unless the basics are in place, the pupil cannot progress through the latter stages of education.
    Consider this, 60% of the prison population are functionally illiterate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    Children spend a relatively small proportion of the hours in a week at school.
    Whether they're well off or poor, the environment they spend the rest of their time in is bound to significantly affect their behaviour and achievements when at school.

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.


    Is that what you teach your own kids...never try to achieve, never push for more 'cos you're too thick!

    Thank god the majority of teachers have the complete OPPOSITE view!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    Ofsted report : The pupils were brilliant and so were the teachers. Unfortunately the cold wind blowing through the broken windows, added to the dripping water from the roof and the fact that the heating didn't work seemed to distract all from learning. Umm...... Holes in the Budget?

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    I see it's the usual worthless foam about forced birth control and bigoted statements about immigrants. If you abandon 'poor people' (and immigrants trying to establish a new life) you will (and have) created a sub-society and all the evils that come with that. In effect you create a downward spiral, of which I'm sure people must be aware. Quite a depressing outlook, but the truth always hurts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    Bring back Grammar schools for everyone, not just the rich.


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