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 267.

    As has been said, this 'extra' funding is only available if the family claim free school meals which so do not, due to the stigma.
    Also the playground is part of a child's education along with the rest of the infrastructure.
    Another way to address the issue is to take one lot of £600 and sack that blithering Idiot Gove!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 266.

    Teachers are only interested in meeting targets so kids are taught to be average at best instead of striving to excel. There are issues with the attitude towards learning in many poor families but not all, if the schools don't try because the parents aren't then there really is no hope for these kids.

  • rate this

    Comment number 265.

    More than money education is mostly impacted by child's environment, attitude to learning, self esteem, availability of subjects that are appropriate to their gifting and peer pressure.
    £600 can never fix kids whose background says learning is "uncool" a waste of time etc. More use sort out the curriculum for less academic kids rather than force them to fail subjects that no business cares about

  • rate this

    Comment number 264.

    @53 SUZYP72 I totally agree with your statement. I was also from a poor back ground and had to work hard in a family business from a very early age. My parents tried their best to make sure I did better and mainly down to their efforts, not money, I did.

  • rate this

    Comment number 263.


    Race, religion and other traits don't generally have the impact on direct education that poverty does. I was one of the lucky ones, but I would never begrudge extra help to someone who did not have that advantage from getting help. People whine about the cost but it's really just about making sure a kid's potential isn't stifled by their homelife or whatever.

  • rate this

    Comment number 262.

    If the money is allocated by the government and it is used to buy comfie chairs for the staffroom,or otherwise diverted from it's original purpose, then who's fault is that ? Somebody should find themselves queuing at the dole office for misusing public funds. At the very least, the vociferous leaders of the unions concerned, should be asked to explain. Cuts in other budgets is a lame excuse.

  • rate this

    Comment number 261.

    The Public Education system does not work, it's a simple as that. This story is from a teacher I had at my school, I imagine things have only got worse since then. The way our whole society operates needs to be looked at because and re-structured


  • rate this

    Comment number 260.

    SkillForce welcomes the renewed focus on the Pupil Premium, 60% of our free school meals students move on to further education compared with 9% nationally
    We look forward to supporting this initiative. http://goo.gl/7b4ok

  • rate this

    Comment number 259.

    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
    How many mistakes can you pack into a sentence?
    They're x2, wear and you're
    If it's a joke, you've got me!

  • rate this

    Comment number 258.

    Mike from Brum Do your comments about everyone being treated equally mean that you would shut down Public Schools? Does it mean that you would stop Oxford, Cambridge and the other unis. getting the extra adavantages they and their pupils enjoy? Does it mean that the state will stop giving extra money for talented, but wealthy people to pursue education? eg 1sts at Uni. get stuff for free.

  • rate this

    Comment number 257.

    @bagwag: "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"

    Yes, it certainly showed up here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 256.

    Let's see. I pay taxes to support the children of those who won't work. I pay more taxes to give extra money to schools to try and address the problems that go along with worklessness. Then, from what I have left, I need to pay for private school for my own children to keep them away from the problems and give them a good education. How is that "fair"?

  • rate this

    Comment number 255.

    @8 Global Yawning.

    "The problems lie at home, and poor parenting.".

    If that were true, personally I think there's an element of that but it's not the whole story as you imply, the child is an innocent victim. While that child is at school the state, society as a whole, has an opportunity to work with children independently of parents. Or would you abandon them completely?

  • rate this

    Comment number 254.

    How do we know that the 'snapshot' of this minute sample of only 117 schools has any validity? Local schools I know are putting great effort to ensure the money is well spent on the children it should be spent on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 253.

    I'm from a working class background and I had a reasonable education -I got to University with some extra tuition at my local college -which my parents paid for. I was surrounded by peers who threw away their opportunities - I don't know what they are doing now, but I was happy to get away. Bottom line - poor kids always get the worst deal. Moral - when you have kids, make sure you are not poor.

  • rate this

    Comment number 252.

    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 !

    I came from a similar family, my parents did the same as yours & I did likewise to my children. However, good education for all takes money and good parenting, you can't have one without the other.

  • rate this

    Comment number 251.

    Why don't you take that £600 and knock it off university fees (paid only by English kids, not Scottish kids - imagine the outcry if black kids had to pay more for education... anyway...) for poor kids instead?

  • rate this

    Comment number 250.

    Throwing money at schools is not the way as it will surely get swallowed up with their normal budget. Give the parents book/school clothing vouchers or after school clubs for the underachievers (who are not necessarily poor!)

  • rate this

    Comment number 249.

    One of the marked differences in literacy levels, regardless of wealth and that costs nothing, is whether a parent reads with a child. School is only a part of a child's education. Schools can't fix everything.

  • rate this

    Comment number 248.

    Money,money,money. Thats all we ever hear when problems arise. How about effort (from the kids), commitment (from the parents) and dedication (from the teachers) for a change. Half the trouble with problem kids is problem parents. Sort out the families first


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