Ofsted says poor pupils losing out on 'premium' funds


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

Related Stories

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."


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 287.

    It's not just poorer schools. It's also rural schools. Transport comes out of the budget and when 80+% of the pupils/students have to be bussed in every day that takes a huge bite of the apple. Home enviroment is also important - are children encouraged and helped wtih their homework or do parents think that education is all down to teachers and school hours?

  • rate this

    Comment number 286.

    The public sector puts the national public before profit margins - that's what separates it from the private sector. This, however, doesn't mean we can afford to throw endless amounts of money into a black hole of inefficiency and ineffectiveness.

    The government needs to do some serious analysis of the public sector, filling in the holes which are leaking resources and removing any dead wood.

  • rate this

    Comment number 285.

    Of course money going to schools makes a difference. More money, more resources, better teachers, and smaller classes. If money didn't make a difference why do the rich pay for their children to go to private schools? Poorer children tend to be concentrated in poorer schools with less resources and less well qualified teachers, Unfortunately the pupil premium is just too small to make a difference

  • rate this

    Comment number 284.

    255. Under-Used
    @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.
    OK, so what do we do?
    Throwing money at the problem does nothing other than making left-wing feel complacent.

    We need brave proposals for decisive solutions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 283.

    Mike from brum almost all of the extra money being spent on high achievers is public money. if you believe in all students getting exactly the same, why are you willing to give extra money to them when they will be paid more eventually. eg students who get 1sts get state money to study to MA level. Poorer holders os a more modest degree do not. State funding is factually not the same.

  • rate this

    Comment number 282.

    It must be tempting to spend the money on other things when the only thing holding up your school buildings is scaffolding like our local academy.Motivation is all very well and good but without the money to back it up it means nothing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 281.

    Whoa. Let's not misreport this. The pupil premium isn't extra money on top, its money being given back in a different form to what it used to be.

    Furthermore, who is Wilshaw to say room refurbishments aren't what we should be using the money for? If they are creating a room specifically for disadvantaged pupils, then its an asbolutely fine use of the money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 280.

    Tories cut money to schools but give back small amount in grand gesture for the deserving poor so that cuts are not so noticeable.
    Now Wilshaw insinuates that teachers can't be trusted with the Govt's largesse. His statement is preparation for cutting of this 'extra' cash.
    Laws' claims about freedom are not true - cash has been cut, so schools are constrained and controlled by that cut.

  • rate this

    Comment number 279.

    Mike from Brum Do your comments ... you would stop Oxford, Cambridge and the other unis. getting the extra adavantages they and their pupils enjoy?
    No, I'm speaking about public money only. What private money is spent on is no-one else's business. Oxbridge is unique for lots of reasons e.g. they own their buildings in contrast to other unis which are owned by government

  • Comment number 278.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 277.

    I feel sad to read so many comments which blame parents. It may be that the parents are responsible for their children not doing as well as those from better backgrounds, but this does not mean that schools should do nothing to help these children anyway. It's lazy and unethical for teachers and schools to give up on children because they have the misfortune to have disinterested parents.

  • rate this

    Comment number 276.

    I suppose this money is spent on the champayne at the staff's christmas party lol.

    Seriously though if this money has an intended purpose then schools should account for every penny and in detail.

  • rate this

    Comment number 275.

    First of all money only goes a little way, you also need good teachers who are motivating. second of all the student would be fine if they are motivated. I am doing fine even though my family are not well off and this is due to dedication from teachers and myself, not cash. also the way it is stuctured because my dad earns £500 more than the cut of point i will lose £3000 in help

  • rate this

    Comment number 274.

    At least I suppose there is some effort towards fairness for school age people. What about when they leave school, and an ordinary kid who has got a degree, but can't get a job through a lack of connections, is forced to go and sweep up at poundland for free? Is this what this government means when it says it is trying to deal with social inequality? It looks not to me!

  • rate this

    Comment number 273.

    People are completely missing the point about the extra money. The article suggests that it isn't yielding results due to spending cuts, and that the money that was intended for the most disadvantaged is being re-directed to cover basic costs. Instead of that message getting through the usual suspects are arguing that the funding should be cut further.

    This would compound the problem.

  • rate this

    Comment number 272.

    And today's headline is.................................................
    Sir Michael Wilshaw's attempts to attract media attention are getting ever more ridiculous. What does he think £600 will achieve, particularly when schools faced cuts in their main budgets. When children have multiple problems, does he (and his Tory colleagues) really think chucking a few quid at it will make a difference?

  • rate this

    Comment number 271.

    Half the trouble with problem kids is problem parents. Sort out the families first"

    There is probably some truth in that (middle class does problem kids too, but can afford help), but problem families often come about through lack of opportunity. So many social problems stem from unemployment/low-paid employment, yet there is no will at the top address that issue properly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 270.

    I am a single parent with a chld eligible for free school meals, how on earth does that make my child disadvantaged educationally? It is all about attitude to parenting and no amount of "funding" will change this. I have encouraged my child to read, write and to see school as a positive thing, I have seen many other "well off" parents do far less

  • rate this

    Comment number 269.

    I am of the opinion that faulty teaching methods play a major part in the failure of these children . I believe there is still an emphasis on play , arts and crafts at the lower level ; where there should be direct teaching of basic reading writing and arithmetic . Children a very frustrated if they cannot read , that should be the number one aim to have all the children read well

  • rate this

    Comment number 268.

    Schools these days are too often just used as dumping grounds for parents to absolve responsibility for their kids for 7 hours a day.

    The government too often uses schools as a means of indoctrinating the children into believing whatever wackjob social theories that is considered trendy at the time.

    Parents don't care what their kids learn, so no surprise extra money yields no results.


Page 15 of 29


More Education & Family stories



Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.