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 427.

    Lots of people rightly talking about good parenting but fail to mention the other side of the equation and one reason we are falling behind our rivals. A good work-life balance so parents are in place to help kids with homework etc. Finance dominates this nation to its continual decline. Id use these bonuses and put them into schools etc and boost education to reverse our economic decline.

  • rate this

    Comment number 426.

    #413 Gruntphuttock

    ".. Germany, with better standards, has much shorter school hours."

    I know I'm banging on the same old drum, but, Gruntphuttock, where on earth do you get the idea from that educational standards in Germany are better than in England. THEY ARE NOT. Simple test: no. of German students coming to England for their education v no. of English students going to Germany (000s v 0)!

  • rate this

    Comment number 425.

    any conserative backer will know the answer - the poor just don't want to learn.

  • rate this

    Comment number 424.

    How does £600 per year increase a child's intelligence?

    Governments know that 70% of school leavers are unskilled to semi-skilled workers and always has been, nothing wrong with that, we all can't be Einstein can we. The leg up should be for pupils who show promise that they are a future Einstein, separation from unruly classes into one that nurtures their ability, with finances to fund it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 423.

    Children from poorer backgrounds will be disadvantaged for much of their lives,sadly, because schools, no matter how hard they try with the budget and free school meals,cannot make up for quality parenting. Not all but a large number do not put their childrens needs first.Spend the money on parenting classes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 422.

    a) UK teachers have about the most contact hours in the world already.
    b) Private schools don't have more school hours. Their teachers teach fewer lessons.

    1) no they dont divide that by the number of children its about 15 mins per day, Private has a higher ratio of teacher to children

    2) Private Schools often finish at 5 rather that 3 in state schools

  • rate this

    Comment number 421.

    Why should it require extra money in poorer areas...If the Teachers are in place and they are not getting results then it only serves to prove that these areas have lower quality teachers who cannot do their job properly.

    Money has nothing to do with it...Extra cash thrown at them and still no extra benefit.

  • Comment number 420.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 419.

    re 412 & 403

    The neg raters make me laugh. Both Education & Health are devolved items, independent budgets within Scotland & independent within England so how the money is spent is a local matter. I will leave you to justify to yourselves why 1 can be complained but the other not. I was just interested to see people’s responses would be when advantage was reversed - thx for your responses :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 418.

    It is not a child's fault who its parents are. An intelligent child not encouraged at home will not make the best of the opportunities available. He does not know that his education matters. Many children repeat the lifestyle of the parents. The only way to break the circle is to give these children after school classes, lots of encouragement and an explanation why they need to get educated.

  • rate this

    Comment number 417.


    It's good we're agreed about how the Grammar Schools - as a system of education - were killed off.

    My point about the "rule of law" is that such a major change could not now be brought about by a Ministerial circular! In fact, I'm not sure as a matter of law it was even valid in 1965. Labour simply relied upon their fellow travellers in education to make it happen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 416.

    What's £600 to David Laws?

  • rate this

    Comment number 415.

    407 DG

    If a headteacher has been 'paying himself' £150K then he's been acting illegally as headteacher's pay is set by the School Governors, so it's not really a very good example.

  • rate this

    Comment number 414.

    Could the fact Children from poor familys dont do that well is because their parents dont really care about their academic achievement.

    If thats the case and i suspect it is in 30% of cases all the money in the world wont do that much.

  • Comment number 413.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 412.

    re 403

    thanks for the neg vote, I'm reassured to see hypocrisy is not dead ~chuckles~.

  • rate this

    Comment number 411.

    Shows how good the comprehensive system is when certain schools require extra investment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 410.

    #404 Eva

    Sorry Eva - I wasn't using "German" in any particular sense - just picking up from the blog to which I was replying.

    I would invite you to provide your statistics. Because (from my very extended European family I cannot agree that either Germany or Austria (CERTAINLY NOT AUSTRIA) provides more "equal opportunity" than GB.

    WOW - are things that bad in Hiungary?

  • rate this

    Comment number 409.

    "..Education should begin by the parents from birth. etc....
    Spot on .During My two teacher daughters' 2/3 years teaching at reception/1st year level at inner city state schools, they would have appreciated the children being toilet trained, able to fasten coat buttons, tie shoe laces, know that spitting and scratching is wrong and not to use the 'F' word

  • rate this

    Comment number 408.

    401 Pro_legomena

    While it is true that Circular 10/65 required the introduction of Comprehensive Education this was rescinded by the Tories in 1970, making it for each L.E.A. to decide. Most, including Tory authorities, continued to introduce comprehensive schools. Don't get your 'rule of law' comment, sorry.


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