Thursday, 20 September 2012

The Pupil Premium

The 'Pupil Premium' is in the news today, this is extra money that government gives to schools for each pupil receiving free school meals, this year it is worth £630 per pupil which can add up to many thousands of pounds for a big secondary school in a poor area. The Pupil Premium costs government £1.25 billion a year. Sir Michael Wilshaw, Ofsted Chief Inspector wants schools to demonstrate how they are spending the money on disadvantaged pupils when they are inspected. The Pupil Premium has been going for a year but Ofsted has found more than half of schools are simply using the money to fill gaps in school budgets.

So what should schools spend the money on? The National Foundation for Educational Research has published results of an opinion poll of 1,567 teachers about barriers to learning. The most cited factors were: lack of parental support (75%), lack of aspiration (54%), low self-esteem (46%), and lack of effort (38%). However teachers apparently do not think poverty (16%) or poor access to resources (15%) have much impact on learning.

Earlier this year the Joseph Rowntree Foundation published three academic studies which show repeated initiatives to improve aspirations have been ineffective but tend to support the teacher's view that parental support is crucial.  Liz Todd Professor of Educational Inclusion at Newcastle University who was one of the JRF researchers said:
"The existing evidence supports the use of interventions focused on parental involvement in children’s education to improve outcomes. If our education system is to give children and young  people the best chance of achieving their goals, it is essential that they and their parents are helped to succeed and not simply encouraged to have higher aspirations. We know that most young people value their education and want to do well in order to get a good job when they leave school. The barrier for many is realising their ambitions."
The Education Endowment Foundation publishes a toolkit based on research by Durham University about the most cost effective ways to get the biggest increases in educational attainment for disadvantaged pupils. How schools spend the Pupil Premium will depend on the type of community they serve. For example the Times Educational Supplement quoted the Head of George Green's School in East London where 59% of pupils claim free school meals saying there is a straightforward link between poverty and learning:
"If you have pupils coming to school hungry or who haven't got a decent place to sleep, then of course that is going to have an influence," she said. "It is common sense."
Children North East offers a range of activities for schools that increase parental involvement in primary or secondary education such as 'Family Man School Days' and family learning programmes. Accredited training courses for young people that improve low self-esteem and friendship groups that do the same for primary school children. We can work across the boundary between school and home especially to increase school attendance and reduce unauthorised absence. And lots more besides, just look at our website:

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