“Ofsted’s report on Pupil Premium spending doesn’t add up,” says academic

In a report published today, Ofsted say the pupil premium is making a difference in schools. The pupil premium was introduced in 2011 to narrow the gap between the attainment of rich and poor children. Ofsted looked at the findings of 151 schools sampled and found that there were “encouraging signs from inspection that the concerted efforts of good leaders and teachers are helping to increase outcomes for pupils eligible for the pupil premium”.

Professor Steve Higgins, from Durham University, comments on Ofsted’s report on how schools are spending the pupil premium:

“This is an important issue, since, as Ofsted indicates, as we spend £2.5 billion a year on the Pupil Premium and we have one of the worst records internationally on the gap between rich and poor. I am not confident this report will help schools spend this money any more wisely, other than saying good leadership with careful targeting and tracking of eligible students is important. We need to understand the detail about what effective schools are doing, the activities and interventions they have chosen where these can be clearly linked to the success of their disadvantaged pupils.

Perhaps the most worrying part of this report is Ofsted says most schools are spending the money on additional teaching staff – but gives scant details about how these staff are deployed, beyond one-to-one tuition; booster classes – but not how children are identified and tracked and re-integrated or which interventions are successful; reading support – but not what kind, raising aspiration programmes and learning mentors.

The evidence for these different approaches, as reported in the Sutton Trust/ Education Endowment Foundation Teaching and Learning Toolkit, is very varied with both raising aspirations and mentoring, on balance beneficial but overall offering relatively poor value, and also in some researched examples actually unsuccessful with harmful effects.

It would be really helpful to know how successful schools are making these approaches work. Additional staff to reduce class sizes is less likely to be effective than extra staff to provide targeted support. What if the one-to-one support was one-to-two? Evidence suggests in many circumstances, particularly with a qualified teacher, one teacher with two pupils can be as effective as individual tutoring, but at nearly half the cost.”

Professor Steve Higgins, from Durham University, is the lead author of the Sutton Trust/ EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit and he works with the Education Endowment Foundation on the use of research evidence and robust evaluation to support disadvantaged learners.


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