Schools are rapidly becoming experts at helping their disadvantaged pupils, according to a new report highlighting how schools use the pupil premium - extra funding for such pupils.
The Ofsted report - the third in a series highlighting the progress schools are making with the funding - shows that for the schools sampled:
- the achievement gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers is closing, often quickly, in all schools judged ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted
- the gap was closing, albeit more slowly, in around two thirds of schools in the sample which were judged to require improvement
- school leaders are spending pupil premium funding and tracking their pupils’ progress more effectively than before
And performance data supports these findings. Since the introduction of the pupil premium in 2011, attainment at the expected level of 11-year-olds eligible for free school meals has risen by almost 7 percentage points, and the gap in attainment between these pupils and their peers has narrowed by more than 3 percentage points.
Attainment is also rising for 16-year-olds eligible for free school meals - the proportion achieving at least 5 A* to C grade GCSEs, including English and maths, is up by more than 3 percentage points since 2011, while the attainment gap between these pupils and their peers has narrowed by almost 1 percentage point.
School Minister David Laws said:
The pupil premium is transforming the life chances of pupils across the country, helping to build a stronger economy and a fairer society.
This report shows that our reforms to make schools more accountable for how they spend the funding is revolutionising the way such pupils are given the best possible start to life. It shows headteachers, teachers and governors are rallying behind the policy to close the achievement gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers. And where performance is an issue we are taking swift action to ensure all pupils are given the education they deserve.
By increasing the pupil premium budget to £2.5 billion this year, extending the policy to 3- and 4- year-olds and giving all infants free school meals, there can be no doubt that the government’s priority lies in helping all pupils achieve their potential.
The report studied the progress schools have made in using their pupil premium funding to help disadvantaged pupils. This year the pupil premium budget is £2.5 billion, increased from £1.875 billion in 2013 to 2014. This now equates to £1,300 per primary-aged pupil, £935 per secondary-aged pupil and £1,900 for looked-after children or children who left care through adoption or by other means.
Ministers are crediting this success to the hard work of schools and a number of policy changes to make schools more accountable, including:
- holding schools to account for the performance of their disadvantaged pupils through new performance tables
- asking Ofsted to introduce a sharper focus on the performance and progress of these pupils as part of their inspection framework
- requiring all schools to display how they spend their pupil premium funding publicly
- appointing Sir John Dunford as Pupil Premium Champion. Sir John visits areas where performance is a concern to help them use their pupil premium more effectively
The schools minister has also written to 87 local authorities where the performance of disadvantaged pupils is a concern. The government has also published guidance making it clear to local authorities that they should intervene where the achievement of disadvantaged pupils in maintained schools is unacceptably low.
Pupil Premium Champion Sir John Dunford said:
School leaders, teachers and governors accept the challenge of raising of the attainment of children from disadvantaged backgrounds. This is what motivated many of them to come into teaching and they regard the pupil premium and the evidence available on what works as giving them the tools to narrow the gap between the achievement of disadvantaged children and their more fortunate peers.
I have spoken to 6,000 school leaders since September and have been impressed by the range of strategies being implemented which, over time, will help to narrow the gap, with high-quality teaching, good monitoring of progress and rapid intervention at the top of the list of actions that make a difference.
The findings also show that the best schools:
- ensure all pupils achieve a good level of literacy and numeracy
- improve the resilience, behaviour and confidence of pupils
- carefully target interventions to best meet the needs of their pupils
- rigorously monitor and evaluate these methods