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Pupil Premium: evidence-based decisions & planning for impact

Fiona Aubrey-Smith, Head of Primary SSAT, writes…

Given Ofsted’s recent recommendation that schools should ‘prove it or lose it’, headteachers and governors are under pressure to provide hard evidence of the impact that pupil premium has had on standards. Here we provide a summary of some of the practical guidance and resources available to schools, to help make the right choices.

Summer term actions
At this time of year it becomes important to think about evidencing impact of the 2012-13 pupil premium on standards, and also how to learn from that to make the best investment choices for the 2013-14 pupil premium funding, which increases to £900 per child[1]. It is in everyone’s interest to be able to evidence the impact that Pupil Premium funding is having so that teachers, leaders and politicians can all make informed choices about what has the most impact on children’s education. The new School Data Dashboard[2] for parents provides a data snapshot comparing disadvantaged pupils with their peers, and is at the forefront of this accountability, alongside performance tables, the new Ofsted inspection framework, and online reports for parents.

The new Ofsted framework specifically refers to seeking impact of Pupil Premium decisions when focusing on pupil achievement (52), quality of leadership and school management (58) and data evidence (69)[3], with inspection outcome statements such as “The pupil premium funding is used extremely well to implement specific interventions, leading to an immediate and positive impact on standards for those pupils… Governors make sure that the pupil premium is well spent and reports from committees or the headteacher to the governing body are suitably detailed,” (Haseltine Primary School, Ofsted, 2013).  Such is the importance being placed on the £2.5 billion investment, that the Department of Education are providing additional awards of up to £10,000 for schools who can evidence the most impact of Pupil Premium investment choices[4].

Evidence-based decisions
The Department for Education has been publicising their relentless focus on encouraging teaching to be an evidence-based profession, including Ben Goldacre’s recent paper and presentation ‘Building Evidence into Education’ receiving high profile[5], and in this context, Ofsted’s recent review of Pupil Premium visits and survey made three very clear recommendations[6];

1) Target the designated children.
This sounds obvious, but are we targeting intervention programmes at the children for whom the funding has been designated or are we providing intervention programmes for groups of children identified through low attainment or attendance? This is not to say that children not receiving PP should not benefit from the intervention strategies put in place. But, in order to provide clear evidence of the links between PP investments and FSM children’s outcomes, the intervention must be targeted at the named children, and their specific needs and priorities.

Remember to ensure that you are encouraging every family who is entitled to FSM to claim so that all entitled children benefit from the associated PP funding.

Once designated children have been identified, prioritise training for all those professionals involved to understand the importance and detail of your tracking data; so that governors, leaders, teachers, teaching assistants and support staff all share responsibility for ensuring that progress is made towards the agreed and expected outcomes. One of our most cited Headteacher tips is to genuinely share responsibility for achieving the agreed intervention outcomes; not just sharing the task-management or actions involved.

2) Identify clearly how the money is being spent.
This is about being able to provide hard evidence about what you are investing your children’s pupil premium in, what evidence you have based those decisions on, what impact you expect to see, and how you will monitor and manage these activities in order to ensure that the impact happens.

Headteachers who have seen outstanding progress made by children receiving PP have recommended the following ‘top tips’ for identifying best where to invest your funding, and notably, being able to evidence the reasons for your decisions;

  • Look first at your day-to-day teaching and what can be improved, before relying on intervention strategies
  • Analyse why children are underachieving; particularly in English and Maths, and don’t confuse children receiving Pupil Premium with low-ability children
  • Use your best teachers to deliver intervention groups, don’t just rely on TAs
  • Track the impact of intervention groups during the intervention, don’t wait until it’s completed
  • Assign a senior leader to manage and monitor Pupil Premium, and have regular 1:1s between them and class teachers about the PP children. Include this in performance management.
  • Capture evidence of impact throughout the year – case studies for each child.

3) Spend it in ways known to be most effective.
We return to The Sutton Trust-EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit as an accessible summary of educational research which provides guidance for teachers and schools on how to use their resources to improve the attainment of disadvantaged pupils. The top two intervention strategies recommended, which evidence show make the greatest impact on pupil premium investment are:

Feedback (adds 8 additional months of progress over a year )

Meta-Cognition and Self-Regulation/Learning-to-Learn Strategies (+8 months)

Other strategies which evidence shows to make a positive, significant impact on progress and attainment of disadvantaged children include those listed below, and these make interesting reading when we think about the most common uses for pupil premium where impact is difficult to see.

Significantly, evidence shows that the following interventions make either no difference, or make a negative impact:

Given that one of most controversial interventions on the list is that of Teaching Assistants, it is important to look in more detail at the evidence for each of the strategies that your school is or is not using in order to be clear about why these strategies can have a negative or positive impact.

Ofsted found that… over two fifths of schools are using the funding to pay for new or existing teaching assistants or support workers. Whilst in many cases this is a natural consequence to changes of budgetary organisation, it’s important to review the impact that the existing staffing arrangements are having. Is progress good or outstanding for those children who are working with those staff? If so, how can this be evidenced? If not, what intervention needs to be woven into the work that those staff are undertaking; for example specialist training, mentoring, coaching, or professional study, in order to increase their skills in extending progression for the children that they are working with. Are these the right staff, undertaking the right kinds of intervention programmes, for the designated children, or are we sometimes at risk of continuing with programmes in the absence of exploring other strategies?

Evidence suggests… that where teaching assistants are deployed with a well-defined pedagogical role (rather than task management), or have responsibility for being accountable for the specific intervention, then the impact can be seen on their use[7].

The implication is that… both the deployment, training of both teaching assistants, and teachers management of their TAS need to be targeted in order to achieve positive impact in terms of attainment of the targeted children.

Suggested Next Steps

1)       List your Pupil Premium investments, and assign a governor, leader or teacher to research the evidence for/against continuing with these strategies. What alternatives are there which could have a greater impact on children? What would the true cost of adopting and implementing those strategies be? What would the success criteria be if those strategies were implemented instead of, or as well as those you already have in place?

2)       Revisit your monitoring strategy for PP investments; what exactly should you see each day, week, month, term, year? How can you better align the professionals involved in delivering the intervention with the responsibility and accountability of ensuring that the impact is achieved?

3)       Whilst PP intervention strategies are funded with the target and priority of your FSM children, how could sharing success stories across your school (perhaps in half termly staff meetings) improve consistency of success? In other words, how can you encourage staff to improve their own practice above and beyond the PP foci as a result of this investment?

4)       Use one of your staff meetings to take your whole team to one of the free Speed Learning twilights that schools in the national Primary Network are hosting across the Summer Term. Heads, Leaders, Governors and Teachers will be sharing practical experiences of choosing, implementing, evaluating and evidencing Pupil Premium funding.


Recommended Reading
Ofsted (2013) The Pupil Premium: Analysis and Challenge Tools for Schools
For… a useful set of questions, to prompt discussion and data collection for school leaders and governors.

Ofsted (2013) The Pupil Premium: How schools are spending funding  successfully to maximise achievement
For… a set of narrative case studies and strategy ideas, to inform your governor and staff discussions and decisions.

EEF (2013) Teaching and Learning Toolkit – updated Spring 2013
For… research and evidence about each of the main strategies adopted, to inform your school PP investment choices.


[1] DfE (2013) Pupil Premium: What you need to know


[3] Ofsted (2012) The Framework for School Inspection





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