Government should reward schools who consistently improve results for disadvantaged pupils

The government should automatically reward schools that successfully and consistently improve results for their disadvantaged pupils. This is one of six new policy recommendations published today by the Sutton Trust and the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) and designed to increase the impact the pupil premium has on outcomes for disadvantaged pupils.

The recommendations are detailed in Pupil Premium: Next Steps, a new report published ahead of a major summit tomorrow (Wednesday) that will bring together leading policy-makers, academics and the teaching profession to discuss how best to improve attainment for disadvantaged pupils, closing the gap between them and their peers.

Nicky Morgan MP, Secretary of State for Education, will give the keynote address, with other speakers including Head of Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw and Pupil Premium Champion Sir John Dunford.

New polling commissioned for the summit reveals that 50% of primary teachers and 44% of secondary teachers feel the premium is being used to continue activities that would not otherwise happen due to funding pressures in other areas of their budget caused by tighter national spending.

The polling, based on a sample of 1,478 teachers polled as part of the National Foundation for Education Research teachers’ omnibus, shows that use of evidence in the classroom is growing: 64% of school leaders said they used research to decide how to spend their pupil premium, compared with 52% in 2012. Almost half of secondary senior leaders use the Sutton Trust – EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit to inform their spending decisions.

The rewards recommendation would build on the Government’s Pupil Premium Awards scheme, which rewarded 660 schools this year for their success with the pupil premium, with prizes for the most successful schools worth £250,000. Two award winners will speak at the summit.

When it comes to spending priorities for the pupil premium, a clear favourite continues to be early intervention schemes, an answer given by 31% of schools and almost equally popular in primary and secondaries. One-to-one tuition is chosen by one in six schools.

However, very few schools choose some of the best bets for low cost effective approaches. Despite evidence in the Sutton Trust – EEF Toolkit suggesting it to be a low-cost method, only 4% of teachers and school leaders cite improving feedback for pupils as a top priority for their spending.

Today’s report also includes articles by some of today’s summit participants. In her contribution, Dr Rebecca Allen Director at Education Datalab argues that schools should focus more on improving performance for disadvantaged pupils rather than ‘closing the gap’:

“Free school meal children are clearly different from one another, but they vary far less than the group who are not eligible for free school meals, since this group includes both those with bankers and cleaners as parents,” she writes.

“A school may substantially narrow the gap by working hard to improve the attainment of their most deprived children, or through the accident of the characteristics of their ineligible children.”

In his article for today’s report, Sir Kevan Collins, chief executive of the Education Endowment Foundation argues for a stronger use of evidence by schools in their use of the pupil premium:

“The history of education is strewn with plausible sounding ideas that turned out to be red herrings, or that worked wonders for a term before falling by the wayside. But putting in effort to evaluate and embed change is worth the effort. There is a great prize on offer: a consistent and school-led system providing better outcomes for our children.”

In his foreword to today’s report, Sir Peter Lampl, Chairman of the Sutton Trust and of the Education Endowment Foundation, said today:

“There is no doubt that the Pupil Premium has enabled schools to do more to improve the results of their less advantaged pupils. But equally, the data suggests that we still have a long way to go. Giving disadvantaged young people the best start in life is a vital national endeavour that will pay dividends in providing a more skilled workforce and a more just society.”

Tomorrow’s summit will address the future of the Pupil Premium as the Government considers how it is deployed over the next few years. Other speakers include Sir Kevan Collins, Brian Lightman and Russell Hobby.

Notes to Editors

  1. The Sutton Trust is a foundation set up in 1997, dedicated to improving social mobility through education. It has published over 150 research studies and funded and evaluated programmes that have helped hundreds of thousands of young people of all ages, from early years through to access to the professions.
  2. The Education Endowment Foundation is a charity set up in 2011 by the Sutton Trust as lead foundation in partnership with Impetus Trust, with a Department for Education grant of £125m. It is dedicated to breaking the link between family income and educational achievement. Since its launch the EEF has awarded £57 million to 100 projects working with over 620,000 pupils in over 4,900 schools across England.
  3. The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) surveyed a representative sample of 1,478 teachers in March 2015 in both primary and secondary schools for their Teacher Voice Omnibus survey.