Increasing number of schools are using their pupil premium funding to offset budget cuts


A small but growing number of schools are using their funding for disadvantaged pupils to offset budget cuts elsewhere, according to new polling published by the Sutton Trust and the Education Endowment Foundation today. 6% of teachers reported this as the main priority for their school’s pupil premium spending, an increase from 2% in 2015.

The survey of 1,607 teachers, conducted by the National Foundation for Educational Research as part of their Teachers’ Voice Omnibus survey, found that one in five didn’t know what the main priorities for their pupil premium funding was. The most common priority for spending, identified by over a quarter of teachers (28%), was on early intervention schemes. 13% said that more 1:1 tuition was a priority and 10% said teaching assistants.

However, virtually all of the senior leaders surveyed believe that the pupil premium has allowed them to target resources at raising the attainment of their poorest pupils. 98% of primary and secondary leaders and four our out of five classroom teachers (79%) agreed with this statement to either a great extent, to some extent or to a little extent.

polling also highlights the increasing use of evidence in the teaching profession. When asked how their school decide what approaches and programmes to adopt to improve pupil learning, 63% of secondary senior leaders said they considered research evidence on the impact of different approaches and programmes; six out of 10 secondary senior leaders said that they used the Sutton Trust-EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit too, an increase from 48% in 2015. The Toolkit is also becoming more recognised among classroom teachers, as well as senior leaders. Over one in four said they used it to decide which approaches and programmes to adopt, an increase of 10 percentage points on 2015.

Commenting on the report, Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, said:

“The Sutton Trust Report does not tell us anything new. It simply confirms what the NASUWT predicted when the pupil premium was introduced, that given the cuts to school budgets the funding would inevitably be used to shore-up diminishing school budgets, rather than support disadvantaged children.

“A recent NASUWT survey on the use of the Pupil Premium found that over half of teachers did not know how the additional funding for Pupil Premium pupils is spent in their school and nearly a third had not been made aware what priorities their school had focused on to support pupils who attracted the pupil premium funding.

“In too many cases teachers were not seeing any extra resource in their classrooms but were still expected to meet the additional needs of the pupils.

“As this report highlights, the Pupil Premium has the potential to make a real difference to the most disadvantaged pupils, but the benefits are not being realised because of cuts to school budgets and a lack of robust financial oversight of how money is being spent.

“If real progress is to be made in closing the achievement gap for the most disadvantaged pupils, then those actually teaching the pupils need to be consulted on its use.

“There needs to be a clear system of monitoring, but above all schools need to be funded appropriately to ensure the pupil premium truly is additional funding."

The survey recommends:

  • Extension of pupil premium awards so that schools that successfully and consistently improve results for all while narrowing the attainment gap are properly rewarded.
  • Continued support for the pupil premium, backed by strong accountability, to improve attainment for disadvantaged pupils.
  • A strong commitment to the promotion of rigorous evidence, particularly where it has been tested in randomised control trials, by education ministers and policymakers. Ofsted should look at schools’ use of evidence in their inspections and schools should be supported to evaluate approaches themselves.