I have been a Headteacher for 9 years and this much I know about the Pupil Premium.
Sam Ellis told an audience of ASCL members some time ago that the Tory element of the Coalition hated the Pupil Premium because it is a Lib-Dem policy and were out to blame Headteachers for its misuse as a prelude to scrapping it. When I woke up two days ago to hear Pupil Premium top of the news agenda on the Today programme it wasn’t really surprising; Wilshaw and Laws were wheeled out as part of the plan Sam Ellis warned us about six months ago. This relentless attack on the teaching profession is well-orchestrated. If we want to keep the Pupil Premium we have to be ready to defend our spending of it with rock solid evidence.
Our school budget has been cut by £400,000 in the last two years, and that’s after taking the Pupil Premium into account. For instance, in that time our annual capital budget has been cut 82% from £160,000 p.a. to £29,000 p.a. At times I need to divert money from explicitly supporting students’ learning so I can repair the roof.
We have the most MOD students in the City. What is ironic about the MOD element of the Pupil Premium for us is that our MOD students would have to perform much worse than currently in order for us to close the gap between them and our non-MOD students; our local barracks house the Medics!
I understand what Wilshaw and Gove are on about when they say context is irrelevant, but, whilst the fact that some of my students will have heard several thousand fewer words by the age of three than my son did at that age is not an excuse for my students’ limited literacy, it does help explain why they find it more difficult to read and write.
Evaluating the impact of Pupil Premium spending is terrifically difficult. I met Dr Jonathan Sharples last week who works for the Institute of Effective Education based at the University of York. We talked about Carol Dweck’s work and I shared with him the Michael Jordan Nike Failure Advert (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iPFOlXo7UPI). He was brilliant on how we measure the impact of interventions for socio-economically deprived students. He later sent me an email, the nub of which is detailed here:
Here is a useful article written by Carol Dweck outlining her work http://www.scribd.com/doc/94693158/NAIS-Brainology-Transforming-Students-Motivation-to-Learn .The Education Endowment Foundation, that we are heavily involved with, have just funded a project to trial an initiative in Plymouth based on Dweck’s work http://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/projects/portsmouth-university, that might also be worth a look. EEF are also funding the excellent family reading project I mentioned called SPOKES http://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/projects/spokes, which we are independently evaluating. This link has some useful research on student motivation too:
Jonathan’s inspirational and his contacts are: Institute for Effective Education|University of York|York|YO10 5DD|Tel: +44 (0)1904 328167|Email:firstname.lastname@example.org|Web: www.york.ac.uk/iee
I like the Sutton Trust Pupil Premium Toolkit, but it is only useful to a point. If you use it, your own wisdom and judgement will help you decide how much you follow its advice. High quality assessment is, according to the toolkit, the best strategy for improving student outcomes; well, Dylan Wiliam has been making that point for a long time. Teaching Assistants make have little impact on student attainment for the students they explicitly support, but their presence in the classroom brings far wider benefits. What the Toolkit does provide for Headteachers is some kind of research base for supporting Pupil Premium spending decisions. http://www.suttontrust.com/research/toolkit-of-strategies-to-improve-learning/
Everyone knows how hard it is to target specific funding effectively upon FSM students in order to raise attainment. We have an explicit page in our SDP which cross-references the actions in our SDP which are Pupil Premium related. Anyone from OFSTED who visits our school will be able to track how we have spent the Pupil Premium money, but it’s not an exact science.
All students and their parents have high aspirations; it’s insulting to suggest they don’t. What we have to do is work with them to close the gap between what they want to do in life and what they think they will do in life.
Make home more like school and school more like home was the mantra of Grahame Whitfield from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation at a recent meeting. I can only agree with the first part of that aphorism. The chaos some of my students inhabit is not what I’d want to replicate in school. What we have to do with all the funding we have is to make what we offer in school, from 8.30 am-5.00 pm for 192 days a year, utterly irresistible.