With the total cost of the Pupil Premium reaching £2.5b, the government wants to make sure that schools are using the money the way it was intended - raising the attainment of traditionally underperforming groups (see ASCL speech by David Laws). Rather than forcing schools to spend the money on certain pre-defined approaches they have opted to give schools the freedom to spend the money on 'what works'. However, Ofsted have been tasked with checking that schools are using the money wisely.
What makes that job even harder is, for most schools I know, the Pupil Premium doesn't feel like additional money. Cuts elsewhere mean that, once again, schools are under pressure to do more, with less. Still, mustn't grumble, eh?
This feels like some sort of high-stakes guessing game where the price of failure is a poor Ofsted report and all that entails. So how do you keep Ofsted happy?
Helpfully, they have given an Analysis and Challenge Toolkit which provides some guidance. The basic advice seems to be as follows:
1) Know who the Pupil Premium students are
I know of several schools recently receiving an Ofsted inspection (I am in Norfolk after all!) and I have been told about Inspectors walking into classrooms and asking the teachers, "who here is on free school meals?"
Every teacher should be able to identify which students are eligible for the Pupil Premium. This task is harder now that it is those students who have been on FSMs sometime in the last 6 years (FSM6). The data is available from the Key-to-Success website (data managers should have access). If you have access to FFTLive you have access to a report in the Development Section called New Student Explorer. This will also list all the students who are currently in your school who are on the FSM6 list.
You will need to know which students are currently looked after (LAC or CLA) and those who are children of service personnel. Both of these should already be on your MIS as they must be reported to the government at the Census points.
It really helps inspectors if you are able to provide seating plans with students' attributes (LAC, FSM, FSM6 etc) and their current grades. One product which might help is Class Charts. This does more than seating plans and others may be available.
2) Know how well they are doing
Schools track the progress of those students who claim Free School Meals. Now we need to ensure that we track the progress of all students who are eligible for the Pupil Premium. Use it to COMPARE their progress and attainment with students in your school who are not eligible and against national averages for non-Premium students.
3) Have a plan for improvement ("closing the gap")
Is there is a difference between the Premium students and the non-Premium students, or, if there is no gap, how are your Premium students doing compared with non-Premium students nationally? Could your Premium students be doing even better? What are you doing about it?
Use resources such as Ofsted's guidance about how to spend the Pupil Premium or the EFF's Pupil Premium Toolkit.
Also look closely at things you are already doing. Do you have intervention, SEN support, LSAs, After School Clubs, Breakfast Clubs, additional resources in the Library etc? Work out the cost of these and make sure your Pupil Premium is contributing to the costs.
Add costings to your plan and show that you are spending the money to raise attainment.
4) Publish the plan AND an evaluation of last year's plan - showing impact - on your website.
This is a statutory requirement under the new Information Publishing requirements. Academies and Free Schools usually have these requirements as part of their funding agreements.
The sort of impact you can show is:
- Have APS or CAPS improved for Pupil Premium students?
- Has attainment at any of the thresholds improved?
- Has the gap got smaller?
I'm not a great fan of doing things for the the sake of Ofsted but, it is clear that they are asking difficult questions when inspecting schools around the use of the Pupil Premium. Forewarned is forearmed!