Sir Peter Lampl on the lessons from our latest teacher polling
A few weeks ago, we published our submission to the government’s consultation on the National Funding Formula. We highlighted concerns that the current plans do not do enough to address ‘double disadvantage’ ie poor pupils living in deprived areas. Our response warned that real-term cuts to individual school budgets through the new formula will have a detrimental impact on pupils from low income backgrounds.
The Trust and the EEF’s message to school heads since the early days of the Teaching and Learning Toolkit is not what you spend, but how you spend it that counts.
The Toolkit was designed in 2011 to help schools to put this into practice: to support heads to spend their newly designated pupil premium funds in the most effective ways.
Education funding cuts are rarely out of the news. Recent research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies found that schools in England are facing an 8% real-term funding cut over three years, reductions that the Public Accounts Committee warn are threatening to undermine the quality of education in English schools.
Worryingly, our annual polling of teachers by the National Foundation for Educational Research suggests that these cuts are having a significant impact on how schools spend their pupil premium funding. Almost a third of the primary and secondary heads surveyed said the funding they get for poorer pupils is being used to plug gaps in their school’s budget.
For anyone concerned with closing the attainment gap, this should be of serious concern.
The crucial difference with pupil premium funding – compared to previous funding for disadvantaged pupils – is that it is linked to the individual children and young people it is intended to benefit. Primary schools, secondaries and early years settings all receive additional funding for every one of their pupils classified as disadvantaged.
There is no doubt that the pupil premium has enabled schools to do more to improve the learning of their disadvantaged pupils. They are a group who lose out to their peers at every stage of the education system. There are signs that it is working too. Many schools – particularly those in London – have already closed the gap between poor kids and well off kids. On a national level this gap is beginning to shift at primary school at least.
But as more and more heads are forced to raid their pupil premium funds to make up their budget, it is a serious worry that all their good work to improve outcomes for poorer kids will be put at risk.
I recognise that public services are facing austerity, and schools are no exception. There may be ways that schools can find savings but they need to do that in a way that doesn’t impact adversely on support for disadvantaged pupils. Otherwise the danger is that poorer pupils will end up the losers.