Fewer than one in five school leaders consult their local authority when deciding how to spend the pupil premium, the government grant for poorer pupils which is now worth nearly £2 billion a year nationally, a new Sutton Trust poll reveals today.

Instead, teachers are increasingly turning to research evidence of what works – including a toolkit produced by the Sutton Trust and the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF).

That’s the key finding of a new Sutton Trust poll published today. The survey of 1587 teachers and school leaders was conducted by the National Foundation for Education Research (Teacher Voice omnibus survey).

67 per cent of school leaders – up from 52 per cent last year – said their school now consults research in deciding their pupil premium priorities.

Two fifths (43 per cent) of school leaders whose schools consider research evidence use the Sutton Trust/EEF Toolkit. Amongst all school leaders completing the survey, a third (36 per cent) said their school now uses the Toolkit compared to only 11 per cent in 2012.

By contrast, the proportion of all school leaders consulting their local authority – at a time when the number of academies and free schools has continued to grow – has fallen from 25 per cent in 2012 to 17 per cent this year.

The pupil premium provides schools with an extra £900 for every pupil currently or recently in receipt of free school meals. A total of £1.875 billion is being allocated in 2013-14.

When asked how their school would be spending this cash in 2012/2013, 23 per cent of teachers, including one in five secondary teachers, say their top priority is early intervention programmes (for example,  to prevent young children falling behind or turning to bad behaviour as they get older). A further 34 per cent made this their second or third priority.

13 per cent said the money should go primarily on one-to-one tuition and 9 per cent would spend the money employing additional teaching assistants. Only 4 per cent would spend the money on reducing class sizes, which research suggests is a costly measure which on average has a low impact.

However, although schools are considering research evidence, they are not yet embracing two measures seen as the most cost-effective interventions in the Toolkit. Only 4 per cent would spend the money first on improving feedback between teachers and pupils, a relatively inexpensive measure that could add eight months to pupils’ learning. Improving feedback is an important way to improve teacher development.

And only 1 per cent would use peer-to-peer tutoring schemes, where older pupils typically help younger pupils to learn, an equally cost-effective measure that has proven six month learning gains.

Ensuring that these high impact strategies are put into practice in turn relies on effective training for teachers. Sutton Trust research has shown that one year with a very effective teacher adds an extra year’s worth of learning to those pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.[1]

Early Intervention has been shown to be an effective measure, but has costs of up to £2000 per pupil compared with the £100 per pupil costs of effective feedback.

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust and of the Education Endowment Foundation, said today: “The Government is spending nearly two billion pounds on the pupil premium this year. The pupil premium is one of the few areas of government spending that is set to grow in the forthcoming spending review. It is vital that the pupil premium money is spent well, and used on those measures that can do most to improve results for our poorest pupils.

“I’m pleased to see that so many school leaders – and a growing number of classroom teachers – are turning to research on what works rather than simply relying on past practice. It is particularly heartening that the Sutton Trust/EEF Toolkit has grown so much in popularity. But we still need to ensure that more teachers act on the evidence, and embrace the most cost-effective measures that can make such a difference to the learning and lifechances of their poorest pupils.”


  1. The Sutton Trust is a foundation set up in 1997, dedicated to improving social mobility through education. It has published over 120 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 National Foundation for Education Research is the UK’s leading independent educational research charity. They surveyed a representative sample of 1587 teachers in March 2013 in both primary and secondary schools for their Teacher Voice omnibus survey. Their sample included 322 senior leaders, including headteachers, deputies and assistant heads. A copy of their full report is available at http://www.nfer.ac.uk/publications/99929/99929_home.cfm. NFER asked a similar range of questions in their March 2012 Teacher Voice omnibus survey. Some 2013 respondents may have heard about the Toolkit from last year’s survey.
  3. The Sutton Trust-EEF Toolkit draws on 5500 educational studies to provide guidance for teachers and schools on how to use their resources to improve the attainment of disadvantaged pupils. It currently covers 30 topics and is based on work by Durham University. To access the Toolkit please visit:http://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/toolkit/. The Toolkit has been recommended by the Department for Education, Ofsted and the National Association of Head Teachers.
How does your school decide which approaches and programmes to adopt to improve pupil learning?
All   Senior Leader   Classroom Teacher  
Using past experience of what works 55% (52%) 76% (75%) 50% (45%)
Considering research evidence on the impact of different approaches and programmes 42% (36%) 67% (52%) 36% (32%)
Evaluating different approaches and programmes then deciding which to adopt 46% (45%) 65% (71%) 41% (39%)
Considering which approaches and programmes are the most cost effective 23% (21%) 31% (31%) 21% (18%)
Reading the pupil premium toolkit, published by the Sutton Trust 14% (5%) 36% (11%) 9% (4%)
Learning from what works in other schools 46% (46%) 59% (63%) 43% (42%)
Consulting the school’s governing body 10% (6%) 8% (6%) 10% (6%)
Consulting the Local Authority 15% (17%) 17% (25%) 15% (14%)
Other 7% (5%) 7% (4%) 7% (5%)
Don’t know 21% (22%) 1% (1%) 26% (27%)
Local base (N) 1577 (1671) 322 (347) 1255 (1324)

2012 figures are in brackets

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