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.
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.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
|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%)|
|Local base (N)||1577||(1671)||322||(347)||1255||(1324)|
2012 figures are in brackets