Pupil premium money will have limited impact on poorer pupils, teacher survey suggests.

Little of the £1.25 billion allocated through the Pupil Premium for disadvantaged children in England in 2012-13 will be spent on activities proven to be the best bets for boosting attainment, suggests a survey of teachers by the Sutton Trust.

Asked what their top priority for Pupil Premium money would be for this academic year, less than 3% of teachers identified the most cost-effective classroom approaches – providing effective feedback on pupil’s performance, and enabling pupils to teach their peers. Implemented by teachers well, these approaches could increase pupils’ performance by an extra eight or nine months in a school year, according to the research summarised in the Sutton Trust-EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit, the latest version of which has now been launched by the Education Endowment Foundation.

Early intervention schemes and reducing class sizes, more one-to-one tuition, and additional teaching assistants in the school meanwhile were the most frequently cited priorities for the Pupil Premium, worth £600 a year for children on Free School Meals (see table below). The survey found that 28% of teachers did not know what the top priority for Pupil Premium spending was in their school.

The Toolkit, which summarises 1000s of research studies to provide guidance for teachers on what works best at improving attainment, concludes that the benefits of reducing class sizes are not particularly large or clear, until class size is reduced “to under 20 or even below 15”. Hiring more teaching assistants meanwhile is on average associated with “very small or no effects on attainment”, suggesting that this is not a straightforward route to raising pupil achievement.

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust, said: “If the billions of pounds allocated through the Pupil Premium are to genuinely help improve the results of poorer children then we need to ensure that teachers receive the best guidance on what works in the classroom. This is why we developed the Toolkit, and why the work of the Education Endowment Foundation is so important in trialling and evaluating approaches in schools.”

The survey of nearly 1700 teachers from over 1200 primary and secondary schools across England was commissioned by the Sutton Trust and carried out by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) as a part of its Teacher Voice Omnibus.

The survey also asked teachers how their school decides which approaches and programmes to adopt to improve pupils’ learning. More than half (52%) said their school uses past experience of what works. Just over a third (36%) of teachers said their school looks at research evidence on the impact of different approaches and programmes.

The NFER report concludes: “Large proportions of teachers indicated that their school uses informal methods of evaluating approaches and programmes. These include trial-and-error approaches and learning from the experiences of other schools. While a large proportion of teachers believed that decisions in their school are based on research evidence, it is unclear what evidence they are using.”

The new edition of the Teaching and Learning Toolkit is available for free download atwww.educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/toolkit. It reviews over twenty approaches including phonics, feedback and one-to-one tuition and includes a new “What do I need to know?” section highlighting the common features of the approaches with the biggest impact.

Media enquiries

If you're a journalist with a question about our work, get in touch with Ruby. If it's out of office hours, you can call or text 07834 461 299.

E: [email protected] T: 020 7802 1660

Keep up to date with the latest news