Sally Weale reported on the Sutton Trust/EEF pupil premium summit polling for the Guardian.

Extra funding given to schools to support the nation’s poorest children and narrow the attainment gap is being undermined by budget cuts that are beginning to bite in even the most disadvantaged schools, according to a report.

The government pays the pupil premium directly to schools as extra funding for children aged five to 16 from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds, with the aim of improving their academic performance.

But a report by the National Audit Office (NAO) says the extra funding is being cancelled out in some cases because of other real-terms cuts in schools funding, with the result that budgets do not increase.


On Wednesday, the Sutton Trust and the Education Endowment Fund (EEF) are holding a meeting to assess the impact of the pupil premium. Polling commissioned for the event echoes the NAO observations about the pupil premium in the context of school budget cuts.

According to the poll, 50% of primary teachers and 44% of secondary teachers say the premium is being used to continue activities that would not otherwise happen due to funding pressures in other areas of their budget caused by tighter national spending.

The Sutton Trust and EEF are calling on the government to automatically reward schools that successfully and consistently improve results for their disadvantaged pupils.

They also call for the introduction of a data-sharing system so that schools are automatically informed when children qualify for free school meals and therefore pupil premium funding, instead of relying on parents to claim the benefit. The introduction of universal free school meals means many parents fail to notify schools of their entitlement.

The polling, based on a sample of 1,478 teachers who took part in the National Foundation for Education Research teachers’ omnibus, reveals that school leaders are increasingly using research to help them decide how to spend pupil premium money. Some 64% said they used research to decide how to spend their pupil premium, compared with 52% in 2012.

Read her full report here.

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