Report Overview

The Sutton Trust’s annual polling of teachers looks at issues around school funding, budget pressures, use of Pupil Premium funding and the application of research evidence in schools. 1,678 teachers in the state-funded sector in England were surveyed through the Teacher Voice Omnibus, conducted by the National Foundation for Education Research. The polling displayed the effects of budget squeezes in England’s schools, the use of Pupil Premium to plug financial gaps. It also highlights the continued rise in use by teachers of the Sutton Trust/EEF Teacher Toolkit.


Over two-thirds of secondary school headteachers have had to cut teaching staff.

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A quarter of secondary school leaders say pupil premium funding is being used to plug budget gaps.


Over half of school leaders feel the pupil premium is helping to close the attainment gap.

Key Findings
  • 69% of secondary senior leaders have reported having to make cuts to teaching staff for financial reasons, along with 70% for teaching assistants and 72% for support staff. 72% of primary school heads also report cutting teacher assistants. Growing numbers of secondary leaders report cutting IT equipment (61%), school outings (41%) and sport (28%). Almost half report cutting subject choices at GCSE (47%). Others report cutting back on classroom materials and CPD for teachers.
  • One in four (27%) secondary school leaders report that their pupil premium funding is being used to plug gaps elsewhere in their budget. For those who do report it plugging gaps, most indicate it being used on teachers and teaching assistants, or absorbed into the general school budget.
  • Just over half (55%) of school leaders feel that their pupil premium funding is helping to close attainment gaps in their school. Primary leaders (57%) are more likely that secondary (50%) to say so. While 15% disagree, 31% are neutral on the pupil premium’s impact in their school.
  • Of those who disagree that it’s having an impact, teachers offer a variety of reasons, with many saying the funding is not enough to make an impact, or is being spent on other issues. Teachers also point out the difficulty in closing gaps given factors outside the school gates. Heads who reported having to plug budget gaps with their pupil premium funding were less likely to say that attainment gaps were closing (62% v 40%).
  • Use of research evidence in schools is up again this year, and at its highest levels since we began reporting on this issue in 2012. 74% of all senior leaders (up from 68%) and 47% of teachers (up from 45%) reported use of research evidence in decision-making. Secondary teachers who reported using research evidence were more likely to report that their pupil premium money was proving effective (46% v 32%).
  • Use of the Sutton Trust/EEF toolkit also continues to rise. 70% of secondary school senior leaders report using it, up 7 percentage points from 63% last year and 57% in 2017.