The pupil premium provides important support to contribute to the attainment of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds. In light of recent disruption to schooling caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, school leaders will be amending their existing pupil premium strategy to reflect education recovery needs.
Research has found that disadvantaged pupils have been worst affected by partial school closures, and that the attainment gap has grown as a result of national lockdowns. The economic impact of Covid-19 has also led to higher numbers of pupils qualifying for pupil premium. It is therefore more important than ever that school strategies focus on support for disadvantaged pupils.
Your school or trust’s pupil premium strategy should be founded on the following principles and practices:
- The pupil premium strategy covers a three-year period, annual reviews and necessary adjustments.
- School leaders focus on a small number of priorities each year in areas that are likely to make the biggest difference, with a focus on effective implementation.
- The pupil premium strategy is embedded within a broader strategic implementation cycle, such as the one set out in the EEF Implementation Guidance Report.
- The approaches adopted are selected on the basis of strong educational evidence. That evidence should demonstrate how effective the approach has been for other schools, and help you to work out how cost effective it will in your setting.
- You can spend your pupil premium on non-academic interventions, such as improving pupils’ attendance, as these are often vital in boosting attainment. A focus on these issues is particularly important now, given the impact of Covid-19.
The development of an effective pupil premium strategy should be cyclical. It should be sustained over a three-year period, including ongoing monitoring and evaluation in an annual cycle.
School leaders can consider the following 4 steps in developing and sustaining their strategy:
Gaining a thorough knowledge of your disadvantaged pupils’ levels of attainment is the first step in developing an effective pupil premium strategy.
Once you have gauged the performance of your disadvantaged pupils against national benchmarks, you should examine what could be hindering their attainment. This will involve diagnostic assessment of academic challenges, but also assessment of wider barriers, such as attendance.
You can use the following resources to help analyse pupils’ attainment, challenges and needs:
School leaders should also aim to develop an in-depth understanding of any challenges that disadvantaged pupils are facing. These can be identified using a wide range of internal data and information, including:
- Attendance data and levels of persistent absence;
- Behaviour incidences and exclusions data;
- Information on wellbeing, mental health and safeguarding;
- Access to technology and curricula materials.
Effective pupil premium strategies rely on access to high quality internal data and information. School leaders can also utilise a broader array of external evidence to inform their decision making, alongside the expert knowledge they have of the pupils in their care.
- Teaching and Learning Toolkit – this provides an overview of the evidence across 30 different approaches, summarising their impact, cost and evidence security.
- EEF guidance reports – these identify and explore high quality teaching approaches that are well-evidenced across different subject areas, including numeracy, literacy and science, as well as broader areas of practice, such as Feedback or Metacognition.
The EEF recommends schools consider different evidence sources with the tiered model in mind. This will help you to prioritise the allocation of funding, energy, training and time, and try to balance your approach across three key areas:
Many approaches within the tiered model will overlap categories, and the balance between categories will vary from year to year as schools’ priorities change.
Schools should always combine evidence with professional judgement about how transferable approaches are to their own setting.
Successful implementation of a pupil premium strategy is a carefully staged process that takes time, rather than a one-off event. The strategy needs to be aligned with other school development plans and existing practices to ensure a sustained impact.
School leaders will scrutinise the evidence that has informed their strategy with a focus on effective implementation. Just some practical questions that may attend this focus on implementation may include:
- How have we addressed similar challenges and needs of disadvantaged pupils in the past?
- How do aspects of the strategy align with existing beliefs, assumptions and practices of staff?
- Does the approach require changes to processes or structures, such as timetables or team meetings?
- Does the strategy provide the necessary professional development and support to implement the approach successfully?
- Are there any activities that you should stop doing, either because they are not working, or because their impact is weaker than you believe new approaches may be?
The EEF’s guidance report Putting Evidence to Work: A School’s Guide to Implementation, offers a comprehensive approach to the implementing change in schools.
School leaders continually monitor the progress of the pupil premium strategy, adapting their approaches when and where appropriate.
As the approaches are implemented it is important to provide support for staff so that they can take ownership of them and deliver them successfully. School leaders will likely consider:
- How to provide flexible and motivating leadership as barriers emerge;
- What training or follow-on support is required for staff beyond initial training; and
- How to respond to implementation data to tailor and improve approaches.
A pupil premium strategy is more likely to be effective if school leaders plan how to sustain it from the outset and monitor practice in an annual cycle. School leaders should not assume that strategies which have been effective in one year will continue to be effective in another.
An effective pupil premium strategy requires goal setting, underpinned by short, medium and long term outcomes needed to reach those goals. The ongoing rigorous evaluation of pupils’ attainment, challenges and needs is essential.
A focus on the achievement of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds is no doubt challenging for school leaders, especially given the disruptions and impact of Covid-19, but it has never been more important.
The EEF has a range of resources and support for schools who are seeking to use their pupil premium funding effectively:
Support for schools
Teaching and Learning Toolkit
Support for schools