Education Endowment Foundation:EEF blog: Driving equity: How governing boards can shape pupil premium impact

EEF blog: Driving equity: How governing boards can shape pupil premium impact

Emma Balchin
Emma Balchin

NGA’s Co-Chief Executive, Emma Balchin brings you our latest blog on the Pupil Premium. With over 25 years’ experience in education, leadership and school improvement, she shares her insights into the governing board’s role in pupil premium spending and strategy for impact and results.

Blog •3 minutes •

Since the inception of the pupil premium funding over a decade ago, there has been a lot of buzz around how best to spend it, its impact, and some debate on ringfencing and accountability. What has become clear is that there are schools who have successfully driven down the impact of the drivers of educational disadvantage on progress and attainment, while others haven’t been able to achieve quite the same success.

Governance has a pivotal role in ensuring pupil premium funding has its intended impact. As a starting point, their strategic oversight and responsibility for setting culture should be a driving force behind the school or trust’s pupil premium strategy. When boards and senior leaders are uncompromising on values such as; creating opportunities for the highest possible individual achievement, educational equity, enriching lives and widening perspectives, it is always evident across the strategies implemented and subsequent outcomes.

Adopting evidence-informed approaches.

In 2018, NGA’s report: Spotlight on Disadvantage, which explored the role of the board found:

many schools, and governing boards, are still too inward looking and can improve practice by consulting a wider range of sources before making spending decisions.”

Governors and trustees will rightly review internal data – an important aspect of identifying the specific needs of pupils and applying context to spending decisions, as well as enabling them to monitor the impact of any approaches being employed. However, it is crucial that school and trust leaders are able to point the governing board to how external research and evidence has supported their decisions on pupil premium approaches.

A strategy mis-matched with pupil needs or context can be a waste of time and money and most importantly, a wasted opportunity for a pupil.

The EEF’s Guide to the Pupil Premium provides a useful Discussion Prompts for Governors and Trustees’ tool that boards can refer to when considering research-based decisions for spending this valuable resource.

Monitoring pupil premium spending decisions

Monitoring pupil premium spending against the agreed strategy should enable the board to:

  • establish whether the approaches the funding has been used for is having a positive impact on eligible pupils,
  • challenge and support school leaders to make informed spending decisions which get the best outcomes for this specific group of pupils,
  • demonstrate how they are holding school or trust leaders to account for the outcomes of pupils for whom they are in receipt of pupil premium funding.

There is no set monitoring process, but the governing board should receive regular reports from school leaders that cover:

  • number of eligible pupils,
  • previous performance based on spending to date and current approaches,
  • an assessment of spending against the intended outcomes/​impact referred to in the strategy.

The governing board should also look at internal progress and attainment for pupils eligible for pupil premium as evidence that the funding is having the intended impact, and to inform their questions to school leaders about the strategy. Delving into your school or trust’s performance data can reveal valuable insights on what is supporting improvement and fosters evidence-based decision-making. Central to this process is a good understanding of your setting’s unique context and strategic objectives.

Looking at external data and benchmarking against other settings similar to your own will help you analyse trends.

NGA provides a helpful monitoring tool help boards scrutinise pupil premium spending decisions, discuss the intended outcomes, and evaluate impact.

There are a number of additional useful sources including:

Final thoughts

I want to urge governors and trustees to set time aside to think about characteristics and challenges of socio-economic disadvantage in their school.

The Pupil Premium is arguably the most powerful tool we have to improve outcomes for disadvantaged children and young people. Care and consideration on making sure it’s spent well is worth the effort.

We also know many more pupils, for many different reasons can face educational disadvantage and would also benefit from a keener monitoring focus and evidence-based approaches.

We’d love to be able to demonstrate how boards have supported the removal of the deficit discourse around disadvantage and its impact on learning and participation in school life. Disadvantaged pupils and their families are not a problem to be solved. They are our school community and held in high regard.