EEF BLOG: Premium Rewards

EEF Chief Executive Kevan Collins writes about his experience as a judge of this year's Pupil Premium Awards.

As the chair of the judging panel for this year’s Pupil Premium Awards, I’ve been fortunate enough to visit some great schools across the country and see first-hand how they are using their pupil premium funding in innovative and effective ways.

In Redcar parents talked with pride and appreciation about the way they have been involved in their children’s learning and in Moss Side we saw a school using some of their pupil premium to employ brilliant teachers to provide additional reading lessons full of conversation and debate.

These are just two of the many and varied examples of outstanding practice we saw throughout the judging process. It was inspiring to see how these had been brought about by a shared commitment to improving the attainment of disadvantaged pupils.

One strategy that was common to all the schools we visited was an engagement with research and a desire to use evidence to inform teaching. At the EEF, we’ve seen first-hand how teachers’ appetite for evidence has grown over the past few years. There are signs that this approach is working too. Data released by the Department for Education last December showed that two-thirds of Year 6 pupils on free school meals gained a Level 4 in reading, writing and maths last year, reducing the attainment gap to 16 percentage points. In simple terms, more young people are starting secondary school with good literacy and numeracy skills.

The Pupil Premium Awards allow us to recognise and reward the outstanding work that is being done by schools in using evidence to improve the attainment of disadvantaged pupils. It’s absolutely vital that we hold up the winners as examples and give other schools the chance to learn from their successes.

But finding effective ways to do this on a larger scale is one of the challenges we face in the drive to raise standards. Whilst there is no simple one-size fits all solution, we do need better systems in place for sharing and collaborating.

This is why we’re delighted to be part of the Research Schools initiative, announced by David Laws at the Pupil Premium Awards this week. Together with the National College for Teaching and Leaderships, we’re making up to £800,000 of funding available for 10 high-performing schools to help other schools use evidence to raise the attainment of disadvantaged pupils.

Too often there is a disconnect between teachers and researchers. Research Schools will help to bridge this divide by ensuring that the key messages from research get to the places where they can make a difference, in a form that helps teachers every day. They’ll help schools to adopt evidence-based decision-making as well as influencing educational research across the country, to ensure that it’s based on the top priorities of schools.

The combination of research and collaboration inherent to the Research Schools programme is one that the EEF is particularly excited about. The initiative has huge potential to support schools in using evidence to raise the attainment of their disadvantaged pupils.