“Economic inequality within the educational structure also contributes to the problem of poverty within education” (Vogt, 2014, 68). Vogt’s statement strengthens the argument within today’s society, where pupils from a lower income background suffer in school as they cannot afford at times the bare essentials. In schools across the country, the Conservative government brought in the Pupil Premium Program for ‘disadvantaged pupils of all abilities’ to ensure that disadvantaged pupils are able to achieve the same level as advantaged pupils (Department for Education and Education Funding Agency, 2014). This program however can be viewed as flawed as there is evidence that pupil premium funding does not make the attainment gap smaller and, in some cases, widens the gap as some pupil premium recipients come from advantaged families, however because they meet the criteria these pupils are able to receive funding (Mutchell, 2018).
“Schools should exist to reverse inequality and advance social mobility, giving pupils, whatever their background, the chance to shine. But that isn’t happening under the current system.” (Gove, 2008, 87). This statement from Gove justified the Pupil Premium Program when he became Secretary of State for Education in 2010. The original plans and criteria have not enabled disadvantaged pupils as Burn “cites the case of individual PPG pupils who seem well provided for (‘they’ve got Sky TV and he’s got iPads’), suggesting that the real problems derive from low aspirations and poor parenting. It is a ‘poverty of relationships’ that she believes exerts the most powerful influence on young people’s motivation (Burn et al., 2016, 442). This comment illustrates that socio-economic inequality is still prevalent within today’s society and that pupils may receive pupil premium due to the fact they are experiencing signs of emotional neglect rather than financial difficulty. Burn suggests that emotional poverty is being used as criteria for pupil premium funding.
I do however, acknowledge that there is lots of evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of pupil premium funding. For instance, in a discussion with Norris, a teacher in a school in Coventry we discussed the advantages of Pupil Premium in her own family. Her daughter, which we shall name Pupil A, was adopted when she was a child and has had several issues with social and knowledge development. Her school (which I shall name School K) offered the use of pupil premium to assist Pupil A with her processing issues and it was found that although Pupil A does not require SEND support, she may require intervention and extra time to allow her to be able to process all the information in her own time (Norris, 2018).
In addition to anecdotal evidence, there is scientific and journal evidence that supports the effectiveness of pupil premium. Shain’s report uses real life case studies where pupil premium funding is working effectively to make the attainment gap narrower and states that “One of our five case-study schools was using Pupil Premium money to purchase school uniform (jumper and tie) and a sports kit for every child registered at the school … This meant that Pupil Premium money was being used to target disadvantage across the school.” (Shain, 2015, 13).
There has also been several, serious issues with pupil premium not being effective, as statistics show that the attainment gap has not improved since the installation of pupil premium funding. This is expressed in a report by Exley in 2015, four years after pupil premium funding started to be issued and “According to the Demos analysis, more than half (51.3 per cent) of local authorities saw an increase in their attainment gap last year.” (Exley, 2015). This shows that the improvements and additional support schools have made from pupil premium funding is ineffective. This statement also supports the socio-economic inequality mentioned earlier as pupils who should not be eligible for funding yet receive it which will then be more likely to increase the attainment gap rather than decrease it.
So, is Pupil Premium really worth it? I feel that it is not effective; the system requires a major overhaul to ensure that pupil attainment can stay consistent throughout a class. There is even acknowledgement from The Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED) who have admitted that “a significant minority are still struggling to show how the money is making any meaningful impact in terms of narrowing the gap between pupils from low income and more affluent families” (Office for Standards in Education, 2013).
There is also evidence that due to budget cuts in the education sector, schools are now trying to convince parents to apply for free school meals regardless to what the school offers their child as The Guardian states that “Pupil premiums are awarded partly on the basis of the number of pupils receiving free school meals, but since the government introduced free meals for all infants … authorities have been left struggling to convince parents to apply for them in order to qualify for the funding” (Adams, 2015). The introduction of free meals for all infants may confuse parents as some may be unaware that this does not enable the student to be given pupil premium funding and in worse cases, some parents may not even know this funding exists when they desperately need it.
Therefore, due to the confusion and ineffectiveness within pupil premium funding, I think that pupil premium should be restructured if not scrapped. This would give teachers, parents and students a better understanding of the benefits systems available in schools. I also feel that this would be a more efficient way of ensuring pupil progress as all schools will be able to enhance the student learning environment in any method they choose. This would allow schools to focus on the underlying factors that affect pupil progress such as mental health issues, bullying, lack of equipment and quality first teaching.
Adams, R. (2015) Schools policy ‘car crash’ sows confusion among parents. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2015/jan/11/schools-policy-car-crash-confusion-meals-pupil-premium [Accessed 30 December 2017].
Burn, K., Firth, R., Ingram, J., McNicholl, J., Mutton, T. and Thompson, I. (2016) The impact of adopting a research orientation towards use of the Pupil Premium Grant in preparing beginning teachers in England to understand and work effectively with young people living in poverty. Journal of Education for Teaching, 42(4), pp. 434-450.
Department for Education and Education Funding Agency (2014) Pupil premium: funding and accountability for schools – GOV.UK. London: Her Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom, Available at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/pupil-premium-information-for-schools-and-alternative-provision-settings [Accessed 25 January 2018].
Exley, S. (2015) Pupil premium ‘has failed to close attainment gap’, thinktank claims. Available at: https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-news/pupil-premium-has-failed-close-attainment-gap-thinktank-claims [Accessed 13 December 2017].
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