Festival News: Using Pupil Premium

Published: 12 October 2021
Marc Rowland’s session reflected on the new DfE guidance in relation to Pupil Premium. It explored how school leaders can use their Pupil Premium funding effectively and complete their strategy statement to support overcoming disadvantage in their context.


Marc Rowland began by noting the significant challenges in overcomeing disadvantage - that this is about a slog and not seeking a magic bullet! He made the argument, however, that we are not powerless on this agenda if we focus on the things that we can influence – the experience day in day out of disadvantaged learners. Schools cannot solve all the problems of society but can have impact with an effective strategy, with a learning led (not label led) strategy.

He drew on his experience of visiting hundreds of setting and noted that the difference wasn’t about how the different schools spent their funding but rather about the way that they implemented the things that they were doing, coupled with stability of leadership in relation to this agenda. Focus on culture – don’t do too many things!

Marc articulated the value of a high quality inclusive learning experience

He shared guidance on developing an effective strategy:

·         The importance of school culture. Expectations, relationships & leadership capacity.

·         The assessment of need and understanding which are the controllable factors.

·         How we address disadvantage in the classroom and in particular the importance of reading and language acquisition.

·         How the research evidence inform and challenge our strategies?

·         How do we ensure that strategies are implemented successfully

·         Focus on both the milestones and the intended impact.

Marc shared the new DfE PP Strategy Statement template and described some of the thinking behind it.

It includes a move to a three year approach to move away and merge PP funding and recovery premium funding. School provide a statement of intent as a starting point to outline our ambition and objectives, moving away from only using end of key stage outcomes. The next section outlines challenges (rather than barriers) to seek to move away from a deficit discourse. He stresses the importance of the analysis and the need to be open to surprises in what we find about the challenges faced.

Marc gave an example sharing examples of challenges – noting that five was perhaps too many and that in the example the challenges were clearly inter-related as they would be in all settings. As an example, poor language comprehension impacts on classroom success and attendance.

Marc advocated or asking the question ‘how does socio economic disadvantage impact on pupils’ learning in OUR school?

Reflecting on the controllable factors that impact on disadvantaged learners, he described a learning led (not label led) approach.

The template moves on to the intended outcomes. It is deliberate that this comes before the planning of activity to ensure that the desired outcome is the focus. Decoupling from accountability measures.

Marc then moved on to activity in this academic year with a new requirement to identify the research approaches that underpin the decisions (linking the challenges outlined earlier to the .research evidence). Schools need to seek to avoid superficial engagement with research (i.e. not just seeking evidence that supports what we want to do). This moves on to targeted support and wider strategies.

He talked about the importance of quality first teaching but also noted that this must include the specific elements that will enable disadvantaged learners to belong, engage and succeed.

Section B of the template includes a review of the previous year or a partial review at this stage in the three year approach. There is also a further information section which enables school leaders to add to the narrative of their setting, including the impact of partnerships.  

Marc noted that the audience for the document includes various stakeholders, including both inspectors and parents and carers. Whilst we recognise that the document is in the public domain it is important that the analysis is clear as this will develop the credibility of leaders. He gave examples of activities that lacked clarity and precision about the problem being addressed without codifying for colleagues what will be different.

Finally, Marc reflected on the need to be wary about the gap between our ambitions and the reality of the classroom day to day to ensure that implementation is effective. Focusing on the access and impact on pupils can support us (rather than looking at the adults) in understanding the extent to which our intent is being realised.

He finished the session with some do's and dont's around evaluation of impact. He reinforced the need to look beyond 'marking our own homework', to use and draw upon external eyes and seek independent verification in our evaluation. 



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