Academisation or the Pupil Premium: what’s having most effect? 3 quick thoughts…

by Stephen Tall on December 11, 2014

The Department for Education today published Key Stage 2 performance tables, covering the attainment data for 11 year-old pupils. You can read the detail here, and below are three tables/graphs that stood out for me…

1) Let’s see how the Conservatives’ academisation programme – setting schools free from the dead-hand of local education authorities – is transforming results for primary school pupils…

academies v LEAs

Oh. It’s almost as if structures matter a whole lot less than standards. Who’d have thought? (For more on this from me, see “What should the political parties promise on education in 2015?” – What I told Policy Exchange….)

2) Some good news: there’s evidence of progress for the attainment of pupils from low-income backgrounds.

ks2 attainment for fsm

Understandably, and not unreasonably, Lib Dems are proclaiming the impact of the Pupil Premium. However, we need to be cautious: correlation does not imply causation.

3) The attainment gap between pupils from the least and most deprived backgrounds has continued to narrow, down from 22% in 2011 to 15% in 2014.

ks2 attainment for idaci

However, as you can see from the graph, the biggest single gap-narrowing took place in 2012, after just one full year of Pupil Premium when the per pupil value was modest. Since then, the gap has decreased but very slowly, down from 18% to 15%, even as the Pupil Premium has grown in value (over £1,300 per eligible primary school pupil).

For avoidance of doubt, I’m certainly not arguing against the Pupil Premium. I think it’s one of this Coalition’s most progressive policies. But expecting its impact to be sudden and dramatic is to over-hype it. What I suspect it has done is focus schools’ attention on the attainment gap and to address it in ways that go beyond, and do not depend on, the value of the Pupil Premium itself.