The Economist on the success of the Pupil Premium: “A pricey education policy looks like money well spent”

by Stephen Tall on March 3, 2016

I’ve said before that I think the Pupil Premium – £2.5 billion of extra money given to schools to support children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds — is one of the most progressive government policies of the last decade, an achievement of which the Lib Dems can be well proud.

This week’s Economist takes a look at it and gives the policy the thumbs-up:

How to raise the attainment of children from poor backgrounds is now a focus for educators. Before the premium, 57% of school leaders said they aimed support at their most disadvantaged pupils; 94% now do, says the [National Audit Office]. With such a wide gap in attainment between children from rich and poor families, that is no bad thing.

Which backs up something I suggested in 2014 about the Pupil Premium:

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.

Full disclosure: I work for the Education Endowment Foundation, cited by the Economist in its article:

… the government has poured funding into studies looking at how best to spend money, providing the Educational Endowment Foundation (EEF), a charity, with £137m. It collates evidence from abroad and funds studies at home: around one-quarter of English schools are involved in randomised control trials run by the charity.

Schools increasingly turn to the research for guidance: two-thirds now consult the EEF’s advice, up from one-third in 2012, according to a report by the National Audit Office (NAO), which scrutinises government spending. Surveys by the National Foundation for Educational Research, a charity, found that the most common interventions in the first years of the pupil premium were to reduce class sizes and increase numbers of support staff—neither of which are judged to be effective by the EEF. Now schools are more likely to put in place one-to-one tuition and pupil feedback—both of which are highly rated.