The most important factor in predicting a child’s future academic attainment is prior attainment.
The next most important factor is poverty. Material deprivation can influence educational outcomes by reducing the educational resources that families can provide and by adversely affecting the home environment. Deprivation is commonly associated with other factors which can influence children’s outcomes: ill health; family stress; low levels of parental education and parental involvement in their children’s education; low levels of cultural and social capital; and low aspirations.
As a result, there is a wide gap between the attainment of pupils from deprived backgrounds and others at all educational stages. The additional funding provided through the Pupil Premium was introduced by the government in April 2011 in order to help schools close this gap. Entitlement to free school meals (FSM) is used as an indicator for deprivation. A fixed amount, which is expected to rise year-on-year while the coalition government is in office, is allocated to schools for each pupil registered for FSM at any point in the last six years (known as ‘Ever 6 FSM’). Schools also receive funding for children who have been looked after continuously for more than six months, children of service personnel and for the first time this year, children who have been adopted from care or leaving care under a special guardianship or residence order.
The Department of Education has stated that schools “are free to spend the pupil premium as they see fit”. However, as with all public money, schools are required to spend the grant for the purpose that it was intended and will be held accountable through the following:
- the performance tables which show the performance of disadvantaged pupils compared with their peers
- the new Ofsted inspection framework, under which inspectors focus on the attainment of pupil groups, in particular those who attract the Pupil Premium
- the annual reports for parents that schools are required to publish online.