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Becoming a Pupil Premium Lead? 5 Things That Could Help

Whether you’re a school leader taking on more responsibility for Pupil Premium spending, a middle leader looking to explore how you can better support Pupil Premium learners, or a teacher preparing for an interview as an assistant head with responsibility for Pupil Premium, in this blog we outline five key things you need to know in your role.

The potential of pupil premium to boost the progress and attainment of children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds is vast, but it requires leadership, monitoring, and dedicated engagement that matches the individual needs of pupils.

Read on for five tips to help you ensure you’re fulfilling your role as a leader for Pupil Premium.

  1. Take a nuanced approach to understanding barriers to pupil learning

Every learner will face their own challenges, and we know that lower attainment is not always related to lower ability. School leaders, and teachers, must exercise professional curiosity to explore what’s happening with a child beyond the classroom, and how family life or relationships with peers can impact learning.

For example, arriving late at school might indicate a pupil has care-taking responsibilities at home, helping with getting younger siblings ready for school. Demonstrating disruptive behaviour might suggest a need to explore neurodiversity, or to engage with the pupil through a calm conversation in a safe and trusted place to try and learn what is really behind outward tendencies.

Taking time to identify wider issues facing a pupil can ensure your approach to funding interventions is more tailored and focused.

Such exploration can take place alongside understanding academic challenges, for which the Education Endowment Foundation’s (EEF) diagnostic assessment tool can be helpful. When undertaking this part of the process, be sure to consult other colleagues, such as teachers and SENCOs, to gain a wide-ranging understanding of the needs landscape in your school.

  1. Plan interventions and strategies according to the evidence

Whether you’re receiving the Pupil Premium grant directly from the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) as an academy trust or non-maintained special school, or from the Department for Education (DfE) via your local authority as a maintained school, the DfE require decision-making around grant spending to be rooted in evidence.

A wide range of independent evidence reviews for different kinds of interventions are available, and Pupil Premium leads should engage with these to inform plans for spending related to individual interventions, school-wide activities, or those that may benefit the community as a whole.

Its key that you search for insights around strategies that have worked well in other schools or trusts, but even more important to reflect on how appropriate these would be in your school’s context. Preparing a spending plan for your Pupil Premium funding requires a critical eye, and a need to create a balance between specific activities and broader whole-school initiatives.

The EEF has a number of resources to help you explore the latest evidence, and sector experts, such as Jean Gross, can provide further insight on specific areas for example literacy and maths.

Its also worth creating your own evidence base, conducting informal baseline assessments with pupils before trialing interventions, and monitoring progress related to interventions through the academic year. This will help inform your school’s planning around Pupil Premium in future years.

  1. Understand the DfE’s ‘menu of approaches’

From the start of the 2022-23 academic year, all activities you plan to deliver using Pupil Premium funding must align with the DfE’s list of approved approaches to successful spending.

The menu cuts across high-quality teaching, targeted academic support, and wider strategies, highlighting up to six activities that can be directly related to each of these three areas. The activities range from peer tutoring to summer schools to recruitment and retention of teaching staff, so the menu still leaves a lot of scope for school leaders and Pupil Premium leads to tailor strategies to specific contexts.

The approaches you choose to select must be influenced by your diagnosing of pupil needs, and the specific interventions related to these must be informed by evidence, as outlined above.

The DfE states that “Schools may be justified in funding items not listed where this is necessary to overcome specific barriers to student attainment, for example to meet acute needs around student equipment to ensure readiness to learn.” This emphasises the importance of a nuanced and robust process for identifying needs.

  1. Collaborate with Virtual School Heads

Children who are looked-after by a local authority, or previously looked-after, are eligible for Pupil Premium Plus. As with the rest of the Pupil Premium grant, this does not need to be spent on an individual basis, but the Premium must benefit children and young people with personal education plans. As such, the need for Pupil Premium leads to work closely with Virtual School Heads, who manage allocations of Pupil Premium Plus, is key.

Local authorities are entitled to hold back some funding to benefit a large group of children looked-after, or even all children looked-after by the authority. Virtual School Heads often have a greater awareness of the needs of this cohort, and can help Pupil Premium leads develop relationships with adoptive parents and guardians to improve approaches to supporting previously looked-after children in a classroom or wider school context.

Children who are looked-after or previously looked-after might, for example, need greater support with social and emotional development, or could benefit from non-academic activities to better engage with schools.

A close working relationship between a Virtual School Head and Pupil Premium lead will better ensure the needs of all children and young people are met.

  1. Make use of Pupil Premium Strategy templates, and think long-term

The DfE requires all schools that receive Pupil Premium funding to publish a strategy statement every year, by December 31st. The statement is a way to outline how you’re spending the premium, with a key audience for the document being parents, governors and trustees.

The DfE typically review a few sample strategies each year, to ensure compliance with conditions of the grant, and Ofsted may utilise your statement when preparing for an inspection.

A template for your strategy statement is provided by the DfE, with different approaches according to whether you’re writing for a primary or secondary context. Completed examples are also available, in case you’re in need of inspiration.

While the DfE recommends a longer-term approach to using the grant, taking a three-year view rather than one-year, even if you develop a multi-year plan you must still publish an updated strategy statement by the end of December each year.

Multi-year planning must also be evidence-informed and align with the ‘menu of approaches’.

If you'd like to hear more about topics such as this then please do come along to the SAAShow in London on the 1st May. 

The Schools & Academies Show stands as the education community’s largest one-stop shop, offering everything you need to further strengthen your strategic business and school improvement plans for a lasting impact.

Please do join us in London on the 1st May. You can find out more information here: or register by clicking on the banner below.

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