Hard times hit some secondary schools

There was good news for some primary schools this week with the announcement that the Pupil Premium for pupils in the primary sector would increase from £900 per pupil to £1,300 from April 2014 despite the general cutback on government spending. The Premium for secondary school pupils will remain at £900 for another year; the level of the Service Children Premium for 2014/15 has yet to be announced.

In Oxfordshire, the changes will especially benefit schools in the East Oxford constituency which has the highest levels of deprivation in the county. There will also be some schools in Banbury, Didcot and Abingdon that will receive additional cash. The breakdown of the Pupil Premium by Oxfordshire’s parliamentary constituencies is shown in the following table.

Parliamentary Constituency

Pupils included in the Deprivation Pupil Premium allocations

(Jan 13 census)

Total funding for the Deprivation Pupil Premium for 2013-14 at £900 per pupil

Illustrative primary funding totals for the Deprivation Pupil Premium for 2014-15 at £1,300 per pupil

Increase between 2013-14 and 2014-15











Oxford East





Oxford West and Abingdon















The government has now taken to calling the Pupil Premium the Deprivation Pupil Premium, presumably to explain to schools exactly what it is intended to be used for. However, the naive attempt to distinguish why the rate has been set higher for the primary sector than for older children by demanding that primary schools make pupils ‘secondary ready’ can only have come from politicians without any real understanding of the education sector.

Commentators have been suggesting for some time now that money spent ensuring pupils make the best progress early on in their schooling pays dividends later. But, to call it making them ‘secondary ready’ was an insult to the real purpose of schooling at both primary and secondary levels. As a cheap sound bite it fell flat, but sadly it did draw attention away from the real purpose of the Pupil Premium that is to help ensure that more pupils are able to achieve higher standards. There is plenty of data to demonstrate that pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds achieve less well than those from more favoured homes when at school. Indeed, figures released by the army this week showed the poor literacy and numeracy rates among young trainee soldiers compared with ratings in the navy, and recruits to the Royal Air Force.

The government hopes that the extra Pupil Premium will help whole classes move forward faster together as a unit. Although it admits that Schools will be able to spend this money in ways that they feel helps their pupils best. Evidence shows some schools use it to hire extra staff, reading and maths classes for children who need an extra hand, or to provide appropriate other facilities. The scale of the problem can be seen in the fact that in 2012, only 68 per cent of 11 year olds eligible for the Pupil Premium achieved the expected level in English and Maths despite the fact that 84 per cent of all other pupils aged 11 achieved that level.

Of course the downside is that some secondary schools, still losing older pupils as their rolls continue to decline at the upper end, won’t see this extra cash just as their intake of pupils from the primary sector that hadn’t benefited from the Pupil Premium at the start of their school careers begins to increase. Only time will tell if Ofsted will take this factor into account when judging secondary school performance.


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