Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Making The Most Of Your Pupil Premium Money

I had an interesting chat last weekend with a friend who is also a Year 1 teacher. Her school has already bought some phonics teaching resources and she said she would like the school to buy more. She thought that some Pupil Premium money could be used as she had a group of pupils who could benefit from them.
By co-incidence last week, as SENCO, I've been involved in our school's review of the use and allocation of pupil premium money. We looked at the OFSTED September 2012 report (How schools are using the Pupil Premium funding to raise achievement for disadvantaged pupils). It seems that lots of schools, like ours, are facing falling budgets and are using the Pupil Premium to maintain the support we already have in place for disadvantaged pupils. The problem with spending money in this way is that it does not necessarily target the pupils that Pupil Premium was originally designated for.
The first recommendation of the OFSTED report is that:
'Pupil Premium funding is not simply absorbed into mainstream budgets, but instead is carefully targeted at the designated children. (P6)
Ofsted also want schools to ensure we spend Pupil Premium in 'ways known to be most effective.' (P6)
At our school the major focus of spending the Pupil Premium money has been on improving reading skills of the youngest pupils.
Research published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation * shows the importance of such early intervention:
'The gap in educational attainment between the poorest children and children from better-off backgrounds, already large at age 5, grows rapidly during the primary school years, such that by age 11, only around three quarters of children from the poorest fifth of families reach the government's expected level at Key Stage 2, compared to 97% of children from the richest fifth.' (P26)
This problem continues through to the end of secondary education. Research published by the Sutton Trust** states that on average, the reading skills of
'Children from the poorest backgrounds are two years, four months of schooling behind children from the wealthiest backgrounds at age 15' (P6).
The new English National Curriculum 2014 states that phonics should be emphasised in the early teaching of reading to beginners (i.e. unskilled readers) when they start school and that this will be supported by practice in reading books consistent with the children's developing phonic knowledge and skill and their knowledge of common exception words.
We have spent some of our Pupil Premium money on high quality phonetically decodable reading books including Floppy Phonics and books from Pearson's Bug Club that include comic style books that the children love. All of the books are matched to the Letters and Sounds programme.
We have also invested in pseudo word cards as they help to fulfill the phonics first approach to reading by developing children's ability to blend sounds to read unknown words. The new National Curriculum 2014 states that pupils need to develop the skill of blending sounds into words for reading and establish the habit of applying this skill whenever they encounter new words. This can help fulfill the requirement that: 'Those who are slow to develop this skill should have extra practice.' (English Programme of Study P9).
Using Pupil Premium money to buy resources to help the youngest disadvantaged pupils to quickly develop their reading skills and help them catch up with their peers must be an effective use of the money. An improvement in early reading skills is measurable evidence for schools to show that the money is helping close gaps in attainment and raising achievement for the pupils for whom the money is targeted. So, maybe my friend was right.

By Barbara Townley

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Making The Most Of Your Pupil Premium Money

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