Pupil Premium – The power of 3

Firstly, I should stress that I do not have all the answers in overcoming social mobility. The attainment gap for disadvantaged children in this country is a depressing reality that I am only just scratching the surface of. We have a very small number of Pupil Premium children in my school (somewhere between 8-10%). As a result our pupil premium budget is swallowed up quite quickly but the challenges are still the same. Unfortunately our small sample sizes means data regularly lets me down or can’t be relied upon to accurately measure the impact we are having. This blog is just a quick insight into the journey I have gone on to ensure that, at the very least, our funding is allocated appropriately, has impact and is properly evaluated before being allocated again.

Secondly, I should say that if you haven’t read Stephen Tierney’s DIY A B C to Pupil Premium. You must read it first. https://leadinglearner.me/2017/06/23/diy-review-of-pupil-premium-start-at-a/ It formed the basis of most of my ideas for the strategy I have put in place and was enormously helpful at a time when I had lost all inspiration.

My initial challenge was to identify common barriers for our children. I found the following things. Our pupil premium children either: –

  1. Struggled Academically – e.g. falling behind in their levels or making less progress than their peers
  2. Struggled socially – e.g. behaviour, learning attitudes, emotional issues, family support or attendance were an issue
  3. Weren’t struggling at all but were in danger of doing so later in life as experiences were limited

Establishing this as a 3-pronged attack really helped my next steps. Firstly, I got the teachers to tell me which child was affected by which barrier. A simple Venn diagram allowed me to do this.


I set mine up on publisher and then just let the teachers drag their child’s name (already set up in a text box) to the right section. This simple low maintenance exercise gave me the best picture possible of our Pupil Premium Children and from there everything got easier.

Previously, we had always started with an intervention we wanted to put in place for a very small group of PP children. Normally this was the PP children who had sprung straight to mind e.g. those who fell on our SEN register, were our lowest ability, or were very obviously suffering from poverty, falling immediately onto our vulnerable children’s list. So, we’d spend money on a school counsellor, a nurture group leader or a maths intervention for example. It would have impact which was provable but we often found that it cost more than their allowance could cover and it was actually needed by a whole number of children who, although struggling, didn’t actually qualify for the funding. Not an enormous problem. After all, the guidelines don’t rule out spending money on schemes that impact other ‘disadvantaged’ children. However, in our area quite often our Pupil Premium children don’t necessarily fit the ‘stereotype’. In fact, we had quite a few who you wouldn’t immediately recognise as disadvantaged. Therefore, proving we had used the funding to impact every pupil premium child when a large chunk of the budget had gone on just one or two ‘obvious’ children became really difficult. Our middle achieving or high achieving pupil premium children missed out altogether. Particularly those who fell into the ‘green’ section of the Venn diagram. They weren’t in interventions; they didn’t get support from our Family Liaison officer and ultimately, we weren’t actually using their funding effectively. Therefore, my Venn diagram overview became essential in helping me focus our ideas on the bigger picture making sure we targeted every individual Pupil Premium child.

Like fairy tales, the ‘power of 3’ seemed to be working for me so when I started looking at how to use the funding I stuck with it, building into my policy a shopping list for each barrier that I could revisit year after year as my Venn diagram changed. This is what I came up with:-

Providing Academic Support Providing family or Emotional Support Broadening the curriculum providing enriching experiences to encourage life long learning.
Where a child is underachieving or making less progress than their non-disadvantaged peers, the funds are used for Teaching Assistants or Teachers providing specific interventions to ensure the gaps are closed. Where a child is in need of family support, the funds are used for our pastoral team, including both teaching assistants and the family liaison officer. Where a child is in need of rich cultural experiences to enhance their learning experience, the funds are used for either whole school initiatives that will support that child’s learning or a specific interest that the parent is unable to cater for financially.
· TA hours and training

· Training or resources for specific interventions

· External agencies providing interventions including speech and language

· Family Liaison officer’s hours and training

· Pastoral teaching assistant’s hours and training

· Intervention from the EWO

· Counselling or emotional support from outside agencies for either child or parent

· Family learning

· Transport to help with attendance

· Provision of uniform or school supplies

·       A whole curriculum enrichment programme (including resources and/or staff training) e.g. development of Vocabulary teaching, maths mastery or rich knowledge curriculum

· Computing equipment

· Books or resources that will enhance learning across the curriculum for all children

· Specialist teachers for specific subject areas

· Paying for an outside interest club

· Paying for school trips (including residential trips)


Now for proving impact

This was the trickiest bit. How could I test the strategies I’d put in place if results weren’t necessarily going to show it? In a world where progress is still very ambiguous (that’s a whole different blog for a whole different day) I decided that it was best to prove achievement anecdotally instead of trying to use numerical progress data which would be highly unreliable. So we opted for… yes you’ve guessed it… a 3-pronged attack to find the evidence. Termly gap analysis (1) of children’s targets/objectives would show where they had closed a gap academically (especially if there were samples of work where they had been attending a specific intervention), children’s questionnaires (2) would show positive impact of the academic and pastoral or broader curriculum strategies put in place and attendance data (3) would show impact of attendance strategies.

Our questionnaires are double sided (child side completed first, then teacher side). They are completed termly and reviewed by class teachers and phase leaders in class reviews. From this phase leaders can make sure the disadvantaged children are in the right academic interventions or the right pastoral support. I keep running track in a financial spreadsheet of what these will cost against each child’s name to make sure funding is being used where needed and phase leaders and core subject leaders review the interventions regularly.

These questionnaires also give our middle and high achieving disadvantaged children a voice as they identify the things that they want to do and especially highlight where the curriculum can be made broader and deeper. It is my belief that fostering talent and aspiration in disadvantaged children is crucial in improving social mobility and responding to their hopes and dreams helps us to target funding correctly. This way we don’t just concern ourselves with improving the immediate outcomes of underachieving disadvantaged pupils but nurture and encourage talent and aspiration for those whose backgrounds might see them give up in the future even if, for now, they are achieving.

Happily Ever After?

The evidence collected is then used to analyse the spend before I make plans for next year. In my annual review I group it under my “Power of 3 headings” and it certainly has sped up the process. As evidence is being continually analysed throughout the year, we can easily decide which bits we want to keep for the following year and which bits need reviewing.

It is still a work in progress but it has been an interesting journey coming up with a Pupil Premium strategy and while we are still trying our best to find the most effective items for our shopping list of strategies at least we can be confident our monitoring is helping us to constantly question what works and what doesn’t.

My top tips.

  • A visual representation of the barriers in your school like a Venn diagram can make everything clearer.
  • Writing a shopping list of strategies that might help those barriers gives you flexibility to tailor things to the specific children in mind, year on year
  • Pupil voice is some of the best evidence of how your strategies impact especially if progress data is unreliable.














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