Turning Pupil Premium into Pupil Achievement

“Schools should be the engines of social mobility”- Education Secretary Michael Gove

I’d like to think everyone would agree with Gove’s statement; however, the ideal he has envisioned is still far from becoming reality. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds still tend to finish school with fewer qualifications than their peers, severely limiting their future prospects.

A recent initiative by the coalition government aims to reduce this attainment gap. The Pupil Premium, introduced to schools in April 2011, sees additional funding paid directly to schools for every child they take on that is eligible for free school meals, or those from families with parents in the armed forces.

Simply injecting more money into schools, though, is not the simple solution it first seems. An abundance of data collected in the academic year 2012-13 suggests that schools are not using the funding to its full potential. Research for the Sutton Trust concluded that schools were spending their Pupil Premium allocation- an impressive sum of £1.25 billion- primarily to maintain or enhance existing provision and introduce extra staffing, rather than put in place new initiatives and improve teaching. A report by Ofsted found that school leaders in only 1 in 10 institutions said that the funding ‘significantly’ changed the way they worked. With the Premium expected to rise to around £1,200 for the year 2014-15, some would say that’s not quite ‘significant’ enough.

Despite its teething problems, The Sutton Trust still believed in the potential of the Pupil Premium to make a real impact on student attainment. Only if, however, spending prioritises the right strategies and implements them in the most effective ways.

The Trust, partnered with the Education Endowment Foundation, has funded research at Durham University to create the Teaching and Learning ‘Toolkit,’ designed for schools to use to prioritise their spending. The Toolkit is compiled of 21 different interventions, from teaching assistants to after school programmes, assessed for their impact on pupil attainment and relative cost for schools to introduce.

A number of intervention projects have since been launched based on the Toolkit and its research findings. In September 2013 pilots its new project, aimed at helping schools use their Pupil Premium to greater effect.

According to the evidence, one of the most cost effective and attainment boosting interventions, alongside pupil-teacher feedback and meta-cognitive teaching techniques, is peer tutoring. Peer tutoring can be pupils tutoring one another in a group setting, or cross-age tutoring with older pupils tutoring ones from younger classes. Particularly effective for both disadvantaged and low achieving pupils, peer tutoring has been found to be an excellent way for a school to utilise their Pupil Premium.

MyTutorWeb works with the most gifted university students in the country to provide high-quality, affordable tutoring to GCSE and A Level students. The evidence provided by The Teaching and Learning Toolkit about peer tutoring and its potential benefits supports MyTutorWeb’s founding ethos: that struggling pupils will benefit from someone nearer their own age supporting them in their learning, that peer tutoring is extremely valuable to both tutor and tutee and that extra tutoring to supplement normal teaching has a high impact on attainment and can be made affordable to all.

Of course, all those involved with MyTutorWeb already had all the evidence they needed- just by looking at the amazing reviews and the amount of progress their pupils have made.

MyTutorWeb is now offering the option for schools to use the service, funded by their Pupil Premium allowance. From September, school leaders will be able to request one-to-one online tutoring sessions for their pupils in order to boost their GCSE and A Level results.

It’s an exciting venture that could make a real impact in schools and on the future’s of many children living in the UK.

Written by Leigh Spanner

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