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Durham University

School of Education

Staff Profile

Publication details for Dr Beng Huat See

Gorard, S., Siddiqui, N. & See, BH (2019). The difficulties of judging what difference the Pupil Premium has made to school intakes and outcomes in England. Research Papers in Education

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

Pupil Premium funding has been provided to schools in England since 2011, to help overcome socio-economic segregation between schools, and reduce the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers – nationally, regionally, and within individual schools. Yet there is little international evidence that such a funding system can raise attainment directly. Some important stakeholders are now considering whether Pupil Premium should cease, be used for more general school financing, or have a new objective such as social mobility. It is therefore essential to know whether the policy has had a beneficial impact in the eight years since its inception. Previous estimates suggest that segregation and the raw attainment gap have been reducing erratically and slowly since 2011, but that this is generally part of a longer-term historical trend and cannot simply be attributed to the Pupil Premium policy.

However, evaluating the impact of such a funding policy is not that simple. It is fraught with difficulties because of changes over time in the economy, legal definitions of indicators of disadvantage, the prevalence of disadvantage, the metrics used, and in the ways attainment has been summarised. Previous research has generally not taken these into account and also largely ignores the length and depth of disadvantage, and the difference this makes to patterns of attainment. Hence, previous estimates of the attainment gap are probably insecure. To illustrate the problems arising in judging changes over time and between areas and schools in segregation and the attainment gap, data from the National Pupil Database and School-level Annual Schools Census are correlated, cross-plotted, and modelled using regression, and time series analyses. This paper introduces a new analysis that considers changes in the prevalence of FSM-eligibility, private school attendance, GDP and the duration of individual poverty. It illustrates the importance of these factors in an analysis of the attainment gap in each local authority in England. Net of such factors, the results show that segregation has declined unexpectedly since 2011, suggesting that Pupil Premium may be working. The Pupil Premium policy should remain until further research is complete, and in the meantime claims of the relative success and failure of schools and regions should take into account the cautions noted in this paper.