Roll pupil premium into national funding formula, say experts
Key architects of the government’s new national funding formula have suggested the pupil premium could be rolled into core school funding before protection for it runs out in 2020.
The government has pledged to keep the £2.5 billion pupil premium throughout this parliament.
It gives additional funds of between £935 and £1,320 for every pupil eligible for free school meals, with additional grants for care leavers.
But uncertainty over its future has prompted speculation it could be incorporated into the new national funding formula.
Tom Goldman, the Department for Education’s director of funding, told MPs on Tuesday that placing pupil premium into the national funding formula was the easiest way to achieve one single deprivation measure by which to allocate funding.
Economist Luke Sibieta, programme director for education at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, also gave evidence to the education select committee and said it would take “a matter of minutes” to make the pupil premium part of the national funding formula, adding he didn’t see much value in having “one factor with different values in different formulas”.
At present, schools must publish their strategy for using the pupil premium on their website and can be audited for its use
However, he warned that the accountability arrangements attached to the pupil premium should be retained.
At present, schools must publish their strategy for using the pupil premium on their website and can be audited for its use.
Sibieta said he would want to see this accountability extended to any other form of deprivation funding given to schools.
Education Policy Institute executive director Natalie Perera (pictured), a former DfE civil servant who led on the national funding formula development between 2010 and 2014, agreed that it “may be simpler in the long term” to merge the pots, but said it made sense “for now” for the premium to continue to be paid and administered separately.
“While the core school funding block is being reformed, it does make sense to keep the pupil premium separate in terms of the clarity available to schools,” she said.
However she admitted that it “may in the long term be simpler” to incorporate the premium into the funding formula.
In 2015, the public accounts committee asked the Department for Education to set out how it would judge the success of the pupil premium.
The government said it did “not accept” the recommendation as the department “does not set national targets”, but instead would benchmark the attainment gap between advantaged and disadvantaged pupils on international tests such as TIMSS and PISA.
In the most recent round of international tests, released in December last year, England had one of the largest achievement gaps in the world.