Poll: 7 in 10 primary heads say catch-up cash ‘insufficient’

Two in five leaders raid pupil premium budgets to make ends meet

Two in five leaders raid pupil premium budgets to make ends meet

Almost seven in ten primary school heads say they did not receive enough catch-up cash this year, with many forced to cut support staff and trips and raid pupil premium funding to make ends meet.

Polling by the National Foundation for Educational Research for the Sutton Trust found 68 per cent of primary leaders said catch-up funding was insufficient, with four in ten saying it was “very insufficient”. In comparison, just one in four secondary leaders said they didn’t get enough.

But government data shows that as of March, two in five schools had not engaged with the government’s flagship National Tutoring Programme, and recent statistics show academy trust coffers swelled by more than a quarter last year.

The government has so far pledged almost £5 billion in catch-up funding for schools and colleges.

Some of this went direct to schools, while the rest was for specific initiatives such as summer schools, teacher training and tutoring.

But the National Tutoring Programme, currently run by Dutch HR firm Randstad has been plagued with setbacks, leading the Department for Education to announce that all funding will go direct to schools next year.

Data published by the DfE last month showed just 59 per cent of schools had engaged with the tutoring programme, with take-up of the Randstad-run tuition partners pillar at just 14 per cent.

Schools scale back on TAs, trips and equipment

But the Sutton Trust warned today that a lack of funding is impacting provision in schools.

Fifty-one per cent of primary leaders and 28 per cent of secondary heads said they had been forced to cut back on teaching assistants, while 35 per cent of primary and 31 per cent of secondary heads reported cutting other support staff.

Other leaders reported cutting back on IT equipment, trips and sports and extracurricular activities. One in five leaders said they had cut spending on teaching staff.

The government has said it wants to see schools focus their pupil premium funding on interventions to improve literacy and numeracy, as well as tutoring once government subsidies run out.

But the Sutton Trust’s research found 38 per cent of primary leaders and 25 per cent of secondary heads had to use pupil premium to plug gaps elsewhere in their budgets.

Heads were also asked what their main priority was for pupil premium funding. Additional teaching assistants was the priority for 26 per cent of primary leaders, while more tutoring was top choice for a third of secondary leaders.

‘Enormous investment’ in catch-up needed

Sir Peter Lampl, founder and chair of the Sutton Trust and chair of the Education Endowment Foundation, said the polling showed schools faced “monumental challenges as a result of the pandemic, with schools having to cut crucial staff and support for pupils”.

He said it was a “disgrace that a third of heads still report using pupil premium funding to plug budget gaps”.

“The government must make an enormous investment in education recovery so that all pupils are given a chance to succeed”.

A DfE spokesperson pointed to the government’s “ambitious recovery plan covering primary, secondary and further education continues to roll out across the country, with nearly £5 billion being invested in high quality tutoring, world class training for teachers and early years practitioners, additional funding for schools, and extending time in colleges by 40 hours a year”.

They added that core school funding is increasing by £4 billion next year “which will help schools to meet wider cost pressures”.

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