School funding features in the Conservative Party leadership contest.
School funding hit the headlines in June as candidates in the Conservative Party leadership race made promises to increase funding and win support from MPs and the public. The final two candidates have chosen different angles on education, with Boris Johnson focusing on school funding and Jeremy Hunt targeting tuition fees and student debt. In his first major policy pledge, Boris Johnson promised to raise spending per secondary pupil to at least £5,000 a year and drew attention to the difference in how much is spent per pupil in some cities (particularly London) compared with other regions. In reality, this number is close to the minimum level suggested to Local Authorities through the government’s National Funding Formula (£4,800), though some schools do receive less.
With so many different figures floating around, it can be difficult to decide what is realistic and offers the best outlook for schools and pupils. In a useful article, the Institute for Fiscal Studies sets out the real cost of reversing recent cuts to school funding as an additional £3.8bn in the next academic year alone. The government should set out its long-term plans for education at the Spending Review scheduled this year; however, changes in leadership and any delays to EU exit could see this being postponed – so schools may have to wait a little longer to find out if, and by how much, their funding gap will be plugged.
EEF publishes a guide for schools on how to put Pupil Premium funding to good use.
The Education Endowment Foundation has released a short guide for schools on how to develop strategies to support disadvantaged pupils and deploy their Pupil Premium funding in the best way. The Pupil Premium is an additional grant given to a school for every pupil facing disadvantage, according to certain government criteria, to boost their attainment. The guide stresses that whilst closing the attainment gap “is the greatest challenge facing English schools”, it is possible for schools to make a meaningful difference. It urges schools to take an evidence-based approach, look at what has worked elsewhere, and focus on a smaller strategic list, which will be easier to implement.
“Good teaching is the most important lever schools have to improve outcomes for disadvantaged pupils.“
The report takes the time to bust some myths around the Pupil Premium, including that the money can only be spent on interventions that benefit eligible pupils: in fact, some effective approaches will end up benefiting other groups of pupils as well. The guidance suggests a tiered approach to Pupil Premium spending, including measures to improve teaching quality, targeted academic support – such as small-group tuition – and wider strategies, such as addressing behaviour and attendance.
- 65% of pupils leaving primary school meet expected standards in reading, writing and maths. The Department for Education (DfE) has released early results for this year’s Key Stage 2 SATs – taken by pupils aged 10 and 11 across the country in May – which suggest a slight rise in the number of pupils achieving the expected standard. We hope to share news soon about how Action Tutoring pupils got on.
- Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, outlines his department’s new plans to support the most vulnerable pupils in schools. Speaking at the think tank Reform back in June, Damian Hinds set out some new measures to support the most disadvantaged pupils in our education system – particularly those that have been in contact with social services and have experienced childhood adversity. On 4th July, the DfE also released plans to help more young people in care to access places at top independent schools.
- New national campaign hopes to boost children’s early literacy and communication at home. The DfE states that “more than one in four children still leaves Reception without the key communication skills they need to thrive”. It has now launched a three-year campaign called Hungry Little Minds with videos and games to help parents and carers build their children’s language before starting school.
‘Elitist Britain 2019’ looks at the educational backgrounds of those in the most elite professions. The Sutton Trust and the Social Mobility Commission have examined the make-up of some of Britain’s professional elites and find a “strong pipeline” into the highest status jobs through independent schools and Oxbridge universities. Their report breaks down sectors like business, media and sport.