The pupil premium announced in 2011 consisted of a £625 million allocation for children who were registered as eligible for free school meals and had been looked after for 6 months or longer.
This was extended in 2012 to all those eligible for free school meals at any point in the previous six years, meaning that a pupil whose parents with a significantly improved financial situation still qualify. The cost of the scheme has since extended to over £2.5 billion for a variety of disadvantages.
The pupil premium should be awarded to schools dealing with currently disadvantaged pupils rather than those who have perhaps been qualified as disadvantaged in the past. This is particularly important at a time when evidence of significantly increased pupil attainment as a result of the fund remains in doubt.
It takes years for changes in the education system to be demonstrated in results and attainment, so policymakers should exercise caution when using taxpayers’ money to expand relatively new schemes.
Returning to 2011 levels would ensure those schools with the most disadvantaged pupils are still given additional help.