We need a Pupil Premium Plus | Nacro
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We need a Pupil Premium Plus


The following blog was written as part of our Learn Without Limits series, looking at different aspects of policy change within Further Education.

The argument for a Pupil Premium Plus

Written by Sam Julius, Policy & Public Affairs Manager, Nacro

Disadvantage doesn’t stop at 16, yet the Pupil Premium does.

Introduced in 2011 by the Coalition Government, it is a grant paid to schools to help reduce the attainment gap for disadvantaged school-age children. It is an existing policy lever that can be pulled by extending the funding into post-16 settings at the upcoming spending review. A Pupil Premium Plus (PP+).

The policy would build on existing COVID catch-up funding for the education sector, which has shown the benefits of more targeted support for those who need it most. In welcome news, the Government has recently announced a £3m pilot to support looked-after children and care leavers in post-16 education. But this is much too small in its scope and scale of ambition. The Government needs to go further and faster, now.

A full-fat PP+, instead of a temporary uplift – like the catch-up funding – would be a permanent funding stream providing:

  • £1,000 per person to be paid at the ages of 16, 17 and 18 to those eligible for free school meals, identified as having a special educational need or disability, or who have fallen within the “children in need” classification in the last six years
  • This would apply to approximately 250,000 young people at each age, leading to a rough costing of £750 million per year (though it is likely that the number of 18-year-olds eligible will be lower than the number of 16 and 17-year-olds)
  • Paid directly to post-16 providers to enable bespoke support
  • Extra support from the funding would focus on engagement in teaching and learning, targeted academic and practical learning support, and careers counselling

Why is a PP+ needed?

Further education (FE) is overlooked and underfunded. FE providers received just a small fraction of the Government’s £3.1bn education recovery package, following a decade of cuts. Since 2010/11, FE colleges and sixth forms have faced the largest falls in per pupil funding of any part of the education system, suffering a 12% fall in real terms.

There is a clear disparity between schools and post-16 education funding. In 2021, the minimum funding per pupil in secondary schools was £5,000 and £4,166 for further education providers. Despite a small funding increase in 2020/21, the gulf remains and a PP+ would begin to address this shortfall.

The “disadvantage gap”:

Quite rightly, efforts to tackle the attainment gap over the years have mainly focused on school age children and the early years. Often at the detriment of FE and it has failed to tackle what we now call the national skills crisis.

Almost one in five young people do not achieve the equivalent of five good GCSEs or equivalent, by the age of 19, a number that has risen for five consecutive years.

For those eligible for free school meals (FSM), that number is more than one in three – and  getting worse. There has been a 10 percentage point drop in those eligible for FSM achieving five good GCSEs by 19.

This is what the Education Policy Institute calls the 16-19 “disadvantage gap”. Simply, educational attainment remains too dependent on background, not merit, with the system skewed against our most disadvantaged young people.

And it is not just young people eligible for FSM that are at a disadvantage. There is also a significant gap when comparing the outcomes of those identified as having a special education need or disability (SEND) against their non-SEND peers. And again for ‘children in need’ – who are defined as children under the age of 18 who need local authority services to maintain or achieve a reasonable standard of health or development or are disabled.

Without the right support, we are failing to equip our young people with the skills that they need to move forward with their lives.

So, Rishi, let’s tackle the skills crisis and close the “disadvantage gap” – it’s time to pull the lever and implement Pupil Premium Plus.

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If you are a journalist or member of the media and would like more information around this topic, contact the press office by emailing media@nacro.org.uk or calling 07881 625 474