If you are reading this, you are probably in charge of or involved with the Disadvantaged Student (DS) Budget at your school, formerly the Pupil Premium budge up until the end of 2015/16. It can be difficult to decide where to spend this budget as you have to help a large number of students with (more often than not) blanket policies and purchases.
So, how can you best determine how to spend your budget to effectively help each and every student within your school
Whilst you probably know what this budget is for, it is always good to recap the basics - you may have inherited the duty from a predecessor in your school and continued with their plan rather than creating your own. Going over this may give you a better understanding of the grant itself, and how you should be using it in your school.
What is the Disadvantaged Student budget?
The Disadvantaged Student budget is additional funding for schools in England who have students who are classed as ‘disadvantaged’ due to their family, social or economic circumstances. It’s aim is to help raise the attainment levels of these disadvantaged students by introducing new initiatives and products using the grant. As a school, it is up on you to determine how you spend the budget - there are no set rules on how you decide or what you spend in on specifically.
How is the grant determined?
Census, free school meals and social services information is used to determine which students (from Reception to Year 11) are eligible for the grant. Any child that receives school meals gets an allowance, as does any child who has been in care for one day or more. Schools can receive between £300 and £1320 per disadvantaged student, depending on their year group and matching criteria.
The government have set up a ‘Key to Success’ website that will help you determine your school’s DS budget - find it here.
When and how do we get the budget?
The budget is paid from the government to the local authorities (LA) four times a year, which is then passed onto each school. Once the LA have passed the grant to their schools, they must report back and provide proof to the government that the correct amounts were given.
Are we accountable for how the budget is spent?
Yes - there are three ways in which your school is accountable for how the DS budget is spent. For the most part, these are for the sake of transparency but they can be used to call for a review of your DS grant. These reviews can be requested by Ofsted, your local authority, your academy trust, your regional schools commissioner and the Department of Education.
- Ofsted: Ofsted’s inspections will report on the attainment and progress of the disadvantaged students.
- Online reporting: As a school, you are expected to report your usage and results of the year’s grant on your school’s website. This allows parents and guardians to see how the budget is being allocated and how it is helping their child. Full details of how you need to report your DS budget can be found here.
- Performance tables: Your school’s results are published each year in the government’s official performance tables, with a section dedicated to commentary on how disadvantaged students performed in comparison to the students who do not fall into this category.
How should we determine where and how to use it?
Deciding how to spend your DS budget can be a very tricky task. Your goal is to help DS raise their attainment levels, but it is 100% up to you how to do this. There is a huge amount of research to back up pretty much any initiative you could bring into the school - from the obvious (like extra Tutors or Teaching Assistants) to the not-so obvious (like sports clubs). The rule of thumb is: as long as you can prove that it helps your DS - you can spend it there.
We recommend taking time to look into where help is needed the most in your school. Work with your Pastoral staff to highlight areas and students that need help. Some things will be able to be fixed with a standard response, but some students may have unique circumstances that need a tailored approach. Don’t be afraid to look into departments, years and individual students to find out what isn’t working from all angles.
Look for the barriers and obstacles and come up with solutions for them - this way you can (hopefully) avoid initiatives that address the issue too late or not at all. Once you’ve decided, make sure you evaluate how your purchases are working periodically throughout the year and don’t be afraid to change tactics if one isn’t working.
What should we spend the budget on?
There are lots of different initiatives you can adopt that will help your DS. After figuring out which areas need improvement, take a look at some of the suggestions below to get you started. You may find none of these suggestions would work for the specific need you have, so make sure you do extra research online.
Hire more Teaching Assistants (TAs)
A common reason for students failing to keep up in class or understand what is going on is due to the lack of support they receive. It is almost impossible for a teacher to give their undivided attention to each student to ensure everyone understands a topic, and this is where students can fall behind.
Hiring more TAs to work one-on-one with your DS can help relieve the pressure on the classroom teacher and help give the attention needed to individual students. Not only this, but it can significantly help students who are SEN or EAL.
Tip - Make sure any TAs you hire are there to work with a small group of students (or even just one). Having them as general classroom assistants can lead to them being stretched too thin and not being effective in improving students’ understandings.
Start a Breakfast Club
Breakfast clubs are fast becoming a staple in schools across the UK, with research backing up dozens of positive effects. The clubs allow students to receive a healthy breakfast which helps to start their morning on a positive note, and sets them up for focused learning throughout the day.
It also helps them to get into a positive routine (one that may not be available at home) and often increases attendance and decreases late arrivals. Most breakfast clubs will provide breakfast for students, and then allow them to play and socialise with other students, work in groups on creative activities, or work on their home/school-work.
Tip - Look into schemes like Magic Breakfast who help schools set up and run breakfast clubs. Even if you don’t end up applying for their scheme, it will give you some ideas and pointers!
Buy new iPads/Laptops
Depending on the issues that arose from your research, you may have found that some DS are having issues with handing homework in on time or completing it at all. This may be because of a lack of resources or support at home, or the student not having the motivation to complete the work.
Buying a new laptop or iPad for the DS who are affected by this can help them combat this issue by giving them the equipment they need to study independently and take control of their workload. This can help prevent the issue of late hand-ins and subsequent detentions, by addressing the issue at its root.
Tip - Shop around and speak to lots of different EdTech suppliers - there are so many out there that the first one you speak to won’t have the best deal.
Unique student-centric solutions
Depending on what your research has uncovered, you may have students whose issues can’t be solved by a blanket policy or purchase. Things like providing students with new uniforms if their families cannot afford them, buying alarm clocks for students who are perpetually late, or even buying students bikes to ride to school if they don’t live near a bus route can help immensely. With these smaller acts, you can help students fit into the school population and have a sense of belonging, as well as get into school on time which can help improve their attention and learning outcomes.
Tip - There are hundreds of creative solutions you can use to combat these issues, so don’t be afraid to do something unusual or that’s not been done before. No issue is too small or strange - do what you can to help each student individually!
Update school resources
Your school’s resources may be in need of repair or replacement - and this is never good for any student. Things like interactive whiteboards, computer suites, textbooks, demonstration equipment, new sports equipment and so much more can be bought, all of which help to improve the teaching, learning or experience of students. One of the benefits of updating your current resources is that it will benefit all students, not just those in the disadvantaged category.
Tip - Look at where updating would help the most - a shiny new interactive whiteboard is great, but if your maths textbooks look like they’ve gone through a shredder it is probably best to start there.
Invest in new software
There are an abundance of new technologies on the market that work at improving attainment and better engaging students - these could be a good investment for the whole-school as they will benefit all students.
These again may seem less obvious such as software that helps you to manage seating plans, track praise and detentions or enabling resources to be readily available online so that students can work effectively from home and not have to spend money on textbooks.
Tip - If you do decide to invest in a school-wide software solution be sure to look at the set-up process, training and support offered from the company - as much as a software promises, you must ensure that the implementation of it is a success and these are key contributors to that.
To sum up, it is completely up to you to decide where your DS grant should be spent. Spend time identifying where the issues are (whether it is in or out of school) and come up with creative solutions for each one. Don’t be bound by what other schools are doing or what they tell you to do online - although, their ideas can be a great springboard for yours.
We couldn’t possibly list all the options here for you (some good ones that didn’t make the cut include additional teacher training, investing in sports programs and counselling for students) so make sure you continue your research until you find the program, initiative or products that are right for your school and students.