How to Spend Pupil Premium Funding Effectively

The Sutton Trust's annual survey recently revealed that a third of senior leaders used pupil premium funding to plug gaps in their school’s budget. 

With schools under increasing financial pressure this is not surprising. However, Pupil Premium funding with thought and planning can make a huge difference to the lives of disadvantaged children. 

In this current climate, every single penny counts and is held to account. Schools are rightly looking to use their funding effectively on low cost, high impact strategies to improve the life chances of the young people who come through their door. 

We have gathered together evidence from the EEF, Government reports and expert advice, to help navigate your way through spending Pupil Premium funding effectively for your school. 


1. Think Big. Think Long-Term. Think Strategy.

The former National Pupil Premium Champion, John Dunford, suggests before spending any funding to set the ambition you want your school to achieve with Pupil Premium. He says;

“some of the schools aiming high express this ambition in terms of becoming one of the 17 per cent of schools in which those on free school meals do better than the average for all pupils nationally.”
— John Dunford

Once the ambition for the school has been set, the team can work backwards on how they can achieve the goal.  This starts with looking at the potential barriers to learning, which is likely to be different for each school but typically includes: 

  • Poor parental support
  • Poor literacy levels
  • Low attendance
  • Low aspirations
  • Low expectations

By exploring this it will help identify your schools priorities and desired outcomes of your Pupil Premium spending. 


2. Set your desired outcomes. 

When  I ask schools this question I often hear, “close the gap.” Yes, lovely. It’s when we drill into the specific aims of how a school will achieve this using Pupil Premium funding that the water tends to get muddy.  Looking at the school’s ambition and barriers to learning will help shape specific goals and focus where funding should be spent: These might include: 

  • Improving attendance
  • Reducing exclusions
  • Increasing parental engagement
  • Increasing opportunities and broadening pupil experiences. 

3. What does success look like to you?

Having the ambition and smaller targets feeding into the bigger picture is the fundamental foundation for ensuring funding is used effectively. The crucial next step is setting success criteria for each aim. These tend to be data driven, but there are some things such as, parental involvement and children’s experience that is difficult to quantify so set out what success looks like to you. 


4. The Big Question: How are the most successful schools spending their Pupil Premium Funding?

Ofsted's 2013 Pupil Premium Report summed this up nicely. Here is a snapshot of how schools are using funding to maximise achievement:

Quality Teaching First. Always. 

Schools invested in staff development and had robust performance management systems. 

High Expectations.

Schools never confused eligibility for the Pupil Premium with low ability and focused on all pupils achieving at the highest levels. 

Effective Feedback.

Schools focused on giving pupils, clear, constructive feedback about their work and how to improve. 

Always Reflecting. Always Changing. 

Schools used achievement data to frequently check whether interventions were working and made adjustments when needed. 

Get Everyone Involved. 

Schools had a designated senior leader to oversee Pupil Premium and involved governors in the decision-making and evaluation process. 

Give Everyone Responsibility. 

Schools ensured all class and subject leaders knew which pupils were eligible for Pupil Premium so they could take responsibility for accelerating their progress. 

Thought Holistically

Schools provided well – targeted support to improve attendance, behaviour, links with families and other potential barriers to learning. 

Had a Clear Policy and Strategy

Schools had a clear policy and were able through careful monitoring and evaluation, to demonstrate the impact of their spending. This was evident on the school website. 

Ring-fenced Funding

Schools carefully ringfenced funding so they always spent it on target groups of pupils. 

Established an Evidence - Based Approach

Schools explored research evidence such as, the Sutton Trust Toolkit, and learnt from others’ excellent experience to allocate funding to activities that were most likely to have an impact on raising achievement. 


5. What is the best evidence on raising attainment and achievement?

The Sutton Trust Toolkit is a fantastic resource for research – informed strategies on improving pupil progress. Here are the top 5 strategies from the toolkit: 

Sutton Trust Tooklit

Dr Lee Elliott Major, Chair of the Evaluation Advisory Group at the EEF, developed a brilliant visual in the strategies’ value for money. 

Value for money when using pupil premium funding

In these cash - strapped times we have to be savvy with Pupil Premium funding as not using it effectively is only going to fail those who need it most. 


We are incredibly proud to work with 4 out of the top 10 best performing schools for pupils on free schools meals and half of all 2015 and 2016 Pupil Premium Award Winners. Discover how we support schools and how we aim to raise achievement and inspire a love of learning.