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Teachers call for more funding for disadvantaged schools to bolster the government’s levelling up agenda

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  • Three quarters of all teachers (74%) want the government to invest in all schools but weight additional funding towards schools serving disadvantaged communities
  • More than two thirds of all teachers (69%) at state-funded schools believe increased pupil premium would help their school secure better educational outcomes for disadvantaged pupils

Three quarters of all teachers (74%)* believe the government should invest in all schools but weight additional funding towards schools serving disadvantaged communities as part of its levelling up agenda, polling from education charity Teach First has revealed.

That figure rises to an overwhelming 87% when hearing from teachers in the most disadvantaged schools – but there remains a clear majority for the policy (64%) amongst teachers at the most affluent schools too, indicating widespread support.

The news comes as Teach First releases a new report calling for the government to level up the country by increasing and expanding the pupil premium – existing funding aimed at supporting the education of disadvantaged pupils eligible for free school meals – in four ways.

There is strong support for this policy amongst teachers at state-funded schools, with more than two thirds (69%) stating that they believe increased pupil premium would help their school secure better educational outcomes for disadvantaged pupils.

Early Years

Currently, children from disadvantaged background in Early Year settings are allocated less funding via the pupil premium compared to pupils in primary school. This is despite new research finding more than seven in ten (71%) primary school teachers believe that compared to previous years pupils entering reception are less prepared to succeed in school cognitively, socially, and emotionally.

With the growing need to support these pupils, Teach First is calling for the government to align the early years pupil premium rate with the current primary school rate, which they estimate would cost £130m per annum. The charity argues this will allow teachers to provide targeted support to those who need it the most and help to level up the country by ensuring every child starts primary school on an equal footing.

Post-16

The report also explores the lack of pupil premium funding that exists for pupils post-16. The number of young people Not in Education, Employment, or Training (NEET) remains a significant challenge, with 689,000 16 to 24-year-olds recorded as such in the most recently available data[1]. This is an increase of 58,000 on the previous three months.

Teach First argue that the lack of funding post-16 is likely to be one of the drivers of this problem. The charity’s poll found six in 10 secondary school teachers (60%) believe expanding the Pupil Premium to include 16 to 19-year-olds in full-time education could prevent this ongoing issue.

The charity estimates this would cost £290m per year.

Wider proposals

The charity is also calling for the government to:

  • Restore pupil premium rates to 2015-16 real-term levels for primary and secondary school pupils and guarantee that rates will continue to rise in line with inflation. The charity estimates this would cost £264m.
  • Create a new pupil premium subcategory for primary and secondary schools: ‘persistently disadvantaged’ pupils who have been eligible for free school meals for 80% or more of their school life. Increase the rate of funding that they receive by at least 50%. The charity estimates this would cost £460m.

The government have made some welcome recent announcements to increase funding towards schools, including an additional £4.7bn in the Autumn Budget. Teach First is urging the government to consider how this funding is distributed and estimated that the proposals to modify and increase the pupil premium in these four ways would cost approximately £1.1bn per year.

All schools could still benefit from funding increases, but it would be an opportunity to level up education for disadvantaged young people, who have been most acutely affected by the pandemic and ongoing inequality in England’s education system.

Russell Hobby, CEO of Teach First, said:

“Inequality remains a significant feature of our education system – disadvantaged pupils simply do not get the same opportunity to succeed as their wealthier peers.  This has been the case for many years, but it has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Unless we act quickly to repair the damage, widened inequality will be built in for generations to come.

“We can’t level up our country until we level up our education system. We believe our proposals to increase and expand the pupil premium would make a lasting impact on the futures of millions of young people, giving targeted support to ensure we can give them the best possible chance to succeed.”

Anna Hennell James, CEO of the Orwell Multi Academy Trust, said:

“All of the primary schools within our Multi Academy Trust have a real mix of deprivation, with some facing significant levels. Our pupil premium funding is vital for us and we know how important this support is. The earlier you can address the challenges those children face, the more time you have to make a difference.

“Creating a new ‘persistently disadvantaged’ Pupil Premium subcategory and increasing the rate they receive would support a more nuanced approach to support for pupils, rather than a one size fits all model.

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