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Using pupil premium: guidance for school leaders



This is advice for school leaders and anyone else involved in managing the use of pupil premium (and recovery premium in the 2021 to 2022 academic year) in schools.

It may also be useful for governing boards, parents and local authorities who want to know how schools can use their pupil premium effectively and the reporting requirements.

There’s separate guidance which gives a brief overview of the pupil premium.

Pupil premium in the 2021 to 2022 academic year

As in previous years, continue to use the pupil premium to improve the attainment of your disadvantaged pupils. The disproportionately high impact of COVID-19 on the education of disadvantaged pupils makes this more important than ever.

For 2021 to 2022, you are required to:

use your recovery premium alongside your pupil premium funding and report on your use of them as a single sum in your strategy statement

use our template to publish your strategy statement – see condition 8 of the conditions of grant
publish your strategy statement by 31 December 2021 – this enables you to take the needs of your new intake into account
demonstrate how your spending decisions are informed by a range of evidence – see condition 7 of the conditions of grant

Developing and delivering an effective strategy

1. Identify the specific challenges faced by your disadvantaged and vulnerable pupils

Diagnostic assessment is crucial for understanding the specific elements of education that pupils are finding challenging, rather than performance in whole subjects. For example, a focus on the specific vocabulary required in different subject areas.

See the Education Endowment Fund’s (EEF) diagnostic assessment resource for further information.

You should also develop an understanding of any non-academic challenges that pupils are facing that are negatively affecting their education and impact their access to teaching, for example:

attendance and levels of persistent absence
behaviour incidences and exclusions data
wellbeing, mental health and safeguarding concerns
access to technology and educational materials
high mobility

When identifying challenges, you should draw on a range of data sources including discussions with teachers and support staff and engagement with pupils and families.

2. Create a strategy plan to address the key challenges

Consider taking a longer-term approach to your use of pupil premium funding. 3-year plans are recommended.

Your plan should focus on the controllable challenges that are having the most significant adverse impact on your disadvantaged pupils.

Use a balanced structure to help map out your approach. The EEF’s Pupil Premium Guide recommends that you adopt a tiered model which focuses on:

high-quality teaching
targeted academic support
wider strategies

Ensure that you consult school leaders and other relevant staff members, for example, the designated safeguarding lead, the designated teacher, and the special educational needs coordinator (SENCo). You should also consult relevant external partners, such as the Virtual School Head.

3. Use evidence to assess the merit of any activity that you consider implementing

You should:

consult a wide range of independent, high-quality reviews of evidence, such as the evidence summaries published by EEF

assess whether the evidence is based on a context relevant to your school
consider how to be an effective consumer and challenge evidence claims made by external providers

Evidence of the impact of activity can help you to set the outcomes that you want to achieve by the end of your plan.

4. Implement your plan

You should consider:

how to integrate the activity with the curriculum
what changes will be needed to existing ways of working
which pupils will get what activity, when and in what group size
how to ensure all staff promote the principles and ethos of your strategy, such as high aspiration
professional development requirements, taking the standard for professional development into account
requirements of external providers if you are using them
what data and resources will be required to monitor the impact of each activity

See EEF’s Putting Evidence to Work – A School’s Guide to Implementation for further information.

5. Evaluate your strategy

When evaluating impact, you should:

measure success based on outcomes for disadvantaged and vulnerable pupils
implement a robust and transparent evaluation framework and report outcomes against this
ensure evaluation is an ongoing process – strategies that have been effective in one year may not continue to be effective

When evaluating impact, you should not:

use data that does not focus on pupil outcomes
base evaluation on the reactions of those delivering the activity
use vague intended outcomes from the start, making an accurate assessment of improvements more difficult

6. Sustain your strategy

The outcomes of your evaluation will inform your decision whether to sustain or stop each activity.

Where a strategy is successful, it is particularly important to continue monitoring implementation. Enthusiasm for approaches may reduce in subsequent years and additional professional development and resources are likely to be required for new and existing staff to maintain successful outcomes.

Request a review

You can request a pupil premium review to help you identify more effective ways to use your pupil premium.

Pooling pupil premium in academy trusts

Academy trusts may wish to pool resources and set a strategy for use of pupil premium and recovery premium funding across multiple academies. Trusts must ensure that any such strategy is flexible enough to accommodate the specific needs of each school’s disadvantaged pupil cohort.

Each school must publish or update a strategy statement by 31 December every year.

3-year strategy

Taking a longer-term approach by planning your use of pupil premium over multiple years (3 years is recommended) can make it easier to plan your spending, recruitment, teaching practice and staff development.

If you use a multi-year approach, you must review your strategy and publish an updated strategy statement every academic year before 31 December.

Non-eligible pupils

You do not have to spend your pupil premium so it solely benefits eligible pupils. You can use it to support other pupils with identified needs. For example, you might decide to spend it on pupils who do not get free school meals but:

have or have had a social worker
act as a carer

Evidence from across the English school system shows that using your pupil premium funding to improve teaching quality is the most effective way to improve outcomes for disadvantaged pupils. By doing so, you will inevitably benefit non-eligible pupils as well.

Academically able pupils

Pupil premium funding is not allocated based on academic ability. Your pupil premium allocation will be based on all of the eligible pupils in your school.

Evidence shows that academically able pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds are most at risk of under-performing. These pupils should receive just as much focus in your use of pupil premium as less academically able pupils.

Pupil premium plus

Pupil premium plus is funding to help improve the attainment of looked-after children and previously looked-after children. As with pupil premium, it is not a personal budget for individual children.

For looked-after children, pupil premium plus is managed by each local authority’s Virtual School Head for the purpose of supporting their educational attainment.

Your designated teacher should work with Virtual School Heads to ensure that pupil premium plus for looked after children in your school is used to meet the needs identified in their personal education plans.

Local authorities are expected to release these payments as soon as possible to schools, but they may choose to retain a portion of it to fund activities that will benefit a group, or all, of the authority’s looked-after children.

Pupil premium plus for previously looked-after children is managed by the child’s school, alongside their pupil premium funding. The designated teacher has a key role in ensuring the specific needs of previously looked-after children are reflected in how the school uses its funding to support these children.

Your designated teacher should:

ensure adoptive parents and guardians are aware that they can declare their child eligible for pupil premium plus and work with them in deciding how the funding should be used
consult the Virtual School Head on how to use the funding effectively, where appropriate
be the main contact for queries about the use of pupil premium plus

Service pupil premium

Service pupil premium is additional funding for schools, but it is not based on disadvantage. It has been combined into pupil premium payments to make it easier for you to manage your spending.

The funding is for pastoral support for eligible pupils.

The strategy statement template includes an optional section to report on how you are using the service pupil premium and its impact on eligible pupils.

There’s separate guidance published by the Ministry of Defence on the service pupil premium.

Local authority-maintained schools and most academies (check your funding agreement) must produce and publish a strategy statement every year.

You have until 31 December to publish your statement each year. This will enable you to take the needs of your new intake into account.

Purpose of the strategy statement

The strategy statement is for you to explain how your pupil premium funding is being spent and the outcomes that are being achieved. It’s important that parents and governors can understand how you’re using the pupil premium and you should write it with these groups in mind.

Ofsted inspectors will only use your statement to help them prepare for their visit.

It is:

not part of your management accounting obligations
not intended to monitor within-class or within-school attainment gaps
not used by DfE to allocate future funding

Reporting on wider strategy outcomes

It can be challenging to evaluate the impact of any activity that is not directly linked to academic outcomes, for example, activity supporting social and emotional wellbeing. You should still write about this in your online statement and refer to any evidence that shows you’re making progress.


Read this guidance, the relevant example statement and the EEF pupil premium guide, before you produce your strategy statement.

Complete the DfE template, save the document (for example as a PDF file) and publish it on your school’s website.

Ensure you review and update your strategy statement before 31 December each academic year even if you are using a multi-year strategy.

From the 2021 to 2022 academic year, you must use the template provided to publish your statement – this is a condition of your funding.

If you have already adopted a multi-year strategy that will continue this academic year, you do not need to develop a new strategy, but must use the new template to outline your existing strategy by 31 December.

Format of the blank template

The template is designed to ensure your statement meets the requirements of the conditions of grant. You may also find it a helpful tool for developing your pupil premium strategy, in conjunction with the guidance on developing and delivering an effective strategy and the EEF pupil premium guide.

Part A is for you to explain your strategy for using pupil premium (and recovery premium for 2021 to 2022) to improve outcomes for disadvantaged pupils.

Part B is for you to explain what the outcomes of your pupil premium spending were for disadvantaged pupils in the previous academic year.

There is an optional further information section to provide any additional information you wish to publish.

The template for the 2021 to 2022 academic year does not include a requirement to enter information relating to performance measures given the impact of COVID-19 on their production and publication.

In future academic years, the template will incorporate requirements relating to performance measurement data.

School allocations

Pupil premium is paid quarterly on a financial year basis. The first instalment is paid in late June for maintained schools and early July for academies.

Your school’s allocation will be published in March, helping you to plan ahead.

The full payment schedule is published in the conditions of grant. You can also view the pupil premium funding allocations that have been given to each school and at national, local authority and parliamentary constituency level.

‘Key to success’ data download

If you need to check which pupils your school’s allocation is based on you can consult key to success from April each year.

Key to success cannot be used for planning or delivering the pupil premium strategy as it is a retrospective list of eligible pupils based on the October census. For pupils in alternative provision settings, we use the January census.

Eligibility and funding rates

School allocations are calculated based on the number of pupils who attend the school who are eligible for pupil premium funding.

The eligibility criteria and per pupil rates are published in the conditions of grant. There are separate conditions of grant for:

Pupils who move schools

As pupil premium is not an entitlement for individual pupils, you do not get an adjustment if a pupil leaves your school or joins another school.

The only exception is for permanently excluded pupils.

Excluded pupils

We’ll reduce pupil premium payments by the value of one pupil, pro-rated to the point in the financial year when the pupil left, for sending schools.

We’ll credit receiving schools by the value of one pupil, pro-rated to the point in the financial year when the pupil left the sending school.

Alternative provision schools

Alternative provision (AP) settings, with eligible pupils recorded in the census, will receive the pupil premium like all other state-funded schools.

You can include a pro-rata pupil premium sum in the cost of a place for pupils placed in AP settings:

on a part-time basis
who joined after the census

We’ll provide funding to local authorities for eligible pupils who are educated in independent special schools based on the number of such pupils in their area.

Errors in payments

Contact DfE if you’ve mistakenly recorded a pupil as eligible for the pupil premium.

We can change the national pupil database for you to correct individual pupil errors but we cannot amend your census return.

Allocation changes from the 2021 to 2022 financial year

Mainstream and special schools

Funding will be based on October 2020 census data instead of using the January census as was the case in previous years.

Alternative provision, pupil referral units and hospital schools

There will be no change to the allocations process.

This change brings pupil premium allocations in line with how the rest of the core schools’ budget is calculated.

The change also provides earlier clarity for schools on their allocations. In this transitional year, pupil premium allocations have been confirmed within the usual timeline in June 2021. From 2022, the annual pupil premium allocations for mainstream and special schools will be published in March.

There’s further information in the conditions of grant where you’ll also find the allocations for each school and at national, local authority and parliamentary constituency level.

Financial impact of the pupil premium census change

Total pupil premium funding is increasing to more than £2.5 billion in the 2021 to 2022 financial year. This means:

funding is up £60 million on the previous year
most schools across England will see an increase in funding
87% of local authorities will see an increase in pupil premium funding

Pupil premium funding is in addition to the £3 billion to support education recovery. As part of this, £280 million will be allocated to schools through the recovery premium which, building on the pupil premium, will be targeted at schools most in need of supporting pupils with disadvantaged attainment. This additional support far outweighs the impact of moving the pupil premium census date from January to October.

This table shows the financial impact of moving to the October census on the annual pupil premium allocations for the 2021 to 2022 financial year. It compares the number of pupils that get the pupil premium in the 2021 to 2022 financial year with the number of pupils that would have attracted the pupil premium if the January census had been used.

Primary pupils
Secondary pupils
Number of pupils
67,189 fewer recipients
4,973 additional recipients
62,216 fewer recipients
Financial impact
£92,445,582 less funding
£2,589,472 more funding
£89,856,109 less funding

The overall impact is approximately £90 million. This does not mean that pupil premium funding is decreasing – total pupil premium funding is increasing compared to the previous year.

In addition to the pupil premium, pupils who are eligible for free school meals, or have been at any point in the last 6 years (“FSM6”), also attract funding through the schools national funding formula (NFF). We are also moving to use the October census, not the January census in the NFF, which in this case, means moving from the January 2020 to the October 2020 census. This will increase the amount of funding allocated through the FSM6 factor in the 2022 to 2023 financial year, as free school meals eligibility increased significantly between January and October last year.

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