Will the pupil premium be fair?

Francis Gilbert's picture
I suspect that without transparent and fair admissions' policies, the pupil premium could be deeply problematic. In the TES this week, the editor, argues it will be radically re-distributive:

"The pupil premium is potentially one of the most transformative measures ever launched by a government. It promises to transfer vast sums of money - some schools could see budget increases of nearly £1 million - from the relatively comfortable to the poor (page 1). It is both forensic - it targets individuals, not postcodes - and crude - poverty commands a premium. Schools that do not have significant numbers of pupils on free school meals - the majority - will not benefit. They are, understandably, gutted. The Government is gambling that they can afford to be annoyed."

But nowhere in the article does he examine the impact of unfair admissions' policies and the premium. So let's look at grammar schools first of all. What if they decided, in the interests of gaining more money, to take the top-achieving "poor" pupils who've taken the 11-plus. At the moment, they probably don't do this; they'd have to skew things to do it, but I am sure they will find a way in the interests of more cash. That would then mean, the local schools will not have these pupils who are bright and carry more money, thus leaving them with a narrower ability range. What is more, there's strong evidence to suggest that selective schools demotivate poorer pupils and their achievements are not as good as at local schools.

With Academies and other covertly selective schools, you'll see the same phenomena happening: the "clever" poor pupils being sucked out of local schools, leaving local schools with less money and not so many high achieving pupils. Again, the evidence suggests that disadvantaged pupils suffer at these schools.

The pupil premium is an excellent idea in theory, but it will only work properly with fair admissions' policies.
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