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1. Mr Doran said he had been the Head teacher of the Virtual School Kent (VSK) since its foundation. Before that he had been involved in tackling disadvantage and underachievement and had been seconded to the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit as a behaviour expert during the 2008/09 National Behaviour Review. He said the VSK had been established in 2010 based on a two-year national pilot and the idea was to have either a senior officer or a head teacher in charge of the education of all children in care as if they were in a single school. The VSK was now the largest virtual school in the country.
2. The attainment of children in care (CiC) was significantly below the national average in every indicator in 2010 but following a virtual school improvement review CiC were now above the national average in every indicator. The VSK operated differently across the county depending on both the number of and the needs of the CiCs. There had been a significant positive improvement in numbers of children in care who were not in employment, education or training with 53% of CiC being considered as NEETs in 2014, 38% in 2015, 17% in 2016 and 13% currently.
3. The VSK had a good relationship with all schools including academies and provided support for schools which was free at the point of delivery. The VSK worked closely with schools to develop and support teachers and support teachers as well as developing projects for the children.
4. In April 2014, the Head of VSK was made responsible for some elements of the Pupil Premium Plus which was designed to close the learning gap and realise the potential of CiC wherever they may live. In addition from 2015 the Head of the VSK became responsible for the Early Years Pupil Premium.
5. Mr Doran said that each local authority administered the Pupil Premium differently. There had been a pilot scheme in West Sussex about 6 years ago in which 100% of the Pupil Premium Plus funding was made available for applications from schools, other local authorities allocated the full amount per pupil and most went half way. Kent used the first approach in its first year, but some head teachers were reluctant to apply particularly where they had to make applications to several local authorities. Following a consultation with head teachers it was agreed that £900 would be allocated to a school for each CiC with any additional funding being provided according to the needs of the child following an application from the school. The VSK scrutinised all applications very carefully to ensure that the proposed intervention would have a positive impact based on evidence and it was rare to refuse an application. A copy of the application form was attached as Appendix 2 in the reports pack. No complaints had been received since the introduction of the scheme.
6. Mr Doran said the total funding available for the Pupil Premium Plus was based on the number ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
1. Mr Leeson said that the Pupil Premium had been introduced by the Coalition government in 2011 and subsequently extended to include children eligible for free school meals, children whose parents serve in the armed forces and looked after children. Its purpose was to close the attainment gap between these groups and their peers. The funding for the Pupil Premium in Kent was more than £55 million and while there had been welcome improvement in attainment in 2017 for pupils on free school meals more needed to be done to close the achievement gap for these less advantaged learners.
2. The English education system as a whole was poor at ensuring disadvantaged pupils did well at school; the impact of poverty on educational outcomes was greater than it was in comparator countries. In England social mobility was limited and it was difficult to escape the “poverty trap”. There had been some limited gains nationally as a result of the Pupil Premium. In addition it had also focussed attention on attainment and the attainment gap between vulnerable learners and others. Mr Leeson said David Laws, Executive Chairman, Education Policy Institute and former Minister of Schools had addressed the recent EduKent Conference. Mr Laws had said that the government needed to apply hard evidence when making decisions about the future of education in the UK and that the Education Policy Institute was developing a clear and detailed vision of how a world-class educational environment should function to deliver the best possible outcomes for young people of all backgrounds.
3. Mr Leeson said the gap in attainment between pupils in receipt of free school meals in Kent was 23.7 months behind compared with 19 months nationally. He said the achievement gap was narrowing but it was still disappointing.
4. Mr Leeson said the schools in Kent used the Pupil Premium funding in a variety of ways. All schools were required to publish a strategy on their website setting out how the funds had been used and assess its impact over time. The practice among schools varied considerably, with many schools publishing very good strategies on their websites. The local authority supported schools to develop strategies, including regular conferences for schools, connecting schools with the best practices with other schools, producing toolkits for schools and ensuring that closing the attainment gap was a strong focus for school improvement advisers.
5. An analysis of results showed, however, that whilst attainment improved overall year on year, gaps in attainment for pupils supported by the Pupil Premium, Children in Care (CiC), and for pupils with Special Educational Needs remained wider than the national gaps.
6. There had been encouraging progress but more needed to be done to narrow the achievement gaps for vulnerable learners, particularly those supported by the Pupil Premium.
7. National data also showed that schools with high numbers of pupils eligible for free school meals tended to do better at reducing the attainment gap than schools with fewer pupils eligible for free school meals, ... view the full minutes text for item 6.
1. Mr Ackerley explained that, in his role as Senior Improvement Advisor for Special Schools, he worked with consultants in special schools to ensure that pupils were prepared so they could gain as much benefit as possible from their schooling.
2. The same eligibility criteria for Pupil Premium applied to pupils with and without Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), and to Children in Care. SEND funding was designed to help pupils overcome barriers to learning. Pupil Premium was targeted in the same way as in mainstream schools to support pupils without SEND, but the support it gave SEND pupils would not necessarily be targeted directly at academic improvement, to help them close the attainment gap, but would seek to help them develop social and personal skills and give them the best preparation possible to tackle adult life and work, using goals and measures which were appropriate for them. The range of SEND covered a broad spectrum of need presentation, including Autism and physical disability, and their progress at key stages 1 to 4 should be measured in the context of progress from their starting point, rather than comparison with academic attainment for pupils without SEND. The work of Sir John Dunford, champion of Pupil Premium, applied equally to pupils with SEND.
3. For pupils with an Emotional Health Care Plan (EHCP, previously called a Statement of Special Educational Needs), it was important to take account of their health and social care needs in the methods applied to measure their progress at school. In special school settings in Kent, there were 3,884 pupils with EHCP, 30% of whom were eligible for Pupil Premium. This was three times the number of non-SEND pupils eligible in mainstream primary and secondary schools. These children would not necessarily be claiming Free School Meals (FSM), although there was a close correlation between families claiming FSM and those with children with SEND as these cohorts shared many of the same social and economic challenges.
4. Asked about pupils with SEND who were not in special schools, Mr Ackerley explained that 1,916 pupils with an EHCP (SEND) attended mainstream schools, as parents had the right to request that their child be educated in a mainstream school. Schools would identify their own SEND policy and criteria, which could cover issues such as autism, disability access, speech, language and communication issues or visual and hearing impairments, and would support pupils within the school. In Kent there were more than 900 pupils with an EHCP (SEND) attending mainstream schools with special resourced provision.
5. Asked if Pupil Premium was paid to the school or to the Improvement Officer, Mr Ackerley explained that it was paid direct to the school. He offered case studies of Kent schools at which Pupil Premium was being spent in an innovative way. In one of these, almost 50% of pupils were eligible for Pupil Premium.
6. For pupils with Profound Severe and Complex Needs (PSCN), the gap between them and non-PSCN pupils may never be ... view the full minutes text for item 7.