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Linda Pickles, Principal Adviser for Primary School Improvement
Ms Pickles, Principal Adviser for Primary School Improvement, returning to supply additional information to the Committee following their consideration of other witness evidence, provided an updated overview of the issues seeking to clarify points raised by the Committee.
Ms Pickles commented that while there were some issues with Pupil Premium, particularly that it could be considered a ‘blunt tool’ in some circumstances, it was still clearly recognised as the best option. She noted that schools were recognising that there were a range of factors to consider as relevant when assessing the need for any additional education provision and that this had to be balanced carefully when managing large groups of vulnerable families which may involve a broad range of education needs for the children. She also commented that the selective education arrangements in Kent compounded some of the issues.
Question: Was there a correlation between schools which use pupil premium more effectively and those that show greater flexibility around Free School Meal funding?
Ms Pickles explained that schools varied in their demonstrated ability or approach to using all funding streams and that those good at using one funding stream well was good at using all them and vice versa. This was reflected in terms of where a school was good, it was consistently good across a range of factors. She confirmed that this was confirmed by Kent’s OfSted results for primary schools.
In terms of considering effective use, Ms Pickles advised that it was important look at progression ranges as the key factor. She explained that the gaps in attainment in Kent were closing, showing good use of the appropriate processes to provide increased provision and improve outcomes for disadvantaged pupils. She noted that a list of schools not highly rated by Ofsted might not give a clear indication of poor use of Pupil Premium, however, as the wide range of factors involved made a snapshot assessment unhelpful for assessing this issue.
While considering sharing the best approaches to Schools, the Committee and Ms Pickles discussed the development and use of toolkits by Local Authorities. Ms Pickles explained that the marketing and development of toolkits varied across local authorities. She noted that Essex Council had provided the toolkit free of charge to some subsided schools which had low performance levels.
Question: Why can’t Government review the necessary data to confirm pupil status sooner and ensure schools can access funding as soon as it needed?
Ms Pickles explained that while there were issues regarding parents not applying for Free School Meals or providing the necessary information for Pupil Premium eligibility, this was an engagement issue and needed to be addressed through more understanding and acceptance of being FSM or Pupil Premium. There remained a perception issue around the stigma associated with being an ‘FSM’ family. She also confirmed that it was not appropriate to automatically share data or seek additional checks as this breached families’ privacy rights.
She advised that Kent was good at working with schools to monitor progress and ... view the full minutes text for item 19.