01 May

Pupil Premium: What is the impact on Special Schools?

The introduction of the Pupil Premium by the coalition government was one of the most significant pieces of legislation passed during this parliament. The aspiration of closing the stubborn attainment gap, evident in specific groups of children, was seen as being core to the educational aims of the government. But how has this impacted on special schools?

The resultant requirements of a ring-fenced budget on which schools are compelled to report and greater attention to gaps in pupil attainment through inspection have meant that schools are, in part, rightly judged on their success at closing the ‘gap’.

Little is known of the existence of socio-economically determined gaps in attainment within the special education sector. For many of our children, it may be questionable whether or not their socio-economic origin is even a determining factor in limiting attainment, or whether this is more often the result of their learning disability.

Within the context of guidance for schools, the analysis of data specifically relating to special schools is limited, with examples such as the EEF toolkit having broader data analysis. Yet a toolkit for special schools may look very different, so how do we know if we are focusing on the right challenges? And how can we compare impact across the special school sector?

One area that may create challenges for schools, and can be associated with the socio-economic background of pupils, is the application of the skills and concepts acquired within school. Access to supported social opportunities can be costly and often requires transport to get to, something which is increasingly restricted through cuts to centralised budgets. So is this is an area special schools may want to investigate? Are we maximising our long-term positive impact on all pupils? Are all of our pupils realising their potential beyond school?

But rather than make lengthly suggestions or draw conclusions based on limited anecdotal experiences, maybe it’s time that, collectively, special schools began asking questions about how the Pupil Premium is adding value to the education they offer. Let’s ask how much gaps in attainment exist in our schools in the same way as in mainstream, if we should be focusing more on the barriers our pupils face in applying their skills beyond school, and how we can work to overcome them.

Special Schools’ Voice wants to hear your experiences and discover the impact that the Pupil Premium has had on your schools. Has it enhanced what you offer? Has it limited your financial freedom to use your budget how you see fit? Is it focusing on the right pupils, and is it having the impact you want it to have?

We would love to hear your views.