15 May '13

News Schools failing to make most of funding for poorer students, says Sutton Trust

Survey finds feedback training receives just 4% of funds, despite being the most cost effective means of assisting pupils

Schools and teachers are overlooking cheap and highly effective ways of using the extra funds from the government's pupil premium designed to help poorer students, a new survey by the Sutton Trust has found.

The trust found that just 4% of school leaders plan to spend part of the £900 bonus on training teachers to improve their feedback to pupils, despite research showing it to be one of the most cost effective method of improving pupil performance.

"It is vital that the pupil premium money is spent well, and used on those measures that can do most to improve results for our poorest pupils," said Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust.

"We still need to ensure that more teachers act on the evidence and embrace the most cost-effective measures – such as effective feedback – that can make such a difference to the learning and life chances of their poorest pupils."

Schools receive the £900 for each pupil currently or recently receiving free school meals. The national total now amounts to £1.9bn annually – but the survey of 1,600 teachers and school leaders, conducted by the National Foundation for Education Research, found wide variation in how the funds were being used.

The shrinking role of local government is revealed by the survey's data showing that fewer than one in five school leaders now consult their local authority in deciding how to spend the premium, with teachers increasingly turning to the internet for research and advice, using services such as the online teaching and learning toolkit jointly produced by the Sutton Trust and the Education Endowment Foundation.

The trust's analysis ranks effective feedback as the single most successful teaching technique, able to boost a pupil's performance by up to the equivalent of eight months of teaching alone, and works in both primary and secondary schools.

"Our toolkit shows that clear and constructive feedback between teachers and pupils can add more learning value than other initiatives, and at relatively low cost for professional development. The evidence suggests that good feedback is given sparingly, is as specific as possible and encourages further effort from the pupil," a Sutton Trust spokesman said.

The major cost involved is training and cover for teachers, which the trust estimates would cost £2,000-£3,000 a year per teacher, or about £100 per pupil.

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