Today we’re delighted to bring you a guest post from Jenny Jones of Inspired Foundations who has written about The Pupil Premium Plus…
…and how adopters are changing the way it is being used
The Pupil Premium has been around for a number of years now, at first only being available for looked-after children and those qualifying for free school meals. But in 2013 something happened which is changing the way the Pupil Premium is being understood and used.
In October 2013 the government announced the introduction of the Pupil Premium Plus (PP+). Not only was this an increased amount of money – £1900 per year, but it was also being extended to children who have been adopted from care, or who have left care under a Special Guardianship or Residence Order. Following this announcement there was suddenly a whole new set of parents and carers who were interested in this pot of money and how it could help their children.
I have worked with many foster carers, and for the majority I cannot speak highly enough of them. However sometimes, regardless of how good they are, they are bound by red tape. They might have thoughts, feelings and ideas but if the child’s social worker does not agree then they are silenced – they have no rights. Many foster carers I know still do not really understand the Pupil Premium, with responsibility being taken by the child’s social worker, and they often feel powerless to express an interest in this.
Whereas schools have always had to account for how this money was being spent, the introduction of the PP+ extension suddenly means that schools have other people to answer to – adoptive parents. Firstly the school cannot even claim this money without the parents permission (self declaration) and secondly, many of these parents want to know exactly what the £1900 a year is going to be spent on! Schools are being held accountable for their decisions by the very people who care the most.
An adoptive mother recently described how she had faced different reactions from her child’s primary and secondary school:
“Despite my initial excitement at the Pupil Premium announcement I was annoyed to be fobbed off by my child’s primary school, with them telling me quite clearly that it was their business and they would spend it how they saw fit. For this reason I decided not to self declare and they lost the £1900 they could have used to support my child in school. When he moved up to his secondary school I tried again and was met with a much better approach, in fact I spent over an hour talking with the SENCO about the options and came up with a range of ideas which would all hopefully benefit my child. One of these was actually the pooling together of some of the money – and that of other children eligible for the Pupil Premium – to run a specialist group for friendship building.”
In my opinion, the attitude taken by the secondary school is how it should be – the people who know the child best, working together with those who know the school best, to come up with a workable plan. Unfortunately I hear far more stories of this not happening, but am hopeful of this changing when school staff realise that working together is the better option.
Whilst working within schools I speak to many Head Teachers, SENCOs or other staff who despite knowing about the PP+, don’t actually know how to spend it in a way that will make a difference to the children who are eligible. It was for this reason I made a dedicated leaflet ‘A guide to the pupil premium’ which explained who could claim it and how it could be spent. It almost seemed as though staff needed permission to use the money for certain activities or projects – the leaflet seemed to work at doing this.
One of the things I highly recommend to schools, is to gain training on attachment and trauma issues in children. I firmly believe that you can provide endless clubs, extra tuition, and revision books – but if the staff members at the school do not understand the cause of the child’s difficulties then these can become meaningless. The first step to making a difference is to understand why these children need something different.
In addition to this I suggest ideas such as music lessons, after school clubs, the funding of a key worker and specialist assessments to aid the education of individual children. For groups of children, things like nurture programmes, development of sensory areas and visits from professional story tellers can all provide positive opportunities
An adoptive father explained how he approached his daughter school to discuss the PP+:
“I arranged a meeting with the headteacher and basically let her know this was my daughters money and I expected it to be spent on her. At first she was a little shocked at how insistent I was, but she soon realised I had thought things through and had reasons to back up all my requests. The school have needed a few prompts here and there but have agreed to most of the things I asked for, such as after school drama lessons and an assessment by an educational psychologist”
With adoptive parents hot on the heels of schools, they are having to prove more than ever that they are making the right decisions for children.