“Schools failing in their moral imperative over use of Pupil Premium”

In this extract from his new book The Slightly Awesome Teacher, Dominic Salles considers the impact of parental involvement on the success of student learning.

Hattie defines parental involvement as teaching parents about “the language of learning” and “the language of schooling”.

Parents evenings? Check. Reports? Check. After school detentions? Check. Letters of commendation? Maybe. Drop in sessions for parents? Maybe. Introduction to GCSE for parents? Probably. Revision skills? Maybe. A better questionnaire than Parentview? Probably.

Does any of this make a difference of more than 2% to students’ progress? Probably not.

If you want a litmus test for how your partnership with parents actually makes a positive difference, look at how you spend your pupil premium money.

How do you use your pupil premium money?

Do you recycle your old school computers, to make sure that they can all word process, and make it more likely that they will get online? Many will have online capability through the use of mobile phones. If your school has an excellent VLE, or uses online platforms like GCSEpod or Show My Homework, do you make sure they have an online capability? Why not, it can cost less than £10 per month, and the school receives £935, or £1900 for a looked after child.

Do you ask your parents of pupil premium students how they would like you to spend a proportion of the money outside school? Wouldn’t they be in a very good position to decide what would help their child’s learning?

Do you buy textbooks for these students to take home?

Do you invite parents of EAL students in to school to learn English with their children? Imagine how much more quickly the children would learn if they were also teaching their parents. And imagine how the parents’ life chances in the UK might change with a greater grasp of English.

Do you invite disadvantaged parents in and train them in the language of your school – target setting, assessment, setting, the dozen or so acronyms you always use etc?

Do you show them how to navigate your school website for learning resources, or contact with the school? Do you meet them once a term, to find out what you and they could do better?

Do you buddy them up with other parents or teachers who succeeded academically despite receiving free school meals when they were students? (Do you know if any of your teachers fall in this category?)

Do you make sure that these parents are taken to universities? How are you raising their aspirations?

Do you offer real life maths lessons to these parents, so that they can see university fees do not act as a debt, but as a tax – in other words, are better for poorer students than they’ve been since the introduction of loans? Or so that they can choose the right mortgage deals, or card finance, or current account or overdraft facility?

Better still, do you give them a qualification, paying for parents to take maths GCSE if they don’t have it? What about GCSE English? Would this help their children’s development? Almost definitely. And it will probably help their employment prospects, and to understand APR, so they hold on to more of the money they have. Do you use your sixth formers or retired teachers to teach this?

If they play sport, do you pay for them to join a club outside school? Do you subsidise their musical instrument lessons? Do you download all of GCSEpod on a £40 tablet and give it to these students?

Do you ask the Virtual Head Teacher to liaise with parents of your students in care, to ask what they would most benefit from in terms of links between them and the school, or resources they should provide?

I imagine the answer to most of these questions is no. I understand that. We are subtly obsessed with class in the UK. Political correctness forces us to turn away from anything that might label someone disadvantaged to their face. We believe it is a great offence to tell someone they need help, even though we may be offering real help that might improve their lives.

So don’t label. Communicate. Ask questions and listen. Find out how we can change lives. Then go out and do it.

The Problem of Teaching Assistants

How many thousands of pounds are you wasting in TAs, where your own school data will tell you the bang for your buck needs a hearing aid to register? How much of your pupil premium money does this represent? 80%? 90%? Is this morally justifiable?

Imagine this was your money, to be spent on your child. And the government said, “listen, we are going to take this money from you, out of your wages. We are not going to let you decide how to spend it on your child. But we are going to give it to your school to spend however they like, because your school will make far better decisions than you will.

“Your school doesn’t have to measure whether any of the ways they spend that money help your child, or ask you for your opinion about whether it helped, or ask you if you could think of any better way to spend it. In fact, your school does not have to tell you anything personally. If you want to find anything out, you can check on the school website, where schools have to publish how they spend the money.”

It’s worse than that though, because what the government actually says is this, “……….”

This is not a thought experiment. This is what is really happening. This really is your money. Just because your student is not related to you, in this scenario, is the moral imperative not the same? Your school is in loco parentis. That should mean something. Yes, we teachers are well meaning people, but our actions, rather our inactions, are deplorable. We do not intend to be arrogant and dismissive, but our actions are.

This should be an emotive issue – don’t think like a teacher. Bring to the issue your emotion as a parent: your money; your child. How should it be spent?

9781911382027_coverThe Slightly Awesome Teacher: Edu-research meets common sense by Dominic Salles is available now, £16. Dominic Salles has been a teacher for 24 years and is Assistant Principal at Chipping Campden School. He can be followed on Twitter via @dominicsalles

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  1. JudithBosavern

    SchoolsImprove dominicsalles An over dramatic headline and the article doesn’t stand it up. May be so – share the evidence

  2. dominicsalles

    SchoolsImprove Thanks for this tweet. I’ve never done SLT chat, but will try to join. I’m passionate about this, but will things change?

  3. Alan OSullivan

    dominicsalles SchoolsImprove Any chance of being able to investigate DfE watering down of published expectations and unbelievably poor HMI scrutiny of Primary PE & Sports Premium that are jointly enabling schools to abuse REAL spend with only short term impact mainly felt. So much for the target of ‘sustainability’….

    (Tip: Too many are using PESS Premium for exempt practices of PPA cover and statutory curricular swimming)

  4. SJJones2014

    SchoolsImprove but this assumes parents of pp children actually want to engage with the school. Too often this is not the case.

  5. gcooksey

    SchoolsImprove and where TAs have minimal impact, often it is the communication at schl and skills of the teacher that may determine effect

  6. Alan OSullivan dominicsalles SchoolsImprove The All Party Parliamentary Group on a Fit and Healthy Childhood is writing their report on PE provision and the issue of the sport premium fund right now. It’ll be out in the autumn.

  7. Alan OSullivan

    NeilatOPAL SchoolsImprove https://twitter.com/FloellaBenjamin https://twitter.com/FitzMP https://twitter.com/IanAustinMP https://twitter.com/jamieoliver https://twitter.com/jimmysfarm

    I had no idea at all that such an all party parliamentary group even existed. Some key facts to help them regarding REAL current practice re:  physical activity within too many primary schools:

    a) Conservative Party 2015 Manifesto (p44 & 45) promise of 2 hours high quality sport & PE (for ALL) yet to be put into practice. Schools are currently operating under Cameron’s previous policy of dropping compulsory time targets for minimum number of hours for Physical Education per week. Link: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2012/aug/08/cameron-scraps-targets-school-sport
    Remember that schools’ timetabled PE is not the same as actual teaching time per week – sometimes it is never taught e.g. unavailability of hall space; inclement weather; focus upon teaching to the tests etc

    b) By way of Primary PE & Sports (PESS) Premium, far too much emphasis has been placed upon inter competition that has largely benefited just the more able/ elite pupils. Very little transparency of school/pupil participation data across the boroughs that should be profiled statutorily by School Games Organisers 

    c) Too many schools not recognising and acting upon correlation between physical activity and improved behaviour; attendance; attainment and achievement. Schools have it too easy at present to take the government funding and ‘play a system’ of spending on external coaches to tackle PPA cover – HMI does NOT consistently cross reference reported spend (mandatory annual report via school website) with actual spend (records kept by Finance Officer) Two sentences within a typical school’s Ofsted report dilutes the status of the Premium and active healthy lifestyles. 

    d) DfE has recently dropped published PESS Premium standards that Academies and Free Schools previously had to comply with alongside Local Maintained, therefore removing level playing field. Increased opportunity now for Academies & Free Schools to abuse funding and manipulate reporting

    e) As a result of recent DfE updated guidelines; schools no longer have to publish online each of the previous years’ accounts of spend and impact therefore substantially increasing difficulty of monitoring Government’s target of SUSTAINABLE impact

    f) With positive active healthy lifestyles providing children and young people with an all-important gateway to whole person learning; why is it the case that neither Physical Education nor PHSE carry CORE subject status? Both are currently registered as foundation subjects within National Curriculum

    g) Active healthy lifestyles needs to be supported with Premium additional focus upon healthy eating teaching & learning initiatives – this could be brought into Government pledge of doubled PESS Premium funding from Sept 2017

    h) And don’t go back to the practices experienced within the former National School Sports Strategy (2000-2011) that presented opportunity for manipulated, inflated borough performance data with too little evidence of sustainable impact at a cost of at least £2bn to the tax payer. Activemark/ Sportsmark criteria was also systematically watered down across the years. Link: https://www.tes.com/news/tes-archive/tes-publication/tokenistic-awards-boost-uptake-sport-and-pe-scrapped-a-year

    That’s for starters – there’s much more to offer but ask the practitioners at grassroots level who teach/advise the subject everyday.

  8. Jane St

    I questioned the use of ( or misuse of) our then foster child at two different schools and was actually told by one Headteacher that it was not my place to question how they used the Pupil Premium. Our LAC received no additional academic support on top of what the rest of her classmates received yet she did require this, particularly in English. Her school netbook broke whilst under warranty and we had to still pay to get it fixed. A PGL holiday with the school had to be paid for by us. The Pupil Premium was just swallowed up by the schools in their ‘collective pot’. When my then LAC went to senior school (Y7) the children received very inadequate schooling in their German lessons due to their permanent teacher taking long-term sickness and an endless use of supply teachers were used until they took German off the curriculum for our LAC and switched it to French ( it was March of the school academic year). So bearing in mind my LAC would be sitting an exam, alongside all her classmates, in May that year there was still no offer of additional help for her via the Pupil Premium monies. There was a trip to France in the June but her senior school even refused to cover the cost of that using PP monies. Schools get away with misusing these funds and are, in my experience, outraged when you tell them such. What a shocking indictment of our education system and that no-one is accountable.

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