Whilst Free School Meals may have been the focus of headlines and the digital divide for those students, those of us based inside the walls of education know that it actually encompasses a far larger group of students. Those who are currently in receipt of free school meals and those who have been in receipt at some point in the last 6 years…our pupil premium cohort, for whom the government allocates an additional sum of money to schools to use to address any gaps in academic performance…but in reality, we know that a lot of that money has to be used to address the barriers to their access to education.
In my experience, there is a significant cluster of parents who are no longer eligible for free school meals and for whom finances are tight. Most of these will be eligible for the pupil premium but equally so there is a cluster who sit just above this, able to keep their heads above water but only just…sometimes referred to as “the working poor.” Ineligible for government support and often struggling more than those who are eligible as they shuffle money from one account to another, deciding which bill to pay this month…and which one might let them have an extension…
4:30pm on Friday, 19th June, the DfE announced that the Y7 Catch Up funding (allocated on a formula based on the approximate percentage of pupils entering Y7 without securing maths and/or English in their KS2 SATS) was not being allocated in the 2020-2021 academic year and instead would be replaced by a flat rate £80 Covid Catch Up fund for all students from Reception to Y11 (£240 in special schools). This was a massive blow to secondary schools who generally set their budgets back in February-April and although for most schools it was an increase in funding, it was a diversion of resources, staffing and planning.
As a SENCO who also wore other hats, Pupil Premium being one of them, I would have undoubtedly been tasked with creating the plan for Covid Catch Up funding alongside my normal pupil premium funding. With no guarantee that the funding will continue (the government guidance does state it is for one year only).
So, how are you staying on top of that money, what is being done with it and the outcomes associated? After all, that’s what everyone, from governors and SLT to Ofsted and the general public, will want to know – what was the impact?
I would be using my provision map software to support. (Did you know we have a piece of software called Pupil Premium? It’s the same program but with red branding instead of the teal colour – no need to buy something new!)
My top tips?
Enter the provisions.
Whether it is a laptop, wifi dongle, pad of paper and pack of pens or a bus pass, get them entered into the system with sufficient data to look at their impact. OK, it might be obvious that without a pad of paper and a pen they can’t access the lesson (or at the moment, that without a laptop they can’t access the remote offer, but if we are going to look at the “impact” of the expenditure someone is going to ask for data. I’d look at attendance, submission of work, engagement (behaviour points) as indicators that what is provided is allowing those students to engage.
Allocate the funding pot and the provision type.
If you are using the software for both your SEN and your Pupil Premium purposes, then this becomes quite important. We need some way of differentiating what we are providing from the different sources. You have two places to do this. Provision type – which needs to be set in your school settings first, and could be as straightforward as ‘Remote Learning’, ‘Access to School’, ‘Bus pass’, ‘Uniform offer’ and ‘Stationery essentials’ alongside the more usual categories for SEN such as ‘1:1’, ‘Small group’, ‘External provision’ etc.
Funding pots have already been set up for you in the admin settings and include one for Covid, but you could fine-tune and add further pots if you wished.
Consider whether I need a plan or passport to track student information.
If you want to track your offer to individual students and provide evidence of that (we know how challenging some families can be about their entitlement) then creating a simple plan template along with some basic boxes for what the school will do, what the family will do and what the student will do, can be useful. Don’t forget that the provisions you set up in step 1 will pull automatically onto the plan, so nothing additional to put in place there.
Review and run regular reports
Tempting though it is to leave things to tick along until someone reminds you that a governor meeting is impending or Osfted ring the doorbell, it is helpful to put in regular review dates and run reports to check that what is in place is actually working. Don’t be afraid to change things if the outcomes are not what you expect them to be. There is no point continuing with something that is not having a positive impact or flogging a dead horse, as my parents would say.