You may have heard about pupil premium plus (PP+) before, especially at this time of year as the January schools census approaches and schools begin sending eligibility data to the Department for Education in England. But what is pupil premium, and why should you make sure your child’s school benefits?

What is Pupil Premium?

Pupil premium funding is additional funding for schools in England that “is designed to allow schools to help disadvantaged pupils by improving their progress and the exam results they achieve.” (DfE). There are three types of pupil premium:

  • Ever-6 Pupil Premium: pupils who have been on free school meals at any time in the past six years attract additional funding for their school of £1,345 for primary-aged children, and £995 for secondary-aged children each year.
  • Pupil Premium Plus (PP+): pupils who are in care, or who have moved to permanence from care (e.g. through adoption) attract £2,345 each year in additional funding for their school.
  • Service Premium: this is available for children of parents who are in, or are retired from, the armed forces.

Pupil premium is paid to all state schools, including special schools, as well as alternative settings if the child’s place is funded by the local authority. Each January, every school completes a census of all children on roll, recording which pupils are eligible for all types pupil premium, and the funding starts to be released the following April.

How do I make sure my child’s school claims PP+?

Children aged 5-16 who have been adopted from care from England and Wales attract PP+ funding for their schools. Early Years Pupil Premium (EYPP) is available for children of pre-school age. If your child is eligible, you will need to make sure that you have declared your child’s legal status to the school and provided documentary evidence. A copy of the adoption order will be sufficient, and you may remove confidential or identifying information if you need to, as long as enough information is left for the school to be able to verify your child’s adopted status.

In the January census, the school should enter a specific code to indicate that your child is eligible for PP+ as an adopted child. The school should retain this information to ensure that this process is repeated each year but, if your child changes school you will need to declare your child’s status again at the new school as there is no guarantee that this information will be passed on.

If your child has only recently moved into your family, they may still be legally a looked after child. Looked after children are also eligible for PP+, so ensure that the school is aware of this. However, unlike PP+ for adopted children, PP+ for looked after children is paid to the local Virtual School. For adopted children, PP+ goes direct to the school so, once the adoption is finalised, inform the school of the change to your child’s legal status and provide evidence of the change as above to ensure that their information is correct on the census.

Every state school in England is required to have a Designated Teacher for Previously Looked After Children. It is the person in this role who should be your main point of contact for discussing PP+. However, it is worth double-checking to ensure that this information has been passed on to whichever member of staff will be completing the census data as any omission cannot be rectified until the next census the following January.

How can the school use PP+?

Pupil premium funding of any type is not ring-fenced to individual children. It is designed to be a pot of money that schools can use to raise attainment for all eligible children. Schools are accountable to Ofsted for their use of all forms of pupil premium and maintained schools must publish information about how pupil premium is used on their website.

The DfE recommends that pupil premium can be used to fund training and professional development for staff, academic support to improve attainment, and non-academic uses such as breakfast clubs, music lessons, paying for educational trips, mental health support and speech and language therapy. The DfE also states that “it is not intended that the additional funding should be used to back-fill the general school budget.”

While schools must show the impact of their use of pupil premium for eligible children, children who are not eligible can be permitted to benefit from initiatives funded by pupil premium. So, for instance, if a school used pupil premium funding to set up and run a nurture group at lunchtime, non-eligible pupils may be able to access this group alongside eligible pupils.

Schools can effectively spend pupil premium on any initiative that will overcome disadvantage and raise attainment. For care-experienced and adopted children, the ‘disadvantage’ is usually related to adverse early life experiences rather than economic disadvantage. PP+ takes precedence over other forms of pupil premium so, even if your child is or has been on free school meals, they will attract PP+ rather than ever-6 pupil premium.

Examples of effective use of PP+ funding may include:

  • Training for staff on trauma, attachment, FASD and other issues relevant to care-experienced children, including from individual children’s therapists
  • 1-1 support for individual children
  • Provision of a key adult, mentor or counsellor
  • Nurture and therapy groups
  • Enhanced transition support
  • Adoption UK education membership
  • Provision of extra-curricular activities
  • ‘Meet and greet’ or breakfast club; homework club

What if I’m not happy with how PP+ is being used?

While PP+ is not ring-fenced to individual children, schools must be able to show how eligible children, including adopted children, are benefitting from their use of pupil premium.

The Designated Teacher (DT) should be your main point of contact in the school. This is a statutory role, so all state schools must have one. At the very least, the school should ensure that they are transparent on how pupil premium is being used, and statutory guidance for the DT role is clear that they should encourage parents and guardians to be involved in discussions around how PP+ will be spent.

PP+ funding is applied for in the January after your child starts school, but not released until the following April. This means that there is a lag between your child starting school and funding being released. However, as the funding is not ring-fenced to individual children, the school should not delay involving parents/guardians in discussions about how the child can be supported out of the funding they have already received in the previous year.

If after speaking to the DT you are unhappy with the way PP+ is being used in your child’s school, begin by consulting the senior leadership team and the governing body, following the school’s own complaints procedure if necessary. If this process does not end satisfactorily, it is possible to contact Ofsted directly.