Friday Five: pupil premium, T Levels, tutoring, social mobility, and children’s social care


28th July 2023

1. Former schools minister laments inadequate pupil premium funding 

David Laws, a former schools minister, explains the rationale behind pupil premium calculations and how, currently, its funding is three times less than intended. Pupil premium is designed to help schools close the disadvantage gap, which currently stands at an average of 18 months learning lag. He explains that the pupil premium for disadvantaged children was originally calculated to correspond with the funding rate that students enjoyed in the independent sector. The original calculations in 2008 resulted in the intended figure of £2.5bn per year. The total level of funding has stagnated in the 15 years since, standing at £2.9bn a year in 2023. Updated calculations, factoring in inflation-led increased costs, take that figure closer to £7.5bn in today’s money. Recent Education Policy Institute work shows that the gap between the average attainment of children receiving the pupil premium and that of other students has grown, particularly for children in persistent poverty. In light of these increased needs, the author makes the case for a review of pupil premium funding. 

Read the full article here

2. Ofsted publishes T Level thematic review 

Following a thematic review of T Levels and TLTPs (T-level transition programmes) commissioned by the DfE, Ofsted has published its final assessment report of these new qualifications. The review notes that there remains considerable work to do to improve the quality and effectiveness of T Level and TLTP courses before they can be offered at scale. 

The report finds that initial assessment of students’ abilities at the start of their T Level courses and on the TLTP is weak in most providers. However, the physical resources used to support the teaching of these courses was found to be good in most providers. The practical aspects of the courses have generally been taught well but teachers often struggle with teaching theoretical content. Teachers expressed concern about the high volume of content in T-level courses, assessment requirements, and the length of the industry placement, which limits available teaching time. Most students move on to employment after finishing T-levels, but the quality of industry placement varies widely. Often employers are poorly informed about T-levels and the ‘brand’ of these courses is not well known. The report notes that TLTP curricula have improved over time, but the least effective TLTPs are not fit for purpose. 

The report makes a number of recommendations to the DfE, including the need to raise public awareness of T levels, revising the content of the courses to fit the level of qualification, and encouraging universities to accept T Levels as valid entry-level qualifications.

Read the full report here.

3. Data shows 43% of NTP funding went unspent in the last financial year

New data shows that £178m of money earmarked for the National Tutoring Programme went unspent last year – some 43% of the tutoring funding allocating for the last financial year. With £62m going unspent in 2021/22 and £220m from other catch-up schemes going unspent (according to the National Audit Office), this raises serious questions about the government’s recovery strategy.

As covered in Schools Week, a key issue here is that already cash-strapped schools had to put forward their own money towards tutoring in order to access the subsidy. Others have also said the scheme was excessively bureaucratic. The DfE will be keeping the unspent cash and putting it towards a new grant to help schools cover pay rises but it is currently unclear how much of the underspend will be redirected in this way.

Read the Schools Week report here.

4. New SMF paper offers a critique of social mobility and an alternative way forward for Labour

Social mobility is a term that often appears in political debate and initially seems fairly innocuous. However, as Aveek Bhattacharya notes in a piece for the Social Market Foundation, it is a hotly contested term – meaning different things to different people. In his essay, Bhattacharya offers an overview of this contested concept and suggests a new narrative for Keir Starmer’s Labour.

Bhattacharya notes that ‘social mobility’ is often framed as those on lower social rungs ‘moving up’ the ladder, e.g. a working-class child growing up to become a millionaire. However, this framing is beset with problems. For instance:

  • It narrows our conception of what we deem socially important opportunities (e.g. what about a young person’s ability to travel or play the piano? Why such a narrow focus on high income?)
  • It lends legitimacy to a ‘league table’ perspective, rather than us considering how well we are doing collectively as a society (e.g. what are rates of child poverty?)

Bhattacharya argues that we should be wary of narratives that divide society into winners and losers. Instead, he suggests a move to ‘self-realisation’ would shift the emphasis towards “helping people to achieve their potential, to be the best they can be, relative to their own capacities, not anybody else’s”.

Read the full essay here.

5. DfE selects first local areas for testing the Families First for Children programme 

A DfE press release names Dorset, Lincolnshire, and Wolverhampton as the first three areas to be chosen to deliver the Families First for Children programme. The programme aims to reform the children’s social care system by helping children stay with their families in safe and loving homes, whilst protecting vulnerable children where needed. It aims to ensure early help and intervention is available for families with challenges such as addiction, domestic abuse or poor mental health; to help them overcome adversity and stay together where possible; and to identify when to intervene to protect a vulnerable child when needed. Separately, seven areas have been selected to deliver Family Network pilots.

As part of the ‘Stable Homes, Built on Love’ strategy, these two programmes have received funding of £45m collectively to develop best practice models for the entire children’s social care system that can be rolled out across the country.

Read the press release here.


That’s all for this week. Please do share this blog if you found it useful and follow @Barristotle and @billyhubt for further commentary. You can keep up to date with all things CfEY through our our News and Events page and by signing up to our mailing list.