Rachel Arthur
Programme Development at Teach First

Teach First’s Tips for Effective Use of the Pupil Premium

There’s a strong case for weighting funding towards schools serving disadvantaged communities. During her time as an assistant headteacher, Rachel Arthur was responsible for reviewing and refining her academy chain’s pupil premium strategies. Here's Rachel's advice to help schools plan effectively. 

1. Plan your spend according to your cohorts’ needs

Every school is different, so there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to crafting an effective pupil premium strategy and spending funding effectively. Every cohort is different, so you may find that the challenges and needs faced by your pupils differ from year group to year group and as the years go by. It is important to recognise this and to review your pupil premium strategy regularly, so that it can be responsive to the needs of your cohort as they evolve.

What are the main barriers to education that your pupils face? What would help to break down these barriers? These two questions are a great starting point for a pupil premium strategy. Your strategy should be a whole school approach and embedded in the culture of everything you do – so consider getting your staff and pupils involved and answer these questions collaboratively.

Once you know what the barriers are, you can use research to find strategies to address them. Use the Education Endowment Foundation’s Implementation Guidance Report to get your ideas off the ground.

2. Review your plan for effectiveness at regular intervals throughout the year

When writing your plan, you should set points throughout the year to review the impact of the interventions you have put in place. This could be by reviewing the data and speaking to the staff and pupils involved. Don’t be afraid to swap something out if it isn’t working – there’s no point running a reading club that no one is turning up to!

It’s a good idea to create a SMART action plan for each of your strategies so you have a clear measure of what success looks like from the beginning. This will make reviewing the impact much easier.

3. Use research to pick the interventions that best meet the needs of your cohort

Once you know the needs of your cohort, you can identify the most effective ways to spend your funding. The Education Endowment Foundation’s Teaching and Learning Toolkit is a great place to start.

It is also worth identifying schools with similar demographics who have got good outcomes for disadvantaged pupils. Given that it is a government requirement to publish your pupil premium strategy statement on the school website, you should be able to have a look at what others have implemented.

4. Remember that the pupil premium can also be spent on whole school strategies 

One of the biggest misconceptions with the pupil premium is that it must be spent solely and directly on eligible pupils. The Education Endowment Foundation say “The pupil premium is designed to support schools to raise the attainment of disadvantaged children. However, many of the most effective ways to do this – including improving the quality of teaching – will also benefit other groups: that is fine.” So, don’t be afraid of using a proportion of your budget on whole school strategies if you believe they will positively impact your disadvantaged cohort.

5. It’s not all about the money  

Your pupil premium plan should reflect everything that you are doing as a school to close the disadvantaged gap. This includes the strategies and interventions that you have in place that don’t cost any money. Obviously, it is important to track and monitor the impact vs the cost of some of your strategies, but you may well find that some of the most effective things you do are free. For example, your school’s ethos and behaviour policies will have an impact on your disadvantaged pupils.

6. Have you got everyone signed up?

You may have pupils that are eligible for the pupil premium but not receiving it as they are not signed up for Free School Meals. It is worth spending the time working out who you think is eligible and checking if they are defined as pupil premium or not. It could be a simple case of them not having access to the requisite forms or needing the forms translating. Have a close look at the data for your school to make sure you are claiming for every child that you can.


We know that schools facing the biggest challenges face significant financial pressures. At Teach First, we've released a fully-costed report calling for an increase in funding, weighted towards schools that serve the most deprived communities.

We think the best way to channel this money is through the pupil premium. Read the report below:

Download PDF

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