Rethinking pupil premium: a costed proposal for levelling up

Before the pandemic struck, pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds were already significantly behind their more affluent peers at school. Despite having equal potential, poorer children simply do not have access to the same opportunities. COVID-19 has exacerbated these inequalities and unless we act quickly to repair the damage, this widened inequality will be inbuilt for generations.

That is why, in August 2021, we published ‘A fighting chance for every child’ – our manifesto to end educational inequality. The manifesto featured 11 evidence-based proposals that we want to see adopted by policymakers, businesses and schools over the next few years.

In this new pupil premium report, we develop several of our manifesto recommendations around school funding. We make the case for the government to level up the country by increasing and expanding the pupil premium – existing funding aimed at supporting the education of disadvantaged pupils eligible for free school meals – in four ways.

In total, we have recommended increasing total pupil premium funding by £1,144m per annum. We think that this money could come from the additional £4bn per annum that was recently announced by the government in the Autumn 2021 budget “to help improve education and level up opportunity for all”.

  1. Align the early years pupil premium rate with the current primary school rate.
  2. Restore pupil premium rates to 2015-16 real-term levels for primary and secondary school pupils and guarantee that rates will continue to rise in line with inflation.
  3. Create a new pupil premium subcategory for primary and secondary schools: ‘persistently disadvantaged’ pupils who have been eligible for free school meals for 80% or more of their school life. Increase the rate of funding that they receive by at least 50%.
  4. Extend the pupil premium to include those aged between 16 and 19 in full-time education. The new 16-19 pupil premium should be allocated at the same rate that it is allocated to secondary school pupils.
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