Education & Family

Progress of poor pupils key to 'outstanding' schools

Pupil holding pen
Image caption The government wants to reduce the gaps in attainment between poorer pupils and their peers

Schools in England could be stripped of the top Ofsted "outstanding" ranking if their poorer pupils fail to make good progress, the government has announced.

The aim is to help "further narrow the unacceptable gaps in attainment" between these pupils and their peers.

New measures to show how disadvantaged pupils perform over three years will also be added to school league tables.

"It is vital we support disadvantaged pupils to fulfil their potential", said Schools Minister David Laws.

From September, Ofsted inspections will focus more closely on how well poorer children are doing, with schools unlikely to be judged "outstanding" unless these pupils are making good progress, says the government.

Pupils' progress

The attainment gap appears to grow wider as pupils progress through the education system, official statistics suggest.

In 2012 the proportion of all pupils achieving the required level in the tests taken at the end of primary school was 84% but only 68% for those that qualify for the pupil premium, which is paid to schools to help boost the results of poorer children.

This represents an attainment gap of 16 percentage points.

GCSE results for the same year showed that 65.7% of all pupils achieved five or more A* to C grades including English and maths, while the proportion among those eligible for pupil premium was 38.5% - a gap of 27 percentage points.

Ofsted inspections will include evidence on the attainment and progress of disadvantaged pupils as well as the gap between these pupils and the rest of the school.

The details will also be published in the annual schools performance tables, which will include new three-year rolling averages.

This will mean that even schools with a small number of disadvantaged pupils, for example those in prosperous areas, can be held to account effectively, says the Department for Education (DfE).

The announcement came as the DfE published independent research on the impact of the pupil premium scheme introduced by the coalition government.

Boosting support

The payments go to schools to help raise the attainment of pupils who have been registered for free school meals at any time within the past six years. From September the yearly payments for each pupil will rise from £623 to £900.

The research, based on a survey of 1,240 schools in England, suggests that eight in 10 secondaries and over two-thirds of primaries have introduced extra help or boosted existing support for poorer pupils as a result of the payments.

Some two-thirds of schools said they did not think they would be able to do as much for these students without the funding.

The money was often used for additional staff, for example teaching assistants, to work with poorer pupils.

However the research also suggests that more than 90% of schools were already focusing resources on disadvantaged students before the funding was brought in and over 80% said it was not enough to fund the help they offered to these children.

Mr Laws said that the evaluation "showed promising signs" of the impact of the pupil premium but added: "However, there is much more to be done.

"Disadvantaged pupils' attainment is unacceptably low compared with their peers. Schools must shoulder the responsibility to reverse that, and the government must help them do that as well as hold them to account."

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