Written evidence submitted by The Sutton Trust
Further written evidence submitted by The Sutton Trust
1. What role do you think schools, teachers and school support staff will need to have in ensuring the success of summer schools, through liaising with parents, and opening up their school buildings and playing fields to summer camps?
It is right for the government to consider what provision can be made available over the summer to support, especially disadvantaged students, academically and pastorally. Summer schools will require a significant amount of work from teachers and support staff to both facilitate the sessions and to effectively engage parents and students. There may be a useful role for the voluntary and youth sector here, to help bring in expertise and spread the work. The government will need to carefully consider how to incentivise pupils to engage in summer activities (previous schemes have found it hard to reach disadvantaged students) and provide guidance to schools on how best to do this.
Another important consideration will be targeting the pupils who are most at risk of falling behind. If catch up initiatives like summer schools are not well targeted, gaps risk opening up even further.
2. If catch-up proposals were to be funded through the pupil premium, what mechanisms could be put in place to ring-fence the catch-up component?
This is a balance between teacher discretion – professionals will know their students the best – and the need to ensure any additional funds are directed to where they are going to make the most difference to poorer students’ outcomes. In any system where pupil premium funding is used on catch-up initiatives, we believe there should be clear guidance provided to schools on where they should be spending the funding. Schools should be incentivised to use pupil premium funding on the most effective interventions, for example one-to-one and small group tuition, and potentially using matched-funding mechanisms.
Previous Sutton Trust research has highlighted that pupil premium funding is sometimes used to plug gaps in existing school budgets. It is important that schools are resourced to a sufficient level where they are able to use their pupil premium funding on effective catch-up interventions. If schools are struggling with other budgetary pressures, there is a risk that pupil premium funding may not be used for its intended purpose.
3. What accountability and reporting measures could be attached to ensure the extra funding’s use on catch-up initiatives?
Schools should be required to publish an online statement outlining where their pupil premium funding has been spent, along with a justification as to how it will help their students catch up. Ofsted could potentially play a role in ensuring that pupil premium funding is spent on effective catch-up interventions and in sharing best practice across the sector A matched funding mechanism – whereby an intervention is partially supported by schools and partially by new government funds – would itself provide some assurance of where funds are spent.
4. Looking ahead, how should catch-up interventions be best measured; for instance, in terms of tracking the destinations of those who were supported?
There are various data points that should be considered when measuring the effectiveness of catch-up interventions. The government should continue to closely monitor the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers. The Trust is concerned that any widening of the attainment gap will likely have long-term impacts for pupils in terms of accessing further education, apprenticeships and higher education. The government should use destinations data to track pupils who have been supported by catch-up initiatives throughout their education journey.
It will also be important to look at the grades and achievements of these pupils in the short-to-medium term after catch-up interventions have taken place. If a national approach to catch up is funded (for example through summer schools or tutoring) it is crucial that evaluation is built in so we can monitor the impact of these initiatives on the poorest students.
5. More immediately, given we are hearing that there have been good and bad examples of schools’ approach to supporting remote learning, what work should Ofsted be undertaking now, if any, in assessing schools’ performance in this regard?
The role of Ofsted in catch-up is not an area that the Sutton Trust has looked into in detail. Our priority in this area would be ensuring that there is sufficient support and training for teachers to effectively deliver online learning. There might be a useful role in Ofsted sharing good practice between schools and setting clear expectations as to how remote learning will be looked at in any inspections or similar accountability mechanism. Our proposals on support and training for teachers is covered in more detail in our response to the Committee’s inquiry which can be accessed here.
10 June 2020
 Sutton Trust (2019) Pupil premium and school funding. Available at: https://www.suttontrust.com/our-research/school-funding-and-pupil-premium-2019/