Results for 2012, the first year to reflect the impact of a full year of the pupil premium, showed a larger than expected narrowing of attainment gaps nationally for both key stage 2 and key stage 4. Further improvement is expected as the funding levels increase and schools focus more on evidence-based interventions to help disadvantaged children.
That is very positive news, but schools are given a free hand to spend the pupil premium as they choose, rather than being required to target it on the most disadvantaged children who need the most support, and this comes at a time when the chief inspector is planning to get tough with schools that let poor children down. Will the Secretary of State get tough, too, and tell schools to concentrate these resources on the neediest children, instead of simply absorbing them into their budgets, as happens in some cases?
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we are not going to allow schools to use this money for purposes other than that for which it is intended. Schools will have to use this money for the assistance of the most disadvantaged pupils. We are not prescribing the way in which they do that, because, unlike the last Government, we believe head teachers and professionals should be respected to choose their own interventions, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that Ofsted will hold schools to account for using this money in the best way and narrowing the disadvantage gaps. If schools do not do that, they will face the consequences.
The two new academies in Hastings, the Hastings academy and St Leonards academy, were both rated 2 by Ofsted recently, which is a tremendous move forward for them. The Ofsted report particularly highlighted the fact that the pupil premium had made a great difference to the most socially disadvantaged. Would the Minister like to join me in congratulating the schools and their leadership?
I certainly would like to join my hon. Friend in congratulating those two schools, and I do believe that the combination of significant extra funds—after all, next year the pupil premium will be more than £1,000 per disadvantaged pupil—with scrutiny by Ofsted will make a big difference to the opportunities for disadvantaged pupils in the future, and narrow the totally unacceptable gap between the opportunities for young people from advantaged and disadvantaged backgrounds.
Results for pupils from deprived backgrounds vary dramatically in different parts of the country. Will the Minister continue to ensure that Ofsted’s monitoring of the way in which the pupil premium is spent feeds through into strong, effective action, with a particular focus on the parts of the country where the gap between rich and poor is biggest?
Yes, I can assure my hon. Friend that, in holding schools to account for the use of the pupil premium, Ofsted will be looking not only at the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged pupil performance in particular schools, but at the performance of disadvantaged pupils in particular schools versus the national average, and that it will also be looking at the progress that is being made, so that, whatever school a disadvantaged youngster is in, they can be sure that there will be scrutiny of those who run it, to make sure this money is used effectively and the gaps are narrowed across the whole school system.