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Pupil Premium

Volume 566: debated on Wednesday 17 July 2013

We are today announcing the launch of our consultation on primary assessment and accountability, alongside a significant increase in the pupil premium for primary schools. This is about delivering a step change in aspirations and attainment in primary education, and these proposals are among the most important that our Department has announced since the formation of the coalition Government. We want as many children as possible to be ready for secondary school by the time they leave primary school, and the reforms we are announcing today are designed to ensure that pupils are well prepared for the next stage of their education, and that schools do not allow pupils to fall behind. We are confident that primary schools and pupils can and will rise to that challenge.

We want to see a step change in attainment at the end of primary school. In the past, the achievement bar was set too low and too few pupils cleared that bar. Our ambition is for all pupils—excepting some of those with particular learning needs—to be ready for secondary school at age 11. That means we need a higher measure of what success looks like. We are already raising the threshold for the percentage of pupils to be ready for secondary school from 60% to 65%, but we know that many schools and teachers have already raised their game way beyond that level. For that reason, in the future we will expect a high proportion of pupils—85%—to reach the new, higher secondary readiness threshold for a school. Since we know that both children and schools can achieve that, it is right that we set it as a minimum standard.

Our new national curriculum is designed to give schools genuine opportunities to take ownership of the curriculum. The new programmes of study, published on 8 July, set out what pupils should be taught by the end of primary education. Teachers will be able to develop a school curriculum that delivers the core content in a way that is challenging and relevant for their pupils.  Statutory assessment in core subjects at the end of key stages is designed primarily to enable robust external accountability. We will continue to prescribe statutory assessment arrangements in English, maths and science. National curriculum tests in English and maths will continue, and will show whether pupils have met a demanding secondary readiness standard, which will remain the same from year to year. We propose to report pupils’ test results as a scaled score to ensure that test outcomes are comparable over time. At the moment, pupils are ranked by levels. In future we will report each pupil’s performance relative to their peers nationally, as well as their levels of progress. This is key information for parents: it will help them easily to see how their child has performed compared with the national cohort of pupils.

It is vital that we set high aspirations for all schools and pupils. Our new expectations will prepare children for success. At the moment pupils are being asked to reach a bar that too often sets them up for failure rather than success. Indeed we know that over half of pupils who currently reach just the 4C benchmark standard fail to secure five good GCSEs including English and maths. So that all children, whatever their circumstances, can arrive in secondary school ready to succeed, we are giving significantly more money to primary school pupils eligible for the pupil premium. That will support the step change in ambition we are announcing today.

We introduced the pupil premium in 2011 to help schools close the attainment gap for disadvantaged pupils. In 2014-15, total funding through the pupil premium will increase by £625 million to the total of £2.5 billion pledged by the coalition in 2010. We will use the extra funding in the year ahead to increase significantly the level of the pupil premium for primary schools to £1,300 per pupil, compared with £900 in the current year. This 44% rise in the pupil premium next year is the largest cash rise so far. That should enable more targeted interventions to support disadvantaged pupils to be secondary ready and achieve our ambitious expectations for what pupils should know and be able to do by the end of their primary education. Early intervention is crucial: the more disadvantaged pupils who leave primary school with strong literacy and numeracy, the greater their chances of achieving good GCSEs.  We will fix the level of the secondary pupil premium in the autumn, but it will rise further, by at least the level of inflation next year.

We also want to treat schools fairly by acknowledging the performance of schools whose pupils achieve well despite a low starting point, even if that does not reach the very ambitious attainment targets we are setting. We will therefore look at how we can introduce a robust measure of progress that we can take into consideration when holding schools to account. A school that does not achieve the attainment threshold will not be judged to be below the floor standard if its pupils are making good progress. The progress measure will also help identify coasting schools, whose pupils do not achieve their full potential and should be doing much better even if their school is meeting the attainment targets. Ofsted will focus its inspections more closely on schools below and just above floor standards, and inspect schools with good performance on these measures less frequently.

We will continue to report on the progress pupils make during primary education.  In order to measure pupils’ progress, we need to measure how each pupil’s end of key stage 2 test results compare with the results of pupils with similar prior attainment. This is an opportunity to reconsider the structure of statutory assessment early in primary schools.  In particular, we are consulting on when we should have a baseline test or assessment to measure pupils’ progress.  Currently the baseline against which we measure progress is at the end of key stage 1. We could continue to keep the baseline at this stage. Alternatively, we could introduce a similar teacher-led baseline check early in reception, which would help teachers understand the stage the child has reached and allow the crucial progress made in reception, year 1 and year 2 to be reflected in the accountability system. Many schools do that. Our consultation will seek views on which is the better option.

Finally, we recognise that teachers are professionals, and we want to give schools more freedom over the way they measure assessment. We have already announced that we will remove the current system of national curriculum levels and level descriptors, which imposes a single system and prescribes a detailed sequence for what pupils should be taught. That will leave schools free to decide how to track pupils’ progress. Ofsted will expect to see evidence of pupils’ progress, but inspections will be informed by the pupil tracking data that schools choose to keep.

Taken together, this combination of measures will ensure that pupils are ready for success in secondary education, and a better start in secondary school will ensure a better start in life. This country is now moving from an education system that served the needs of a minority to a system of high expectation and high standards for every single pupil. Today’s announcements are a key step in that continued journey. I commend this statement to the House.

I thank the Minister of State for advance notice of his statement.

When Labour came to power in 1997 we inherited a sorry state in the education system. From day one we gave priority to primary education. In 1997 only 59% of 11-year-olds reached the expected level of attainment in maths and 65% in English. By 2010 these figures had risen to 79% and 80% respectively. That was huge progress, but I agree that we need to build on this success. I take the opportunity to pay tribute to the hard work of heads, teachers and support staff in primary schools across the country.

It is right that we have high expectation for all children in all schools, raising aspiration and unleashing potential. We will engage constructively with this consultation. We know from outstanding primary schools such as Cuckoo Hall primary in Enfield and Westfield community primary school in Wigan that all children can realise their true ability when they receive an excellent education. On leaving primary school, children need to be prepared with the knowledge, the skills and the resilience to take on the secondary curriculum. Despite massive progress, there are still too many children who are ill-equipped when they begin their secondary education.

Ensuring that all children reach at least the expected levels in maths and English is crucial. High standards of numeracy and literacy are vital; so, too, is a broad and rich curriculum that promotes creativity, enrichment, citizenship and resilience. I worry that the Government’s approach to the curriculum is too narrow and risks selling children short. What assurances can the Minister give that the Government’s changes to the accountability system will promote breadth and depth of learning, as well as literacy and numeracy? He has set out a new floor target of 85%, but that target is for an assessment that the Government have yet to define. Surely that is putting the cart before the horse. Would it not make for better policy to define the learning outcomes first? My worry is that this is another classic case of policy making on the hoof.

Similarly, the plan for ranking 11-year-olds has all the hallmarks of such an approach. To rank 11-year-olds runs the risk of removing year-on-year consistency, because children will be benchmarked against their peers in their current year, rather than against a common standard. Does the Minister agree that this risks damaging standards by not ensuring consistency over time?

The Government have sent out confused signals about attainment and progress. On the one hand they are scrapping level descriptors, which heads and teachers tell me are crucial for monitoring progress between assessments, yet on the other hand, the Minister is rightly emphasising progress measures today. That is very confusing. I ask the Government to think again about the abolition of level descriptors.

On the baseline measure for five-year-olds, there is sense in developing policy about how best to establish prior attainment to provide both teachers and parents with a clear indicator at the start of primary school. The devil will be in the detail, so it is vital that there is full consultation on that.

Finally, on the pupil premium, additional funding to support the progress of disadvantaged children is welcome. I have seen many schools that have made excellent use of the pupil premium. In his statement, though, the Minister said, “Early intervention is crucial”, and I agree with him. However, how does that sit with the fact that the biggest cuts in spending in his Department have been in early intervention funding? Can the Minister assure the House that additional funding really does mean additional funding?

I worry that the Minister may—to coin a phrase—be robbing Paul to pay Paul. The Chancellor announced in the spending review that the Government are moving to a national funding formula. The independent Institute for Fiscal Studies has warned that this move could hit schools with large deprived intakes. Can he reassure the House that this really is new money and not simply giving money to schools with a lot of disadvantaged kids today, which is welcome, but taking it away in a couple of years when the national funding formula comes in?

It certainly is new money—I will comment on that in greater detail in a moment.

I welcome the sensible and constructive approach that the hon. Gentleman has taken. I particularly welcome the fact that he has said that he is prepared to engage with us in dealing with some serious and important issues, such as the baseline for measuring progress. It encourages me that we can have a sensible consultation process that genuinely listens and designs a system that will be better and will last for the long term.

Let me respond briefly to five points that the hon. Gentleman made in his response. First, on the Government’s inheritance, I accept that progress was made under the previous Government, particularly in some parts of the country such as London. However, our inheritance of aspirations at the end of primary level was, frankly, hopelessly low. Even today, we allow schools potentially to pass their floor targets when one third of their pupils or more fail to achieve a basic level of English and maths. Worse still, our very measure of achievement—the 4C measure—leads to more than half the youngsters who achieve just that level failing to get five good GCSEs. In other words, we have been sending out a message about what success looks like at the end of primary school which is totally wrong. Indeed, some of the best schools in the country—including St Joseph’s primary school in Camden, which the Deputy Prime Minister and I visited this morning—have already moved well beyond 4C and in many cases are aiming at much higher levels, such as 4A, 5C and so forth. The Government need to catch up with those schools, which are leading the debate in education.

The second point was about the broadness and richness of the experience in schools. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that, although the concentration on English and maths is important, we do not want that to lead to a dramatic narrowing of the curriculum. The other subjects that people take, both academic and vocational—arts, music and sport—are incredibly important. However, no one can succeed in secondary education if they cannot read and add up. No one can enjoy the opportunities in all the other subjects if they are not equipped with those basic skills. I would also refer the hon. Gentleman to the changes we have already announced in the secondary measures of accountability. We will be incentivising schools to take not just five but eight GCSEs, and we will allow that to include vocational as well as academic subjects.

The third point that the hon. Gentleman made was about whether 85% was the right level and whether we were right to set such an ambitious target now, in advance of the precise measures being introduced in 2016. I think we are right to set out those principles now. The schools that he and I are familiar with, from inner London and elsewhere, are already setting levels of aspiration of 85%, 90% or 95%, at an even higher level than 4B, which I talked about in a speech a couple of months ago, so I think that we are right to raise expectations now. For too long we have had expectations set by very low levels, which are more about the levels set for school intervention than about reasonable aspirations for all schools.

On the ranking of 11-year-olds, let me make it absolutely clear that we are not talking about publishing information about individual students at a national level. That would of course be totally wrong. What we are talking about is something that I think virtually every parent in the country will welcome, which is more information—and more meaningful information—about how their children are doing. At the moment, apart from a few people in the Department for Education and around the House, level descriptors frankly mean nothing to the average parent. Having a mark, a measure of progress and a clear sense of where their pupil is versus the rest of the cohort is only sensible. Parents could do that at the moment through the levels process, if they could actually understand that process, which is so complicated. What we are doing will help parents, but we will listen to the messages that come back in the consultation.

Finally, let me turn to the hon. Gentleman’s point about money and early intervention. What we are announcing is about doing a lot more through early intervention. The additional money for the pupil premium that the Government have delivered, even in these times of austerity, is something of which the coalition can feel incredibly proud. The levels we are setting today will mean that the additional money going to pupils from the pupil premium from their time in primary school will be £8,000 or £9,000 per pupil. That is a massive amount to help schools across the country, particularly in disadvantaged areas, to bring children up to a reasonable standard.

As for early years, the Under-Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Member for South West Norfolk (Elizabeth Truss), who leads on early years and child care, and the Deputy Prime Minister have announced a two-year offer, which extends early-years support to the most disadvantaged two-year-olds, going way beyond anything the previous Government were able to deliver. This Government have a huge amount to be proud of, in offering schools this money to support such ambitious aspirations.

The Select Committee on Education had some outstanding head teachers before it this morning, talking about the possible setting up of a college of teaching. One point they all made was about their desire for greater continuity in policy making. I therefore congratulate the Minister on making the offer to the Opposition, and the Opposition on their response in turn, to ensure a common policy that gives stability to education. With the increase in funding for the pupil premium, will he say what role he sees for subject specialists at primary level to help to raise attainment not just in English and maths, but across the broad swathe of subjects to which he has referred?

I welcome the comments of the Chairman of the Select Committee. He is absolutely right that we need to aim for greater continuity in education policy. After all, we are talking about young people who, even individually, will take a considerable number of years to go through the education system. We want to ensure as much cross-party consensus as possible on some of the changes, so that they last.

My hon. Friend is also absolutely right that the additional money will give primary schools the opportunity to bring in greater subject specialism, which will help to boost the quality of teaching not just in English and maths, but in all the other subjects, which are so crucial and which the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Stephen Twigg) mentioned earlier.

I welcome the focus on primary education in the statement, which is a good thing. It is time we had that focus. I also welcome the extra spending on primary education, but I am worried about the proposal for national examinations at the age of three as well as at 11. May I urge the Minister to drop the exams for three-year-olds? As someone who represents a town where most of the pupils already do the 11-plus, let me tell him that the consequences for children—as well as for parents—of knowing that they are at the bottom of the list need to be examined. It breaks my heart every year when I have children in my constituency surgery—hauled in by their parents—who do not have the bicycle for passing the 11-plus and are going to a school that they never applied to as a result.

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for the early comments she made. I should point out that what we are talking about is on entry to school, not at a ridiculous age. [Interruption.] Frankly, many schools—to which I would be happy to take the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Helen Goodman), who is shouting from a sedentary position—are already doing that type of assessment. They are doing it to inform their education and also to measure progress. We have descriptors at the moment that classify some young people as the lowest performers. That information is available at the moment; it is just very difficult for anyone to understand. Why should we impede parents in understanding more what their pupils are doing in schools?

I am particularly grateful to the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby, who leads for the Labour party on these issues, for being pragmatic. Although I quite understand the concerns about assessing youngsters at an early age, the logic of measuring progress, which is not in dispute in this House or among head teachers, teachers or parents, means that it is rational to measure progress right across the educational experience. It is not rational simply to pick an arbitrary date at the end of key stage 1 and to measure progress only from there. That is why we think it is sensible to have this debate.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his statement today, and particularly on the abolition of the meaningless and distorting levels in key stage assessment. Does he agree that the substantial rise in the pupil premium will mean that every school should now be able to ensure that all children, regardless of their background, will be fluent readers and fluent in arithmetic—including long division, long multiplication and fractions—by the time they leave primary school? Does he also agree that there will no longer be any excuse for an attainment gap between those from poorer and wealthier backgrounds?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is reassuring to be able to visit schools with very large numbers of disadvantaged youngsters, such as the one I mentioned earlier, and to see that the attainment gaps have now been extinguished. This shows schools across the country that it is possible to close that gap, and that that is not just the perspective of some DFE Minister but the experience of schools across the land that are achieving that. The huge amounts of money that we are now putting into the pupil premium and other disadvantage funding for schools with disadvantaged youngsters will remove what were legitimate excuses 10 or 20 years ago about the absence of the resources necessary to achieve these big changes. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend, who did so much in his time in the Department to champion higher standards and to pave the way for much of what is in today’s statement.

Early intervention is certainly the key to the future for the hundreds of children in my constituency who have a much tougher start in life than most people. How will the Minister ensure that the pupil premium is targeted specifically on individuals rather than being swallowed up by the wider school budgets, and how will he hold head teachers to account for looking after those individuals?

That is an absolutely crucial point. The Department is not going to go back to the fashion under some previous Secretaries of State of micro-managing individual schools and telling them what interventions they need to deliver. Schools have a better understanding of the interventions that will work for the school and the individuals than we will ever do, sitting in a Department in London. However, we are going to hold schools to account for ensuring that whatever interventions they use are successful. We have worked closely with Ofsted to ensure that this is a key part of the accountability process for schools, and that there is a much greater focus by Ofsted on narrowing the gap. The chief inspector has made it clear that schools will no longer be ranked outstanding if they are failing in this key area, and there will be a requirement on schools that are not delivering a good standard to commission support from key leaders in education, such as national leaders of education, to bring advice into the school when it is failing to narrow the gaps. We have also recently appointed the widely respected John Dunford, who has great experience in education, to serve as a champion of the pupil premium and to spread the message about best practice to schools across the country.

Picking up on best practice, the primary school in the poorest ward in my constituency, Newington, has seen a 40% increase in standards in English and maths. The head teacher puts that down solely to the pupil premium so, locally, people will be very pleased with this suite of measures. One measure that seems to be being misinterpreted is the assessment of three-year-olds. Responsible teachers will make an assessment of the young people coming into their school so that they can put the right measures in place. It is not an exam, as has been suggested by some Opposition Members.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Many schools are already using baseline assessment on entry to school; that is the rational thing to do. It is also the most rational way of measuring progress, rather than doing it over an arbitrary period. I also agree with her that the additional money for the pupil premium and the additional accountability and focus will be crucial to narrowing the gap. The huge amounts of money going into schools with large numbers of pupil-premium pupils will result in some dramatic and impressive progress over the next few years in improving the lot of young people from those backgrounds.

What the Minister is saying reveals nothing other than his lack of understanding of small children and of child development. What is appropriate at 16, at 14 and at 11 is not appropriate at five. For five-year-olds, learning should be enjoyable, pleasurable and fun. Does he not understand that if he formalises these assessments, he will produce anxious teachers, anxious parents and anxious children?

I am afraid that the mood of consensus has come to an end. The hon. Lady is completely wrong. These assessments are already being completed in schools up and down the land, and most pupils do not even know that they are going through some great baseline assessment process. They just think that they are doing the sort of things that children do in schools. What is the logic of measuring progress, giving it huge status and talking about its importance, which we all do, if we then say that we will measure progress only from halfway through primary education? That does not make sense.

I greatly welcome the statement, not least because of the powerful point that Sir Michael Wilshaw made in his “Unseen Children” report recently. That report provides full justification for the measures that my right hon. Friend has announced. Will he reassure the House that the thrust of the measures will also tackle schools in rural and coastal areas, given the clear underachievement that has been identified in them?

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. The reports by Ofsted and others highlight the real risk of focusing only on schools with large numbers of disadvantaged youngsters. Of course those schools are important, and they will get the largest amount out of the pupil premium, but the schools with only a modest number of such youngsters will no longer be able to hide behind high overall attainment figures. Our focus on progress will ensure that the schools that are getting high levels of attainment but not delivering enough for all their pupils will be obliged to do so. The accountability measures will also ensure that we pick up any large gaps in performance between disadvantaged pupils and the rest, whether they are in our inner cities, the leafiest parts of the country or our coastal communities.

I welcome the additional resources for the pupil premium. The Minister said that this was additional funding. Perhaps he could tell us exactly where it is coming from. Also, he avoided answering the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Stephen Twigg) on the national funding formula and the possibility that the campaign by Conservative Back Benchers to narrow the gap between well-funded and less-well-funded schools would inevitably undermine the pupil premium.

The money is coming from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as the money coming into the DFE does, and it is additional money. This is a fantastic settlement for schools in a time of incredible austerity in the public finances. Whichever party was in government at this time would have to grapple with difficult decisions. The fact that we have built this programme on a protected schools budget is fantastic news for schools. I can tell the hon. Gentleman that when I go round the country to schools, especially those with large numbers of disadvantaged youngsters, they are really conscious of the additional money and they positively welcome it. On the national funding formula, I can assure him that we are determined to introduce a fairer mechanism of funding across the country, and we will ensure that we do it in a way that does not undermine the strong focus on funding disadvantaged areas that we have adopted while we have been in government.

I congratulate the Minister on his announcement on the pupil premium. This is another promise from the front cover of the Liberal Democrat manifesto at the last election that we have delivered in government. However, not every school I visit has been able to tell me how its pupil premium money is being spent. Does he agree that, if the pupil premium is to deliver on the ambition that we share for it, the parents of all disadvantaged pupils should be told how that money is being spent to help their children?

I agree with my hon. Friend on both those points. Schools already have a duty at the very least to put on their websites the ways in which they are spending that money and to be as clear as possible with parents and pupils, rather than simply putting broad statements on their websites. The schools that have so far not realised what the money is for—if there are such schools—or that are not spending it effectively will soon find that they have no choice other than to focus on what the money is designed for, because this is now a key part of the Ofsted inspection framework. In my experience, the one thing that teachers and head teachers pay very close attention to is the chief inspector of schools.

Primary school teachers in Newcastle do tremendous work, maximising the educational opportunities of children often in very challenging circumstances. They will welcome this additional money, but to justify that welcome, will the Minister confirm whether this is additional money to what has already been announced in the comprehensive spending review?

It is the allocation of the last tranche of pupil premium money, which is additional money. What that says is that having announced almost £1.9 billion of pupil premium money so far, we have taken the very deliberate decision for the final tranche of extra money that we have allocated in the last year to go predominantly to primary schools to support this intervention. It is additional money.

Children arriving in reception classes without basic speech and language skills face additional challenges, as do their teachers, in working towards secondary transfer. Will the Minister encourage schools to promote public library membership for very young children, as is happening in the London borough of Havering, which has introduced automatic enrolment for reception children and support packages for parents so that children are introduced to books and can take them home to enjoy all the benefits that flow from them?

The hon. Lady makes a crucial point. I think schools should encourage pupils to access libraries. In my experience, many schools are already doing very good work these days in school to make sure that young people are encouraged to read and enjoy books, but the hon. Lady is quite right to point out that we have a very effective public library service, which should also be used by schools.

Will the Minister clarify whether the pupil premium is an addition to the general budget of the school or should it be spent only on those pupils who attract the premium?

The money is there to be spent on those disadvantaged youngsters who would otherwise be highly likely to have poor performance. Schools must understand that that is the purpose of the money and why they are getting it. They are free to decide how to spend it, but they must spend it to narrow these gaps and focus on pupils who are the priority for the premium.

I welcome this statement and I will focus on the pupil premium. One of the regrettable reasons why Peterborough local education authority languishes at the bottom of the league table for educational attainment for disadvantaged children relates to the issue of English as an additional language. I shall meet the Minister in September to discuss these issues. Will he look again at incorporating in the methodology for awarding the pupil premium the important issue of English as an additional language, which is significant for the allocation of resources and will drive up educational attainment in Peterborough and across the country?

My hon. Friend makes a very important point—that youngsters with English as an additional language often face challenges, particularly when they go into school. As he will know, however, they often make extremely rapid progress, performing above the level of young people who have English as their first language. We will take the opportunity provided by the review of the national funding formula to make sure that we get proper support for young people with English as an additional language so that schools have the right amount of money for the right amount of time to help these children to perform well.

What advice would the Minister give to head teachers about parents, albeit a small percentage of them, who simply do not encourage their children to perform academically? What can be done about that?

What is very encouraging—the head teacher of the primary school that the Deputy Prime Minister and I visited this morning spoke to us about it—is that many schools nowadays are not simply sitting back and waiting for parents to engage and shrugging their shoulders when they do not. Many of the best schools in the most deprived communities are going out to engage with reluctant parents and they often have considerable success in persuading those parents that education is important for their young children’s future. This can be a way of engaging parents who might not have had good educational experiences themselves, potentially enriching their own lives by contact with the school. I would encourage head teachers and teachers with parents of the type that my hon. Friend describes to visit some of the schools that are doing this work very well, as I think they could learn a tremendous amount from them.

It was a great pleasure to welcome the Schools Minister on his visit to Seven Fields primary school. The school’s transformation was due to a combination of inspirational leadership, greater freedoms and the pupil premium. How should we share this best practice so that all schools can benefit from today’s announcement?

It was a pleasure to visit my hon. Friend’s constituency and he was quite right when he wrote to me to highlight the fantastic achievements of this school, which sits in a disadvantaged community and could easily be languishing and struggling, but actually sets incredibly high aspirations, showing that it is possible for schools to deliver. The Government have recently started to publish tables of similar schools, where we look at schools with a similar composition of pupils and look at their performance against other similar schools. That process should encourage schools across the country that are not performing well to look at other schools with a similar intake that are doing a lot better, perhaps visiting them, talking to teachers and finding out what works. This type of school-to-school improvement should be enhanced by the additional measure of information that we are publishing.

I am sure that every Member will welcome the £400 increase in the pupil premium that will benefit primary schools in every single one of our constituencies. With this extra money, however, comes the need for added accountability, as has been mentioned. The Minister says that some schools have closed the gap entirely. When it comes to outcomes for the future, does he view it as the ultimate ambition for every school to have no gap whatever between the achievement of pupils entitled to free school meals and those who are not?

Yes, because the best-performing schools across the country have shown that there is nothing inevitable about those gaps. Many schools have closed the gaps very considerably. The important thing is to make sure that the accountability system is an intelligent one, as it would be possible to close the gap but at a very low level of attainment, while some of the schools that we wrote to this year had high levels of overall attainment but large gaps, so they should have been doing better for their youngsters. Our attention was drawn to schools where there was no gap, but where the attainment of disadvantaged youngsters was not good enough. The accountability will be for the gap, but also for the progress made by disadvantaged youngsters and the level of attainment of disadvantaged youngsters in a school compared with the national average. There will be no hiding place for schools that might otherwise have a small gap but at a very modest level of attainment.

I warmly welcome the increase in the pupil premium and thank the Minister for visiting Grangetown primary school in my constituency to see the difference that it is making. I ask for the reception assessment system to recognise that children can be almost one year apart in a given cohort. Will the data be used to help address the attainment gap at the younger end of the cohort that tends to persist through school?

My hon. Friend makes an extremely important point, and I very much enjoyed my visit to Grangetown primary school in his constituency. The pupils left us with a rather large picture, 6 feet tall, which is currently hanging in my office. That school, as I recall, will be a massive beneficiary of the pupil premium investment, as something like 80% of its youngsters are entitled to the pupil premium. In a very challenging environment, the school has noticed that the additional money makes a massive difference to this school’s ability to deliver for its youngsters. My hon. Friend is right to say that, particularly in the context of an early baseline test, we need carefully to consider the impact of measuring youngsters’ achievement at a very young age and the impact of their age on their likely attainment. That important point should be properly considered.

I very much welcome the enhancement of the pupil premium—a policy that has greatly benefited disadvantaged pupils in Crawley. I seek assurances on the assessment of pupils; will those with dyslexia receive the proper support?

Pupils, parents and teachers across the Kettering constituency will warmly welcome the 44% increase in the pupil premium for primary school pupils. Will the Minister recount some of the best examples he has encountered of how the pupil premium is used? How can best practice be best disseminated across our schools?

Some of the best practice relates to one-to-one tuition, and a whole series of interventions, about which we are publishing information, have come from research institutions, including the Education Endowment Foundation. What we want to ensure is that the evidence of what works does not come simply from politicians, but from educational experts. It should be available for schools to look at and should not be politicised in any way, as sometimes happened in the past. We are appointing a pupil premium champion in Dr John Dunford, who will go out to schools, draw attention to what works and ensure that best practice is spread right across the country.

Primary schools in my constituency—which contains some of the most deprived wards in the country—will warmly welcome the focus on improvement versus absolute attainment and the increase in the pupil premium, which does an enormous amount of good in Worcester. However, will my right hon. Friend note an early-day motion tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for North Devon (Sir Nick Harvey) and signed by eight Liberal Democrat Members, which urges him to consider broadening the pupil premium rather than simply increasing it, and draws attention to the good that that could do in many parts of the country where the money may not be reaching all those for whom it is intended?

I would be the first person to be pleased if we were able to fund a widening of access to the pupil premium. As my hon. Friend will know, we have already funded one considerable widening of entitlement by including pupils who had been receiving free school meals at any point during the previous six years. That has increased take-up of the premium to nearly a quarter of the cohort, which is a very considerable coverage. There are some other youngsters whom it would be useful to benefit, but that would depend on funding. In the meantime, I think that many of the schools to which my hon. Friend refers will be pleased to hear about the national funding formula for which he has campaigned so strongly, because it has the potential to give underfunded areas additional resources.

I try to visit a school in my constituency every Friday morning. This Friday I shall visit Helme school, and I know that the increase in the pupil premium to £1,300 per pupil will be very welcome there. However, will the Minister keep in mind special educational needs funding for smaller schools which find that an increasing number of their pupils have statements?

I am delighted to hear that my hon. Friend regularly visits schools in his constituency. We can learn a great deal from that, and I hope that he receives an even warmer welcome than usual when he turns up this week to celebrate the additional pupil premium moneys. He is right to point out that the needs of some young people are such that they require additional funding beyond the pupil premium, and we will ensure that those special needs are properly met.

There is a well-known problem of learning loss over the summer, particularly among pupils who are between primary and secondary school. In the light of work done by the Education Endowment Foundation in that connection, does the Minister intend some of the extra resources to be spent on addressing the problem? Will he also say a brief word about the level of the service pupil premium, which is very important to a number of schools in East Hampshire?

The importance of learning over the summer must not be underestimated. We are aware that in some parts of the country, particularly among the more disadvantaged communities, young people can slip back during the summer months, and we will continue to fund the summer schools that help to bridge the gap. We are also seeking to provide additional flexibility which would allow some schools that want to change their hours and holiday periods to do so. Some may wish to introduce shorter summer holidays to prevent pupils from falling back.

We will certainly maintain and protect the service pupil premium, which has been valued in many parts of the country.

Does my hon. Friend believe that schools that have experienced a real surge in performance and transformation in attainment, such as Ash Grove school in Macclesfield, have an important role to play in helping other schools to bring about a similar transformation in their own attainment and aspiration levels by means of vehicles such as teaching alliances?

I entirely agree. As I said earlier, we shall be publishing tables that will enable weak schools to learn from what is happening in stronger ones with similar intakes. I suggest that some outstanding institutions, such as the one to which my hon. Friend has referred, should also look at those tables, and should consider offering services and advice to schools in their areas that are not performing despite having very similar intakes. School-to-school improvement of that kind is often extremely effective.

My right hon. Friend has rightly concentrated on the benefit of the pupil premium to disadvantaged children, but I was not sure from his earlier answer whether the dozens of service children who attend primary schools in my constituency, which is home to 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh, would receive the additional pupil premium or whether their pupil premium would remain at the same level.

Pupils who are entitled to the pupil premium in and of its own right because, for example, a parent has been out of work for a period during the preceding six years will receive the full uplift. We are protecting entitlement to the service premium, but those who receive it will not be affected by the uplift.