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Ofsted inspection: pupil premium spending

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Last updated on 2 August 2016
School types: All · School phases: All
In-depth article
How will Ofsted evaluate our use of the pupil premium? In this article, we refer to the School Inspection Handbook and explain how schools' pupil premium spending affects inspectors' judgements. We also outline what evidence inspectors will use.

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  1. 1 How does pupil premium spending affect Ofsted judgements?
  2. 2 What evidence will inspectors consider?
  3. 3 Comparing pupil progress data: what will inspectors consider?
  4. 4 Inspectors may recommend an external review of the pupil premium
  5. 5 What do we do if there is no 'achievement gap'?

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  • 3 external links

How does pupil premium spending affect Ofsted judgements?

New Ofsted framework from September 2015

Ofsted introduced its Common Inspection Framework from September 2015, replacing the framework used since 2012. For more details, read our summary of the changes.

The effectiveness of leadership and management

The School Inspection Handbook explains, in paragraph 141, that when judging the effectiveness of leadership and management, inspectors will consider:

How effectively leaders use additional funding, including the pupil premium, and measure its impact on outcomes for pupils, and how effectively governors hold them to account for this.

The pupil premium is also mentioned in the grade descriptors for leadership and management, found on pages 41 to 44 of the handbook.

The ‘outstanding’ grade descriptors include the following:

Governors systematically challenge senior leaders so that the effective deployment of staff and resources, including the pupil premium and special educational needs (SEN) funding, secures excellent outcomes for pupils.

Governors do not shy away from challenging leaders about variations in outcomes for pupil groups, especially between disadvantaged and other pupils.

In the ‘good’ grade descriptors it says:

Governors hold senior leaders stringently to account for all aspects of the school’s performance, including the use of pupil premium and SEN funding, ensuring that the skilful deployment of staff and resources delivers good or improving outcomes for pupils.

You can access the School Inspection Handbook from the following page:

What evidence will inspectors consider?

Paragraph 29 of the School Inspection Handbook, linked to above, says that when preparing for an inspection, the lead inspector will analyse information on the school’s website, including its statement on the use of the pupil premium.

The lead inspector will also request that any reports following an external review of the school’s use of the pupil premium are made available at the start of the inspection, where applicable. This is explained in paragraph 38.

Paragraph 152 says that during the inspection, inspectors will gather evidence about the use of the pupil premium in relation to the following:

  • The level of pupil premium funding received by the school this academic year and in previous years
  • How the school has spent the pupil premium and why it has decided to spend it in the way it has
  • Any differences made to the learning and progress of disadvantaged pupils as shown by outcomes data and inspection evidence

Disadvantaged pupils: definition

A footnote on page 21 of the School Inspection Handbook says that disadvantaged pupils "refers to those pupils for whom the pupil premium provides support".

We've brought together useful articles and downloads to help you with your school's approach to the pupil premium.

Comparing pupil progress data: what will inspectors consider?

Paragraph 180 of the School Inspection Handbook says that inspectors: 

... will take particular account of the progress made by disadvantaged pupils from their starting points, especially the most able.

They will consider the progress made by the end of the key stage compared with that made nationally by other pupils with similar starting points and the extent to which any differences in this progress, and consequently in attainment, are diminishing.

In doing this, inspectors will take account of past cohorts and how well current pupils are on track to diminish any differences.

Paragraph 181 adds that for current pupils, inspectors will consider the impact of what a school is doing to reduce any differences in progress and attainment between disadvantaged and other pupils with the same starting points.

Inspectors ... will consider consider in-school gaps between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged pupils

One of our associate education experts, David New, said that when inspectors are assessing these figures, they will compare the progress of disadvantaged pupils with all non-disadvantaged pupils, not just with those who have similar starting points.

He said if inspectors only compared the progress and attainment of pupils who started at a similar level, they would be unable to establish if gaps in attainment between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged pupils are closing. 

Inspectors may recommend an external review of the pupil premium

Paragraph 152 of the handbook says:

Inspectors will recommend an external review of the school’s use of the pupil premium if they identify weakness regarding the provision and outcomes for disadvantaged pupils.

Schools will be made aware of the reasons for recommending an external review of the pupil premium at the final feedback meeting (see paragraph 93 of the handbook).

What do we do if there is no 'achievement gap'?

A governor asked us if the school can spend the grant on all pupils if there is no 'achievement gap' between the pupils eligible for the pupil premium and those who are not.

The Department for Education (DfE) has published a document explaining the conditions of the pupil premium grant. This does not specify how schools can spend this funding, except to say that the grant may be spent by schools for:

  • For the purposes of the school i.e. for the educational benefit of pupils registered at that school
  • For the benefit of pupils registered at other maintained schools or academies
  • On community facilities e.g. services whose provision furthers any charitable purpose for the benefit of pupils at the school or their families, or people who live or work in the locality in which the school is situated

The DfE says that schools are best placed to assess what additional provision their pupils need.

We asked another of our associate education experts, Gulshan Kayembe, what governors should do if there is no achievement gap between pupils. She said that as a first step, governors should fully satisfy themselves that there are no gaps at all.

Governors should fully satisfy themselves that there are no gaps at all

Gulshan pointed out that inspectors will look for gaps:

  • Between disadvantaged pupils in the school and disadvantaged pupils nationally
  • In all year groups in the school, not just those at the end of Key Stages

She added that it is very rare for schools to have no achievement gaps at all, so governors should ensure they are not missing any. They should challenge the senior leadership team on this.

Gulshan advised that the funding should be used to enhance the attainment of those eligible for the pupil premium, as well as narrowing any gaps. The funding should also be used to provide broader opportunities, such as educational or cultural visits, for disadvantaged groups.

Another article from The Key looks at guidance on spending and reporting on the pupil premium grant:

Another of our articles looks at which pupils are eligible for pupil premium funding:

Sources and further reading

David New, an education consultant, was the headteacher of a large secondary school for nine years. He has particular expertise in lettings, staffing, academy conversion and the secondary curriculum.

Gulshan Kayembe is an independent consultant who has experience of inspecting schools. As a consultant, she provides mentoring for senior leaders and has worked as an external adviser on headteachers’ performance management.

Link governors for the pupil premium will find information about their role in the following article:

This article was updated in response to a question from a governor of a large urban secondary school in the south east.

The Key has taken great care in publishing this article. However, some of the article's content and information may come from or link to third party sources whose quality, relevance, accuracy, completeness, currency and reliability we do not guarantee. Accordingly, we will not be held liable for any use of or reliance placed on this article's content or the links or downloads it provides. This article may contain information sourced from public sector bodies and licensed under the Open Government Licence.