The forgotten: how White working-class pupils have been let down, and how to change it Contents

5The school system

Teacher training and recruitment

111.The best way for schools to improve disadvantaged pupils’ outcomes is to improve the quality of teaching.195 In 2011 the Sutton Trust found that the effect of high quality teaching is particularly important for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, and that “over a school year, these pupils gain 1.5 years’ worth of learning with very effective teachers, compared with 0.5 years with poorly performing teachers”.196 Professor Becky Francis said that:

Coming back to the issues about region and where working-class kids, particularly White working-class kids, are focused demographically, we know that there are issues about school teacher supply and retention, particularly around supply of subject expert teachers in those areas.197

112.Despite the Department’s recent moves to improve teacher quality and recruitment, including the Early Career Framework and more recently the Department’s further information on its reforms to teacher development,198 some areas of the country still struggle to access support in recruitment and retention.199 School leaders are also concerned about the Department’s proposals to reduce bursaries for initial teacher training.200 Investing in local training for teachers may support schools that struggle to recruit and retain staff.201 It may also give disadvantaged White pupils in deprived areas role models that reflect their own experiences. Martyn Oliver, a Commissioner for the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, said that “having teachers and staff who can relate to the children is a massively important aspect of this. However… a good teacher is by far the most important influence”.202

113.Witnesses told us about the potential of alternative routes into teaching, including degree apprenticeships. Postgraduate teaching apprenticeships are available, although UCAS says that as a new qualification there are “a limited number of vacancies”.203 Dr Tony Sewell, Chair of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, agreed that it is important to support teaching degree apprenticeships to help more disadvantaged pupils access the opportunity of becoming teachers,204 and Professor Liz Barnes, Vice Chancellor at Staffordshire University, said that apprenticeship routes into teaching would help some areas attract local people to the profession. She said that this route would help attract specialist teachers and highlighted the NHS’ use of apprenticeship routes.205 Nick Hurn, Chief Executive Officer of the Bishop Wilkinson Catholic Education Trust, said:

I was lucky enough to be on a teacher apprenticeship trailblazing group and we missed a massive opportunity in that group. We talked about apprenticeships for A-level students into teaching over a seven-year course doing a year degree working within a school and learning to be a teacher. I thought that was a brilliant idea but that got quashed… There needs to be more innovative thinking with regards to keeping our best students in our most challenging areas and that is certainly a way to do that.206

114.Teach First made recommendations about supporting teachers and schools in disadvantaged areas, including:

115.Good teachers who understand disadvantaged White students’ needs and who can be good role models are central to raising this group’s outcomes. We know that teaching quality is worse in disadvantaged areas than in wealthier areas, with schools less likely to be rated good or outstanding by Ofsted for their quality of teaching. Schools in disadvantaged areas are also less likely to have experienced teachers, less likely to have teachers in qualified subject areas, and more likely to have higher teacher turnovers. The Department cannot take the current rise in applicants to teacher training during the pandemic for granted. Raising teachers’ starting salaries and the Early Careers Framework are welcome but there is more to do.

116.High quality teaching is particularly transformative for disadvantaged pupils. Over a school year, these pupils get 1.5 years’ worth of learning with high quality teachers, compared with 0.5 years with poorly performing teachers. To support the development of local teachers, we should incentivise highly commended initial teacher training providers (like Redcar and Cleveland TTP or Leicester and Leicestershire SCITT) to work with disadvantaged schools and develop top-class school-led routes. The Department must use its enhanced local area statistics to target recruitment and retention policies to schools that are struggling, particularly those in left-behind White communities. The Department must build on the existing postgraduate teaching apprenticeship scheme to make it more widely available and introduce an undergraduate teaching degree apprenticeship with a specific focus on developing teacher subject specialisms. The Department must introduce bursaries, retention payments and salary bonuses to attract good teachers to challenging areas and prevent flight of local talent. This will encourage a more diverse workforce that reflects the communities it serves, through introducing more local teacher training centres in deprived White communities.

School funding

117.Dr Alex Gibson and Professor Sheena Asthana highlighted historic discrepancies in the distribution of school funding as a potential factor in the attainment gap for disadvantaged White pupils, saying:

… in contrast to the NHS funding formulae, which have increasingly responded to the shift in the pattern of deprivation away from major cities and towards peripheral coastal areas (Blackpool has the highest per capita funding for Hospital and Community Services), school funding is on average lower in coastal authorities and higher in large cities.208

118.In November 2020 the IFS published its annual report on education spending in England.209 The report analysed how deprivation funding has changed over time and how the proposed National Funding Formula may change funding levels. The report found that over the last 10 years “spending per pupil has fallen faster amongst more deprived schools … and the overall funding premium fell to about 25% by 2018–19”. The report adds that this “can be partly explained by the changing geography of deprivation, with faster falls in deprivation inside London and a school funding system that was slow to adjust to such changes” It adds that “in the long run, the new National Funding Formula should allow the funding system to adjust to changes in the pattern of deprivation” although in the short term “the overall pattern actually looks set to continue under existing plans for the National Funding Formula, with lower increases in formula allocations for schools in poorer areas”.210 We are also concerned about the imbalance of some schools having significant surpluses while others struggle with deficits. We would like to see the Department do more to ensure that funding is evenly distributed to reach the pupils that need it.

119.There are concerns about the Government’s proposal to “level-up” school funding through minimum per-pupil spending. The EPI found that under the Government’s plans schools in deprived areas (including the north east, a largely White and deprived area) would benefit the least from funding uplifts, while schools without characteristics associated with additional funding under the National Funding Formula (generally schools without high levels of deprivation, for example) would benefit the most.211

120.Evidence suggested that the Department could improve the Pupil Premium and funding for disadvantaged students.212 While the additional Pupil Premium funding is welcome, witnesses said that it could be better targeted. For example, Martyn Oliver, a Commissioner for the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, told us about the importance of not being “crude” in measuring disparities, and called on the Department to use a “micro-vision of disparity” to target funding to schools and wider services for children.213 Professor Lee Elliot Major suggested introducing “regional weighting for pupil premium money for disadvantaged pupils providing significantly more money to turn around areas of multigenerational decline”.214 The Office for National Statistics have recently conducted research that shows the prevalence of income disparity not just between regions, but within neighbourhoods - indicating the importance of “knowledge of these local circumstances and detail”, with every local area having a “unique profile of income disparity”.215

121.We also heard about the potential of attributing funding according to duration of deprivation. Our predecessor Committee’s report, A ten-year plan for school and college funding (July 2019), recommended that the Department “should investigate how the Pupil Premium distribution could be made fairer so that allocations match more closely the child’s level and duration of deprivation”.216 The report recommended that the Department review accountability measures for the pupil premium to ensure that schools always use it to help disadvantaged students.

122.We are also concerned about how the existing allocation is being used. According to the Sutton Trust, 34% of headteachers say their Pupil Premium funding is “being used to plug gaps in their school’s budget”.217 The conditions of the pupil premium grant in 2021–2022 require schools to demonstrate “how their spending decisions are informed by research evidence” (condition 7) and use the strategy statement templates to publish their pupil premium strategy (condition 8).218

123.The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities’ report called for greater targeting of funding according to need, asking the Government to “deploy additional funding that is targeted at measures which specifically aim to tackle disparities in educational outcomes for disadvantaged groups”. The Commission recommended additional funding to:

124.The Government is investing in additional funding for schools during the pandemic recovery. In June 2020 the Government announced £1 billion of funding to “help primary and secondary school pupils catch-up”.220 The bulk of this (£650million) was a universal “catch-up” premium. A further £350million funded the National Tutoring Programme (NTP), which is “targeted at disadvantaged children”.221 The Government has since announced another package of support. This includes a £302million Recovery Premium (to build on the existing pupil premium), and additional funding for summer schools.222 According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, total spending related to education across 2020–21 and 2021–22in the pandemic is “currently due to be around £4.3 billion”, including £1.7 billion on catch-up and £1.5 billion on other support including the free school meals voucher scheme.223 More recently, the Government announced an additional £1.4 billion of catch-up funding, of which £1 billion will be spent on enhancing tutoring in schools and colleges.224

125.This additional funding is welcome, but the National Audit Office (NAO) has raised concerns about how targeted it is. In March 2021 the NAO said that the NTP may “not reach the most disadvantaged children”. The NAO added that the Department had not “specified what proportion of children accessing the scheme should be disadvantaged”, and said that schools are “encouraged to focus on disadvantaged pupils, but are free to use their professional judgement to identify the children who would benefit most” It adds that of “the 125,200 children allocated a tutoring place, 41,100 had started to receive tuition, of whom 44% were eligible for pupil premium”.225 There seem to be geographic discrepancies in how the National Tutoring Programme is being used. Graham Archer, Director for Qualifications, Curriculum and Extra-Curricular, Department for Education, said that “We are seeing a slightly slower take-up in areas of the country where tutoring is seen as a less normal part of academic life—it is a slower take-up in the north than in the south”.226

126.The NAO called for the Department to monitor the long-term impact of the pandemic, with a “particular focus” on the most disadvantaged children and act on assessments of the catch-up programme to ensure funding achieves value for money and that “the National Tutoring Programme schemes are reaching disadvantaged children as intended”.227

127.School funding has failed to keep pace with where deprivation is in the country, and as a result schools serving disadvantaged communities, including disadvantaged White communities, have suffered financially. The National Funding Formula promises to correct this, but the formula’s changes have not yet been fully enacted, and we have seen concerns that a “levelling up” funding uplift may risk further entrenching disadvantage.

128.Additional funding for disadvantaged students, including disadvantaged White students, is welcome, but is insufficient and insufficiently targeted and does not always reflect true level of need. This seems to have extended to the Government’s “catch-up” funding, with insufficiently targeted formulas and schemes that are not reaching the children, including disadvantaged White children, who need them most. Just 44% of the children who are using the National Tutoring Programme are eligible for free school meals, making this scheme a prime example of a Government initiative that is not getting to the children who need it most.

129.The Department must do more to target funding to address attainment gaps, such as that which persistently affects disadvantaged White pupils. This should begin with reform to the pupil premium, which should be weighted to account for persistent disadvantage, including in disadvantaged White communities, in line with our recommendation on better measures of disadvantage. The Department must also heed recommendations from the National Audit Office and keep its catch-up funding initiatives under close review, and introduce significant reform if take up of the National Tutoring Programme has not improved by the end of the school year. The Department should introduce changes to ensure the schools and pupils that most need the extra resource have access to it.

130.The Department must also acknowledge that due to funding pressures 34% of headteachers are using the premium to plug financial gaps in other parts of their operation. We note the Department’s recent changes to the conditions of the pupil premium grant, but in the light of the Sutton Trust’s findings about the number of schools using their grant to plug other gaps, we want to see more action. We will hold the Department to account for their progress, and should the reforms not be successful in ensuring this funding always directly benefits the most disadvantaged we will expect the Department to consider further measures. This should include ringfencing a percentage of the pupil premium grant to offer activities and enrichment opportunities to disadvantaged pupils, helping them access the same extra-curricular opportunities as their better-off peers.

195 Education Endowment Foundation (LBP0041)

197 Q56 Professor Becky Francis

198 Department for Education, Delivering World-Class Teacher Development, June 2021

199 Liverpool City Region Combined Authority (LBP0017)

200 Q168 Ruth Robinson

201 Q273 Professor Liz Barnes

202 Q421 Martyn Oliver

203 UCAS, Postgraduate teaching apprenticeship, accessed 8 April 2021

204 Q444 Dr Tony Sewell

205 Q273 Professor Liz Barnes

206 Q168 Nick Hurn OBE

207 Teach First (LBP0055)

208 Dr Alex Gibson and Professor Sheena Asthana (LBP0034)

209 Institute for Fiscal Studies, 2020 annual report on education spending in England, November 2020

210 Institute for Fiscal Studies, 2020 annual report on education spending in England, November 2020

212 Written evidence, see for example Professor Lee Elliot Major (LBP0035)

213 Qq 416 - 417 Martyn Oliver

214 Professor Lee Elliot Major (LBP0035)

215 ONS, Exploring local income deprivation, 24 May 2021

216 Education Committee, Tenth Report of Session 2017–19, A ten-year plan for school and college funding, HC 969, 16 July 2019, p28

217 Sutton Trust, School funding and pupil premium, 29 April 2021

218 Education & Skills Funding Agency, Pupil premium: conditions of grant 2021 to 2022 for local authorities, 30 March 2021

219 Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, The Report, March 2021, p81

226 Education Committee, Funding and financial management of schools - Q46, Graham Archer, Director for Qualifications, Curriculum and Extra-Curricular, Department for Education

Published: 22 June 2021 Site information    Accessibility statement