Poorer pupils' funds are being used to “plug gaps” in school budgets

A third of heads have said that the funding they get for poorer pupils is being used to fill spaces in their school’s budget, research shows.

According to a research poll of 1,361 teachers published by the Sutton Trust, 32 per cent of senior leaders in primary schools admitted that they are using their pupil premium funding in this way.

Secondary schools were slightly less with 27 per cent admitting to using the pupil cash.

The survey was conducted by the National Foundation for Educational Research for the Trust as part of their Teachers Voice Omnibus survey to highlight how budget cuts are affecting schools across the country.

The research comes after the Institute for Fiscal Studies found that schools in England are facing their first real-terms funding cuts in 20 years, reductions that the Public Accounts Committee warn are threatening to undermine the quality of education in English schools.

In addition to this, almost two-thirds (65 per cent) of the secondary school heads polled said that their school had cut back on teaching staff to save money.

Four-fifths (80 per cent) also said they had cut back on either teaching staff or teaching assistants and 50 per cent said they had cut both.

Twenty-one per cent of primary school heads reported that their school had got rid of teaching staff, and over half (54 per cent) said their teaching assistants had been cut.

The research also asked teachers their priorities for spending their pupil premium funding.

Most teachers cited early intervention schemes (27 per cent), followed by more one-to-tuition (12 per cent) and teaching assistants (12 per cent).

But just four per cent of all teachers cited pupil feedback as a priority while one per cent said peer-to-peer tutoring.

Almost a fifth (18 per cent) of teachers said they don’t know what their school’s main priority for pupil premium spending is.

Sir Peter Lampl, founder and chairman of the Sutton Trust, said: “Our new polling adds to the growing evidence from highly credible sources that the squeeze on school budgets is having a detrimental effect on schools.

“Of particular concern is that schools are having to use funding for poorer pupils to plug gaps in their finances. Many are having to get rid of teachers to close these funding gaps.”

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