Within the context of Mainstream provision, the focus of spending the Pupil Premium funding is firmly on the recommendations of the Sutton Trust’s research.
Now everybody is doing meta cognition.
But Special Schools don’t appear to be included in the research, so who has evaluated the effective use of Pupil Premium in Special Schools, what is considered to be economically sound, high impact practice for children with learning disabilities?
One of the questions that we in Special Education should be considering regarding the use of the Pupil Premium, is the extent to which the socio-economic background of the children is either a greater limiting factor than their learning disability, or the extent to which it provides different barriers to those posed by the learning disability.
The reason for this is that there are questions regarding how, within the context of Special School provision, the additional funding can be utilised in such a way as to have a meaningful impact on individual achievement for those pupils at which it is targeted. This is because the barriers to learning may be primarily developmental rather than socio-economic, and those developmental barriers affect all pupils within the school, not just those from particular social backgrounds.
In essence, learning disability is a social leveller and whilst incidence may be affected by social background, social background does not necessarily influence the impact of the learning disability.
In exploring how we could make best use of the Pupil Premium, how we could add value, we should consider looking beyond the school and beyond the notion of achievement being focussed on the acquisition of skills and knowledge, but also about the application of that which has already been learned, in particular within functional contexts.
This is where the pupils’ socio-economic background may begin to influence their ability to maximise their potential, particularly around the further development of socially appropriate behaviours and socially based communication.
As one example, access to effectively staffed, developmentally and age appropriate social opportunities can be limited, expensive, and potentially logistically challenging for families without private transport. Yet without access to these types of social experiences, there is a risk that children may not be enabled to functionally apply the social and communicative skills being developed in school.
Therefore if we consider that access to suitable social experiences is a barrier to fulfilling pupil potential, then how can we use the Pupil Premium funding to overcome it? Where is our ‘Toolkit’ to guide us and how can we be better held to account for the impact of the funding we are allocated?