In considering the introduction of the Pupil Premium from a Special School perspective, one of the challenges we faced was in evaluating the degree to which the social background of the pupil affects achievement. In doing this we needed to consider to what extent the social background is either a greater limiting factor than the learning disability, or the extent to which it provides different challenges to those posed by the learning disability.
The reason for this is that there are interesting questions, within the context of Special School provision, regarding how the additional funding can be utilised in such a way as to have a meaningful affect on individual achievement for its target pupils. This is because the barriers to learning are primarily developmental rather than social, and they affect all pupils within the school, not just those from particular social backgrounds.
In essence, learning disability is a social leveler 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 also looked beyond the school and beyond the notion of achievement being focused on the acquisition of skills and knowledge, but also about the application of that which has already been learned. This was where we could see that the pupils’ social background may begin to influence their ability to maximise their potential, particularly around the further development of socially appropriate behaviours and socially based communication.
This has been directly focused on the recipients of the Pupil Premium, but not exclusively so. These types of opportunities are of value to all, so whilst we may be prioritising those pupils who qualify for the Pupil Premium, it is not at the expense of others. This helps to promote the school’s philosophy within the local area, working to develop a community-wide belief in the potential of the pupils we work with and recognition that they have both the right and the ability to be active contributors to the community in which they live. In our case the Pupil Premium is directly targeted at those who qualify for the funding, but the impact of what it is enabling us to do is being shared by all.