What is the Pupil Premium and how Effective is it?

The Pupil Premium provides extra funding to schools to improve the educational outcomes of disadvantaged children in England and Wales.

Both Local Education Authority Schools and Academies in England and Wales get the following Pupil Premium Funding (2022 to 2033 figures)

  • £1385 (primary) or £985 per pupil who is eligible for Free School Meals (or who has been eligible within the last six years)
  • £2410 (primary and secondary) per pupil who has been adopted from care or left care,
  • £2410 (primary and secondary) per pupil who is looked after by the Local Authority.

Payments for the first two above are paid directly to the school ( the later to the LEA) and school leaders have the freedom (and responsibility) to spend the extra funding as they see fit.

Approximately two million school children qualify for the Pupil Premium:

How the Government expects schools to spend the Pupil Premium?

There are three suggested areas:

  1. General teaching – school leaders are allowed to just spend money from the Pupil Premium on recruiting more teachers or support staff, or training.
  2. Targeted Support for disadvantage pupils – this is probably what you imagine the funding being spent on – things such as extra tuition in small groups for specific children, probably those who generate the Pupil Premium
  3. Wider areas – such as Breakfast Clubs or helping fund the cost of educational trips

Accountability…

Schools are required to publish online statements outlining how they have spent their Pupil Premium Funding.

Pupil Premium: The Theory

The pupil premium is the main government policy to tackle the educational underachievement ‘caused’ by material deprivation.   

This educational policy recognises the fact that children from disadvantage backgrounds face more challenges and achieve lower grades than children from more affluent backgrounds.

Children who are eligible for Free School Meals are from the lowest 15 – 20% of households by income, so they will probably be living in relative poverty, and some of them will be experience material deprivation.

The government gives most of the money straight to the schools with such disadvantaged children, allowing school leaders to pick a strategy that they think will work best for their school, as one solution won’t work for every school!

The Pupil Premium: Does it Work?

This 2021 Parliament Briefing summarises seven reports on the attainment gap and the effectiveness (or lack of it) of the Pupil Premium.

On the positive side, it notes that the attainment gap (between disadvantaged and non disadvantaged children) has come down in the last ten years, since the Pupil Premium was introduced, BUT this trend alone doesn’t necessarily mean it was the Pupil Premium which led to this.

Moreover, the report notes that the recent school closures following the government’s choice to lockdown the nation as a response to the Pandemic have almost certainly impacted disadvantaged children more, and it’s unlikely that the Pupil Premium will be sufficient to make up for this.

Besides this vaguely positive note, there is a lot of criticism of the Pupil Premium too, and four  stand out:

  • Firstly, a lot of schools are spending the money to plug gaps in school funding, so not targeting it at disadvantaged students, but just spending it on general school needs.
  • Secondly, many reports point out that lack of school funding is the problem and the Pupil Premium doesn’t make up for this.
  • Thirdly, a lot of the money, where targeted, is being spend on Learning Assistants, but apparently this isn’t the most efficient way to help disadvantaged students.
  • Finally, some reports criticise the accountability aspect, schools don’t have to be too specific in outlining how they spend the money.

Links to A-level Sociology

This is relevant to educational policies and can be used to evaluate New Right approaches to education as the Pupil Premium was first introduced by the Right Wing Coalition Government.

It is also relevant to the education and social class topic, but be careful as the Pupil Premium is only designed to tackle material deprivation, not class inequalities or differences more broadly, and relative deprivation/ material deprivation are only one aspect of the more broader concept of social class.  

Find out More

The Pupil Premium government webpage

The Pupil Premium Briefing Paper, House of Commons Library, March 2021

Covid-19 and the Increase in Illegal Schools.

Back in 2019 OFSTED estimated that around 6000 pupils were taught in unregistered, illegal schools in England and Wales.

The most common type of unregistered schools offer ‘alternative provision’ – 28%, while 25% are general educational schools and 21% are religious (although the media tends to focus primarily on the later!).

Since Covid-19 OFSTED have been unable to do anything about such illegal schools, with many of the remaining uninvestigated, and many more seem to have emerged, probably as a response to children’s education having been disrupted due to the Pandemic.

It is illegal to run a school which is not registered with OFSTED, and to to so is a criminal offence which may result in fines or a prison sentence, but this hasn’t put people off setting such schools up, or put some parents off sending their children to them.

The problem with unregistered schools, according to OFSTED is that they may fail to have adequate checks in place when recruiting staff, lack adequate safeguarding provisions and not put sufficient resources into teaching the ‘British Values’ agenda.

However it seems like illegal schools may continue going forwards as Local agencies lack the power to investigate, so it’s down to OFSTED, and apparently they don’t have the power to shut down illegal schools which are performing below standards anyway.

Even if the people running them face prosecution, which is rare, the penalties handed out don’t appear to be very tough – in one example in which two people were prosecuted – they only received suspended prison sentences and a tiny fine, and that’s after having been caught once before and ignored the instruction to desist running the school!

Relevance to A-level Sociology

This topic is clearly relevant to the education module, and could also be applied to Crime and Deviance.

The existence of such ‘illegal schools’ shows us that there isn’t consensus across the education system as there are hundreds of teachers and parents willing to avoid OFSTED.

You could apply labelling theory to this – these schools are only illegal because OFSTED exists and there is a legal requirement to register – just because OFSTED labels them ‘illegal’ doesn’t mean they are bad schools.

In fact you could say it’s fair enough that such schools have increased (probably, it’s difficult to count!) since Covid-19 – given the disruption to education in regular schools, and what I can only imagine is an extremely stressful environment which is very unpleasant to be in, maybe it’s BETTER that some parents and teachers are ignoring the rules and setting up their own ad-hoc schools.

Don’t go falling into the trap/ myth that formal-‘legal’ state sanctioned ways of doing things are the best or only options!

Invalid Official Statistics on Volunteering?

I caught an episode of Woman’s Hour last week in which the presenter kept mentioning that according to a recent survey 62% of people in the UK had volunteered in the last week, and inviting people to discuss their experiences of voluntary work.

The survey in question (excuse the pun) was the Volunteering and Charitable Giving Community Life Survey 2020-2021.

The show was then peppered with references to people’s volunteering efforts, such as working with the homeless at Christmas, staffing food banks, helping out with the Covid-vaccination efforts and so on.

And such examples fit very well with my own imagination of what ‘voluntary work’ involves – to my my mind a volunteer is someone who commits an hour or maybe more a week (I have a low bar in terms of time!) to do something such as the above, probably in conjunction with a formal charity or at least other people as part of a team.

But I just couldn’t believe that 62% of people did that kind of voluntary work last year.

And it turns out that they don’t

The government survey (a form of official statistics) that yielded these results distinguishes between formal and informal volunteering.

The former type: formal volunteering is what I (and probably most people) think of as ‘real volunteering’ – it was these kind of things the Woman’s Hour presenter was interested in hearing about and publicising.

However, only 17% of people did formal volunteering last year…..

Just over 50% of people did ‘informal volunteering’ but this has a VERY LOW BAR for inclusion. Basically, if you babysat your friend’s kids for one day at some point last year, you get to tick the box saying that you did ‘informal volunteering’.

This basically means that ANYONE with a young family has done what this society defines as ‘informal volunteering’ – I mean surely EVERY FAMILY babysits once in a while for their friends – this is just normal parenting – children have friends, parents want a day to themselves every now and then so you ‘babysit swap’ – or sleepovers, technically you could count having your friends’ children over for a sleepover with your own kids as ‘having done voluntary work’ in the last year’.

Add formal and informal volunteering (/ mutal parental favours) together and you get that 62% figure that the Woman’s Hour presenter was talking about.

However to my mind 62% is a completely misleading figure – 17% is how many people ACTUALLY volunteer every year!

It’s a bit annoying TBH – as also in the ‘informal volunteerin’ category are things such as buying shopping for someone who can’t get out of the house and that’s LEGIT, or valid volunteering in my mind, but the category is too inclusive to give us any useful data on this.

Relevance to A-Level Sociology

This is a wonderful example of how a definition which is too broad, in this case what counts as ‘volunteering’ can give a misleading, or invalid impressing of how much actual voluntary work really goes on in the UK.

This survey is a form of official statistics, so you can use this example to be critical of them.

it is possible that the government officials deliberately made the definition so broad so as to give the impression that there is more community spirit, or more of a ‘big society’ around than there actually is – because if there’s lots of community work and voluntary work going on, it’s easier for the government to justify doing less.

However, even with these very broad definitions, the trend in volunteering has still been going down in recent years!

A Merry but Secular Christmas!

A YouGov Poll conducted last year in 2020 shows that the majority of those who celebrate Christmas (and Easter) in the UK do so in an entirely secular way.

The survey results provide some useful evidence to support the view that religion does not play a significant role in British society, as this traditionally Christian and religious event seems now to have lost its religious meaning for the majority of people.

These findings are mainly relevant to the beliefs in society module, especially the secularisation debate.

Below I share some of the findings from this recent survey. NB the Survey looked at both Christmas and Easter, but i only report on XMAS below, ’tis the season, after all!

The Declining Significance of Religion at Christmas

According to YouGov’s sample of almost 2000 people, 61% of them celebrate Christmas in an entirely secular way.

And while 31% say they ‘combine the religious and secular’ at Christmas, if you look at what people actually do, only 20% of them go to Church with 10% reflecting on the meaning of the Birth of Christ, and there must be some kind of overlap between these, so some of those 30% above may say they mix the secular and religious, but at least some of them don’t actually do anything to express that religiosity!

I quite liked this alternative way of measuring ‘religious attitudes at Christmas’ – 71% pay no attention to what the Pope or Arch Bishop of Canterbury say at Christmas…..

Although this doesn’t necessarily measure people’s level of belief, because you can be religious and yet no believe in religious authorities, but this does show us low levels of interest in formal religious hierarchies.

TBH I’m surprised that 27% of the population do pay some attention, I expected that to be lower.

Finally, the perception people have is that Christmas is becoming less religious….

While it’s interesting to know what people think, remember that questions about perceptions don’t tell you what’s actually going on, just what people think is going on!

Sources/ Find out More

You can find out more about the results from this YouGov survey here.

China’s Anti-Privatisation and Anti-Global Education Policy Changes

China recently banned for-profit tutoring after school for 5-15 year olds. This means that private companies who charge parents for tutoring their children can no longer operate.

This news is very relevant to both the sociology of education and the topic of globalisation.

The ‘banning’ of foreign companies is part of a broader Chinese-strategy to reduce homework for 5-15 year olds in order to make school less stressful and give children a more balanced childhood.

New guidance from the central Chinese Communist Party says that no homework should be give to children in grades 1 and 2, with only 90 minutes a day being given to those in the later years of their schooling.

The guidance also states that schools and parents should take steps to ensure that children are not spending too long on their electronic devices, they are getting some physical exercise and they should promote their mental well-being.

Private tutoring can still take place but it has to be run by non-profit companies with a physical base in China.

The changes mean that many foreign education companies who ran online zoom-based tutorial lessons have had to shut down.

NB some parents are already getting around these measures by employing live-in tutors!

Sociological Analysis and Relevance to A-level Sociology

At first glance this looks like China finally developing a more child-centred approach to education, like has been the case in Britain for decades, and especially the last 20 years, where safeguarding policies are extremely well established.

This looks like what me might call ‘social progress’ as China moves away from its ‘extreme’ education system – with its very long hours for children in school and with most (75% in 2016) children doing further study after school and at weekends.

Another possible reason behind these changes is China’s Ageing population – after years of policies which restricted the numbers of children families could have (such as the one-child policy) China now has a rapidly ageing population, but people are no longer choosing to have lots of children because they are expensive, partly because of parents having to spend so much money on tutoring due to the highly competitive education system.

By strictly limiting the amount of private tutoring and banning for-profit tutoring altogether, this should reduce the cost of having children and possibly encourage parents to have more children!

This is also an example of reversing the privatisation of education – the Chinese State has made it a lot more difficult for private foreign companies to operate in China – they now have to register through a non-profit Chinese company with a physical base in China. It’s not an outright ban, but has already meant many foreign companies just given up on China.

This also seems to be an example of a reversal of the globalisation of education…with China to restrict access to foreign education companies, preventing money flowing from wealthy Chinese parents out to foreign companies, and is an example of protectionism by stealth.

In the same vein, this is also an example of a move away from neoliberalism.

Find out More/ Sources

China Briefing (2021): Regulatory Clarity After China Bans For Profit Tutoring in Core Education.

Reuters (2021) China Bans Private Tutors from Given Online Classes

Why is China Cracking down on Private Schools?

See this post on a ‘Chinese School Experiment‘ done in the UK for an insight into how ‘extreme’ Chinese education can be.

Sociological Perspectives on the 2020 Downing Street Christmas Party

There seems to be increasing evidence that around three dozen people attended a party at Downing Street in December 2020, shortly after tier three lockdown restrictions were introduced.

These lockdown rules explicitly prohibited people from having social gatherings (like Christmas Parties) and even prevented people from visiting their relatives who were in care homes or hospitals, meaning, quite literally, that in some cases the government lockdown rules meant some people never saw their close family members again.

And during that time a few ministers and downing street officials were breaking these rules, partying, and laughing about it, as well as now denying it ever happened, despite mounting evidence that this incredible double standard took place.

This Sky News Report below offers a useful summary of the issue and is also particularly damning of those involved, it’s kind of hard not to be!

Clearly this is a deviant act on the part of a small minority of powerful people within government, but how can we apply sociological perspectives to this event?

Functionalism

Errrrr…. I’m struggling with this one.

According to Functionalists, crime is supposed to promote positive functions by increasing social integration and regulation, but that simply isn’t the case here – this just turns people against the supposed leaders of our country, creating a sense of division not only between the public and themselves, but also within the Conservative Party.

This event seems to challenge the relevance of Functionalism – it seems to suggest that for Downing Street there is one rule for the plebs and another for themselves, which isn’t anything to do with integration, won’t help with maintaining social order and just doesn’t sit well at all with the whole Functionalist framework.

Marxism

A key Marxist idea is that we have selective law enforcement. This is certainly the case here.

Some people were prosecuted for holding parties during lockdown 2020, the same time as this Downing Street Party took place, presumably the Home Secretary himself knew this was taking place and yet no one was prosecuted here.

Although now this is out in the open, where the Media are concerned, they are very damning of Downing Street, so there isn’t any Agenda Setting going on atm!

Postmodernism

There is something a bit surreal about this event – it’s taking place largely in the media – how else could it be?

There is also a level of uncertainty about who attended the party, and the government is being very evasive, but maybe that’s not so much postmodern it’s just the government lying like it does so much of the time.

This is also a great example of traditional power structures being challenged by the media.

Having said this one thing that isn’t postmodern is the public reaction – surely no one can support this, people being united against the government’s own deviance. (But this ISN’T support for Functionalism it’s very different to what they envisaged.)

And this also says to people ‘stuff the rules, just do what you want, we did!’

The party at number 10 – final thoughts

This really is just tragic. One rule for them, another for us plebs.

Sociology aside, how can anyone feel anything but repulsion over these double standards?

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Spiritual Abuse – its relevance to A-level Sociology

Spiritual abuse can be defined as the weaponisation of religious beliefs in order to coerce or control someone who shares that same set of beliefs.

This may take the form of someone with power within a religious institution using their position of authority to manipulate their congregation or followers into doing what they want them to.

However it can also occur in domestic settings, with one more dominant partner using religion to exert coercive control their partner and/ or children. In most cases it is the male partner (husband) controlling the female partner (wife).

The concept of religious abuse, and the unfortunate existence of it, is most relevant to the Beliefs in Society module within A-level sociology,

Examples of religious abuse include..

  • Authorities not allowing Divorce even when there is rape within marriage.
  • The interpretation of religious texts to justify physical and economic control over another person.
  • Men hiding women’s head coverings so they can’t go out.
  • Using religious beliefs to shame people into behaving in a particular way.

Religious Abuse…. Relevance of the concept to A-level Sociology

The fact that religious abuse happens both at an institutional level and within domestic settings suggests that religion is used as a form of control, and thus is support for mainly feminist perspectives on religion.

HOWEVER, we need to be careful about how strong this evidence is – while there are no doubt cases of religious abuse, there are no statistics on them, so we have no idea of how widespread religious abuse is.

Also, the fact that we are finally seeing the concept being discussed suggests that more conservative, traditional religions are being challenged and thus losing power, which supports some postmodern views of religion.

The increasingly vocal sources criticising traditional religions views and ‘labelling’ them ‘abusive’ basically saying that such views are only one interpretation among many and the victims of such abuse are free to take on their own interpretation and ‘break free’ of cultural and domestically imposed ‘spiritual abuse’.

The very existence of a discussion which challenges such abusive practices makes it less likely that people will be prepared to put up with being victims in silence, even though being a victims is still obviously grim, and getting out of the cycle of such abuse can still be very challenging when you are trapped within it, very much a case of ‘easier said than done’.

Spiritual Abuse: Find Out More!

There is a useful definition of Domestic Abuse here at the National Domestic Abuse Hotline.

This article puts spiritual abuse in the context of Covid-19.

Dr Maryyum Mehmood is one of the main dudes studying the concept in the UK today.

The Ben Kinsella Trust – A Useful Resource for Knife Crime Teaching Resources

Knife Crime statistics have remained stubbornly high over the last few years, and this is in spite of ongoing campaigns to reduce it.

One such organisation which campaigns to reduce Knife Crime is the Ben Kinsella Trust, named after a teenage victim of Knife Crime from 2008.

The charity has produced numerous teaching resources aimed at key stage four students focussing on the laws surrounding carrying knives and the consequences of carrying them.

Unsurprisingly it has a very victim centred focus, featuring lots of videos with victims of knife crime.

Relevance to A-level Sociology

This is obvious relevance to the Crime and Deviance module and I see two uses to teachers – firstly, some of the resources can be downloaded and adapted, there’s lots relevant to the topic of victimology especially.

Secondly you could get students to analyse the work of the trust itself – getting them to consider how effective such campaigns are, and why they exist.

It does seem somewhat unfortunate that it’s left to the relations of a murdered teenager to spend the rest of their days campaigning to reduce knife-crime, after all.

One would hope that either progressive social change would reduce such incidents OR the police would have sufficient funding to tackle knife crime and at least hold it level (rather than seeing it increasing like it has done recently), but neither of these seem to have been the case, hence why we have a need (a function, in functionalist terms) for charities such as the Ben Kinsella Trust.

It’s a tough one this – a charity doing very positive work, but honestly I’d rather there were no need for it in the first place!

Evaluating Apprenticeships in England and Wales

There are currently around a million people doing Apprenticeships in England and Wales, and about one in seven of the current workforce is either doing one or has done one as part of their training, but how effective are apprenticeships today?

If it is possible to generalised, what are the strengths and limitations of modern apprenticeships?

Strengths of Apprenticeships

This 2021 government report on apprenticeships points to the fact that standards of apprenticeships have risen in recent years, with a new minimum length of training being one year, the increasing number of advanced apprenticeships, and more rigorous monitoring.

The public sector is also now heavily involved with apprenticeship training and there is a commitment to ensuring apprenticeships are supporting diversity and social mobility.

Interviews with small firms who have taken on apprentices recently point to a number of benefits of doing so such as:

  • Being able to meet increasing demand in a cost effective way. Apprentices can help to boos productivity.
  • Increasing diversity of skills and challenging set ways of thinking – apprentices with new skills and fresh ways of looking at things can establish new innovative ways of working and challenge the status quo in a company, keeping it dynamic.
  • Being able to mould future leaders of a company – some employers like taking on young apprentices especially as they can train them appropriately over a series of months and years to go into management positions.  

For many employers taking on new apprentices is going to for a key strategy of rebuilding after the pandemic. Apprenticeships are well suited to helping both businesses and individuals recruit and retrain after the disruption caused due the government imposed restrictions on work during the Pandemic.

Limitations of Apprenticeships

Some recent research by the London School of Economics suggests that apprenticeships are stalling –– the increasing of the minimum training time to one year is possibly linked to this, interestingly, the introduction of the Levy on employers in 2017 doesn’t seem to be correlated.

There has also been a shift towards apprenticeships being directed more towards the over 25s and away from the more disadvantaged, as the number of higher apprenticeships has increased compared to intermediate.

The report also notes that not all of the available funding (from the Levy) is used.

Some apprenticeships were also disproportionately affected by the government’s chosen response to the recent Pandemic – most notably those related to travel and hospitality, although that’s not a criticism of apprenticeships themselves as such, just something to be aware of! (some apprenticeships can’t work effectively when there’s a government imposed lockdown going on!

Trends in Apprenticeships England and Wales 2021

Apprenticeships are a form of Vocational Educational which have become increasingly popular over the last decade.

Although the number of people doing them has levelled out and declined slightly in recent years around one third of people engaged in Vocational Education in England today are doing an apprenticeship.  

In this post I simply summarise some of the recent trends in Apprenticeships in England and Wales to 2021.

Recent Trends in Apprenticeships

There were just over 250 000 Apprenticeship starts between August 2020 and April 2021, with 657 000 people doing apprenticeships and almost 100 000 people completed apprenticeships achieving a related qualification in the same period.

Taking the longer-term view, there have been almost 2.5 million apprenticeship starts since 2015, and almost 5 million since 2010.

Last year’s figures  are down slightly on the long term trend, which correlates to changes in funding introduced in 2017, although correlation may not mean causation. Some of the recent dip in starts can also be attributed to the Pandemic (like short term declines in many things!).

The number of higher apprenticeships has grown in the last 3 years compared to intermediate apprenticeships. Today, approximately 30% of apprenticeships are advanced, with 20% being intermediate and 20% higher.

Of the apprenticeship starts in the last year –

  • 53000 were aged under 19
  • 74000 were aged 19 -24
  • 125000 were aged 25 and over.

So while you might think that apprenticeships are mainly for the young, half of them are undertaken by adults, presumably undergoing some kind of retraining.

The two main areas in which people do apprenticeships are in business and administration and  health and public services. The next larges category is Engineering, but this is a long way behind the first two….  

Analysis of these statistics

Apprenticeships now make up a significant part of the Vocational landscape, with 5 million people in the UK either doing or having done an apprenticeship, that is around 1 in 7 of the UK Workforce!

The fact that the numbers of apprenticeships is levelling out is probably due to their having reached saturation point – they couldn’t keep on growing forever – eventually the numbers have to plateau because the workforce isn’t constantly increasing, thus you wouldn’t expect the numbers of apprenticeships to increase forever either.

The fact that half of all apprenticeships are taken up by over 25 year olds suggest they are playing a key role in helping people to retrain in later life and change careers. Maybe one of the functions of apprenticeships is that they help workers adapt to an ever-changing postmodern economy with its flexible labour market.  

Apprenticeships also seem to be growing in status, with an increase in the relative number of higher apprenticeships, which are degree level qualifications.

On the other hand, many apprenticeships are also in low-skilled work such as the care sector.

One possible criticisms of the apprenticeship landscape is that there isn’t a huge amount of diversity – the majority of them are in business and administration and public sector/ care work.

But at the end of the day, whatever we think about Apprenticeships they are probably here to stay!

Apprenticeships: find out more

These are the latest apprenticeship statistics

This is a nice data visualisation tool on apprenticeships which will make exploring them further much more fun!

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