From being strategic to identifying the needs of individuals, here are five ways school leaders can make the most of funding for free school meals students.
One of the biggest current concerns for senior leaders is how to manage students who are eligible for free school meals (FSM). It’s at the top of Ofsted’s checklist and has become a weapon in the armory of what some headteachers call the tyranny of judgment.
A students’ academic achievement is hugely influenced by their background and level of advantage or disadvantage. The relatively recent introduction of the pupil premium was a significant shift in educational aims in England, moving from the idea of universal entitlement to one of a minimum acceptable standard with no excuse for lack of achievement linked to disadvantage.
We run the risk, however, of viewing schemes like the pupil premium as a panacea both for educational standards and the social disadvantages affecting FSM pupils. There is a risk that the pupil premium could become a blunt instrument that solves a teaching and learning problem with an economic lever. This can only be indirect at best; increasing resources to schools according to the number of FSM pupils is a shotgun approach. Although much of the funding may find its target, some will miss and some will be aimed at the wrong place. Only a focused use of the premium and careful evaluation will increase its efficacy.