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A cautionary note on measuring the pupil premium attainment gap in England.

Gorard, S. (2016) 'A cautionary note on measuring the pupil premium attainment gap in England.', British journal of education, society and behavioural science., 14 (2). pp. 1-8.


This exploratory paper uses figures from the National Pupil Database for England to assess the known characteristics of three categories of pupils – those never eligible for free school meals, those who have been eligible but are not now, and those eligible now. It shows that these groups display a clear gradient in terms of special education needs, English as an additional language, and formal qualifications at age 16. The group currently eligible for free schools meals is geographically stratified, faces on average more educational challenges, and gains worse results than the group that had once been eligible but is not now. This shows that we cannot expect the same results from schools with more permanently poor pupils as from schools with many pupils on the threshold of poverty or who move in and out of poverty during their school careers. These findings could be crucial for the rules on how the pupil premium is allocated to schools, and to current policies based on assessing the pupil premium gap in schools, including the work of OFSTED, RAISE, the National pupil premium Champion, and various school awards. Many of the calculations underlying such policies will be unintentionally misleading, and unfair to certain regions and individual pupils.

Item Type:Article
Keywords:Pupil premium, Attainment gap, Free school meals, Poverty gradient, Social justice.
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Publisher statement:© 2016 Gorard; This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Date accepted:04 January 2016
Date deposited:01 February 2016
Date of first online publication:15 January 2016
Date first made open access:No date available

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