Northampton school criticised for misusing its disadvantaged pupils money hires leadership assistant with fund cash

A Northampton school has stood by its decision to spend part of its pupil premium cash on recruiting a leadership assistant despite strong criticism from Ofsted about how it spends the funds.

Friday, 6th January 2017, 4:04 pm
Updated Monday, 9th January 2017, 1:01 pm
Weston Favell Academy was criticised for the way it spent its pupil premium in the latest Ofsted. It has since hired an assistant to manage the spending of its pupil premium.

Last month, watchdog inspectors placed Weston Favell Academy in Special Measures, after finding serious issues with governance and teaching there.

In particular, the report criticised leaders’ use of "pupil premium" spending and Year 7 literacy and numeracy catch-up funding, which it said had "not been effective." Pupil premium is additional funding for publicly funded schools in England to "raise the attainment of disadvantaged pupils of all abilities and to close the gaps between them and their peers.

At Weston Favell, about one in four pupils are eligible for free school meals, which would equate to around £300,000 in pupil premium funding.

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The Ofsted report went on to say leaders had not "safeguarded the school’s finances or ensured that pupil premium funding or the Year 7 literacy and numeracy catch-up funding makes a difference for the pupils who are eligible."

The watchdog prompted an external review of the way the premium is spent.

However the Chronicle and Echo has learned that since the review was launched, the school has used some of the funding to hire a seconded post to the school's extended leadership team, to "lead and manage" how the premium was spent.

School operators, the Greenwood Academies Trust, said this only equated to a fraction of overall spending. But a source close to the school contacted the Chronicle & Echo because they were concerned not all of the pupil premium funding was going to be spent directly on the pupils.

A spokeswoman for the trust said: "As part of the ongoing support to the Weston Favell Academy from the Greenwood Academies Trust, a thorough review of Pupil Premium spending has been carried out.

"The proportion of pupils who are eligible for pupil premium (PP) funding at the academy is much higher than the average and the review concluded that the academy needed to allocate a member of staff to lead and manage PP."

When asked whether creating the post was an appropriate use of the pupil premium monies, the spokeswoman said: "Many schools and academies use the funding in this way, particularly when they have such a high number of eligible students.

"To put the cost into context, it was £3,000 which equates to less than one per cent of the academy’s PP budget. The impact of this role is already evident from the robust reporting of the impact of the 2015/16 funding and the detailed plans for expenditure in 2016/17."

Weston Favell Academy is challenging the outcome of the recent Ofsted inspection through the official complaints procedure.

The spokeswoman said the academy "accepts that in previous years the use of PP spending has not been effective," but said: "it is now confident that it is efficiently monitored and addresses the needs of eligible pupils."