Before I start, let me explain the image of the fish! Some of you may recognise this fish as a herring – a red herring as it is often described as. (Sorry to the fisher folk out there that will know that a red herring is not actually a fish.)
It is my belief that pupil premium plus (PP+) is a ‘red herring’ when it comes to getting the right support for adopted children in schools. It can become an unintentional distraction for parents! I will explain why I believe this a bit later.

So, why is it sometimes a problem to get the right support for adopted children in school?
This is a BIG question with many answers often rooted in a lack of understanding of the needs of adopted children in school settings and school’s not getting ‘it’ (see my first blog). This is by no means all schools – there are many out there that are doing great things for pupils with additional needs, including those who are adopted.

After the need for schools to get ‘it’ in regards to the needs of adopted children, the use of PP+ is high up there on the topic of conversation amongst adopted parents. Common questions include:

• What is Pupil Premium / Pupil Premium Plus and what is it for?
• How should it be spent to meet the needs of adopted children?
• Is it ring-fenced for the individual child?
• Do parents have a say about how it is used?

I also asked people on twitter what one question they wanted to know about pupil premium. I have answered many of these as part of this post and included other specific ones at the end in a question and answer section.

What is Pupil Premium and what is it for?
Pupil premium was introduced in 2011 to help address the poorer attainment of 3 groups of children:

1. Deprived (those eligible for free school meals (FSM), and from 2012 any child eligible for FSM at any point in the last 6 years.

2. Looked-after children (LAC) were included in the pupil premium payments from 2011. In 2014 children who had left local authority care as a result of adoption, a special guardianship order, or a child arrangements order (previously known as a residence order) were included under the same heading as LAC. This group is often referred to as post looked-after children (PLAC)

3. Service children – allocations made for children of parents linked to the armed forces – there are various eligibility criteria.

There are different rates of payments made to schools for these three groups.
The LAC group (which includes PLAC) has usually been funded at a higher rate.

For 2018-2019 the rates are (per eligible child):
– Deprived: £1320 (Primary), £935 (Secondary)
– LAC and PLAC: £2300
– Service children: £300

As you can see there is an extra £980 for LAC / PLAC on top of the Deprived PP rate. I would like to say that this is a reflection of the additional needs LAC and PLAC have but it has a lot to do with how LAC are funded from government. (If you are interested in this you can read the House of Commons Briefing Paper on the Pupil Premium which was published in December 2017)

Full details about the pupil premium allocations can be found in the “Pupil premium 2018 to 2019: conditions of grant” Published 19 December 2017.

So, how should pupil premium money be spent?

Firstly, it is important to note that the conditions of grant guidance DOES NOT give any information on the specific use of pupil premium for adopted children.

I believe this is one reason why the support for adopted children is not always there and why so many parents have been frustrated about how PP+ is used for their child.
The actual term ‘Pupil Premium Plus’ also does not appear in any of the main pages associated with ‘Pupil Premium’ and as such most schools will simply have this payment absorbed into the larger ‘pupil premium’ pot and use it for their overall provision. The overall provision is then very much dependent on each school and may or may not be used to address the types of needs specific to adopted children.
The main line in the conditions of grant states that the grant may be spent, “for the purposes of the school; that is, for the educational benefit of pupils registered at that school”.
Schools will mostly be following the guidance and, as the main driving force for the use of pupil premium is to close the attainment gap, it is this area that is the focus of most of the money in a lot of schools.

For looked after children the guidance is more specific and states that the money should be: “used without delay for the benefit of the looked-after child’s educational needs as described in their personal education plan.”

The Pupil Premium guidance directs schools to The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) as the place to go in selecting the type of suitable provision for spending the pupil premium on. The EEF has produced a teaching and learning toolkit which aims to help teachers and schools use the pupil premium effectively to support disadvantaged pupils.
This is great in terms of general school policy making and approaches, and is a tool I’ve used to ensure the approaches we take for teaching and learning have some research and evidence behind them. This however is the only place the pupil premium guidance refers to for additional advice for ‘using the pupil premium effectively’. There is no mention of the specific needs or the ‘effective use’ for adopted children. Again, this is a problem when this is a page that schools would go to for information regarding their pupil premium.

From the chat on Twitter and Facebook and from talking to many adoptive parents I find most parents with adopted children prioritise their child’s emotional wellbeing over their academic performance and more interested in how schools can support this area.
This is completely understandable, as you can see from the Adoption UK report into Exclusions that was published in November 2017 – the rates of social and emotional difficulties amongst adopted children is far greater that the general population.

Adoption UK report into exclusions, p8

In the absence of specific guidance for schools on the DFE main pupil premium pages for the use of PP+ for adopted children, schools may need some direction on this. There are some useful guides out there that parents could pass onto the ‘Designated Teacher’. The effectiveness of these would be demonstrated through the impact on the child (see later about other measures of success).
Some guides that could be useful are:
Square One Attachment  has produced A guide to using the pupil premium plus grant effectively. This identifies the types of difficulties that adopted children may have, what interventions may be suitable, and an idea of cost.
PAC-UK   has also produced a good summary document: Pupil Premium Plus: A PAC-UK Education Service Guide.
And Adoption UK have also published an Introduction to the Pupil Premium Plus
BAAF (now CorumBAAF) and the DFE also produced: pupil premium for adopted children – case studies which have some useful studies on how the work with parents can help ensure the right support is received.

Many of the best ways schools can support adopted children are as a result of developing a whole school approach to meeting the needs of adopted children through the development of appropriate trauma informed policies, procedures and provision. Some things that support adopted children cost very little –for example getting the whole community of staff to know that the primary objective for a particular child is to boost their self-esteem and make them feel as safe and as happy as we can in school. The staff can then ensure they notice this child and engage them in specific agreed ways. Do not underestimate a child receiving a smile, hi ‘name’ and some specific praise about their behaviour – very smart walking etc. but also and probably more important about them: ‘hi Dave, I’m really glad I’ve bumped into you (big smile and eye contact for Dave – hold their gaze) – Mrs. X said you’d been to see the new film about xxxxx; is it any good? I was thinking of seeing it?

A whole staff can quickly have a massive impact on one child! Of course it’s not always as simple as this and many children will require more specific interventions and support.
If we want more wholescale change in regards to PP+ spending for adopted children we need to continue to campaign with the DFE to make it clearer on how PP+ should / could be spent for adopted children and put this on their main PP website.

Overall my advice for schools would be to invest in training and people. Well trained people make the difference through effective relationships and appropriate interventions. You can see more about this is my first blog: How Schools can become attachment aware.

Is pupil premium plus ring-fenced for the individual child?

I would urge parents of adopted children to not get too hung up on Pupil Premium Plus but to change the conversations to: “These are my child’s needs – can we discuss some things that would help him/her?”

This is where I believe Pupil Premium Plus is a red herring for adopted parents. From Twitter and Facebook forums I often read discussions around schools not utilising the pupil premium plus effectively for their child. My strong belief is that, regardless of where the money comes from, schools have a duty to do whatever they can to meet and support the needs of all pupils, and particularly those with additional or specific needs – which includes adopted children.
Ideally, if a child needs a specific provision – key adult, additional resources, training for staff etc. – this should be provided – regardless of the specific funding pot the money comes from. This can be a challenge in schools with many struggling with the financial pressures they are under. This however is not the fault of the child who requires support and schools need to prioritise spending where they can (including the use of PP) on meeting these needs.

So, is PP for individual children?

The simple answer for the first part of this question is NO; the funds are a collective pot to be spent and allocated in the ways the school feels would benefit the children in order to reduce the attainment gap.
There is however new guidance that will give additional strength to the overall requirement to meet the needs of adopted children and I believe that this is more important than the specifics of how the pupil premium plus is spent.

The two pieces of legislation that are key to understand in the broader context of meeting the needs of adopted children are:

The designated teacher for looked-after and previously looked-after children – Statutory guidance on their roles and responsibilities published in February 2018 by the Department for Education
Keeping children safe in education – September 2018

Both of these documents go some way to putting a stronger duty on schools to receive appropriate training and meet the needs of adopted children. I would urge all school leaders and adopted parents to read the designated teacher guidance as this provides a lot of information about the role of schools to meet the needs of adopted children. I may write a separate blog just about this document, but for the purpose of this blog I will focus on where the guidance refers to the use of PP+.

There is a whole section on designated teacher guidance about the Pupil Premium Plus; Paragraphs 39-47 and the first part of this section sets out the belief of the DFE as to the purpose of the PP+ by stating that the funding is provided “to help improve the attainment of looked-after and previously looked-after children and close the attainment gap between this group and their peers.”

I completely understand why it is written in this way as there is a huge gap between the attainment of LAC and PLAC and other children. Unfortunately, for some schools, they will again see this as needing to provide ‘academic’ support exclusively and not include the use of this for supporting the emotional needs – which will inevitably lead to better academic outcomes in time!

At my school we have clearly seen the impact of supporting the social and emotional needs of pupils as a priority and a big part of our pupil premium spending is used for this. Our pupil performance data for children with social and emotional needs show their achievement is in line with other pupils – this is achieved by having the pastoral and emotional support, attachment friendly approaches and great quality teaching – it’s not simply about more academic interventions or a free ipad!

In the guidance, there is some suggestion of using the PP+ to help build self-esteem and relationships in a table as part of paragraph 46 and although the guidance overall is useful – I don’t think it is clear enough or goes far enough to guide the use of the PP+.

Paragraph 8 states that ‘Governing bodies should, through the designated teacher, hold the school to account on how it supports its looked-after and previously looked-after children (including how the PP+ is used) and their level of progress. In some schools, designated teachers do this by providing the governing body with a regular report. The patchy nature in the numbers of looked-after and previously looked-after children in any one school means it would be best to have a flexible approach to providing such a report.’

Again – the mention of ‘level of progress’ without any additional guidance suggests a focus on academic achievement, although having to report on how it ‘supports’ adopted children is a positive step forward.

This again is why I say the PP+ is a red herring because if you ignore the PP+ and concentrate on the broader message in this new guidance you are likely to have more success in working with schools.

My priority would be to identify who in the school is the designated teacher and arrange a meeting with them. At this time they may not be aware of this new guidance as it often takes a while to get somethings known in schools – so you may need to bring it to their attention.

Later in the document there is a stronger awareness of the mental health needs of adopted children as paragraph 54 states:

‘Looked-after children and previously looked-after children are more likely to experience the challenge of social, emotional and mental health issues than their peers. For example, they may struggle with executive functioning skills, forming trusting relationships, social skills, managing strong feelings (e.g. shame, sadness, anxiety and anger), sensory processing difficulties, foetal alcohol syndrome and coping with transitions and change. This can impact on their behaviour and education.’

This document is a very good start in raising the expectations of schools in regards to supporting the needs of adopted children – but in relation to PP+ it is a shame it doesn’t reference the use this in supporting the Mental Health and Pastoral needs of adopted children.

Do parents have a say about how PP+ is used?

The simplest answer is No! But, there are a few things I would say you could do!
The first thing is to build the relationship with the school to enable your voice to be listened to and not just heard.

The second thing would be to look for broad impact strategies that can be built on – for me this is whole school attachment training. If schools have not had this I would expect the PP+ money to be used to at least train a few key people and preferably the whole school.

Also, be as specific as you can be with schools as to what you feel would help your child. Back it up with information from other professionals – especially of you have access the adoption support fund. For example you may want to improve your child’s impulse control or specific aspects of executive functioning. Get the provision planned around this.

Finally, make the link to achievement if needed (especially for those schools who are more about academic achievement that social and emotional support). If you can show that once your child feels safe / is regulated then their learning outcomes will increase. The school may be more willing to support their emotional needs when they see this!
Remember, there remains a huge knowledge gap in many schools about attachment and developmental trauma and as such many school are not aware of the best ways to support children who have these needs or the impact that certain traditional approaches can have on these children.

Remember parents and schools can contact the Virtual Head for their area who now has the requirement to: “make general advice and information available to early years settings and schools to improve awareness of the vulnerability and needs of previously looked-after children. This should include promoting good practice on identifying and meeting their needs, and guidance on effective use of the PP+.” Paragraph 52 of “Promoting the education of looked-after children and previously looked-after children – Statutory guidance for local authorities – February 2018”

If you wanted to get an idea of how a school is spending their pupil premium you can look on their school website as there is a requirement for schools to publish how much PP they receive, how it is spend and the impact this has. Although, there is no requirement to list how much PP+ funding is received as a separate allocation or how this is used.

The official guidance states:

You must publish a strategy for the school’s use of the pupil premium.
For the current academic year, you must include:
• your school’s pupil premium grant allocation amount
• a summary of the main barriers to educational achievement faced by eligible pupils at the school
• how you’ll spend the pupil premium to overcome those barriers and the reasons for that approach
• how you’ll measure the effect of the pupil premium
• the date of the next review of the school’s pupil premium strategy
For the previous academic year, you must include:
• how you spent the pupil premium allocation
• the effect of the expenditure on eligible and other pupils
Taken from:

In summary:
Parents: Don’t get too hung up on how schools are using the PP+ – focus more on working with the school to ensure they are meeting the needs of your child.
Schools: Read the new guidance, act on it, and engage parents in identifying what needs the child has and how these can be best met.


Additional questions from twitter:

QUESTION: “How do you monitor, assess & report on the impact of the interventions on individual adopted children – particularly non-cognitive outcomes as well as their academic performance?” @hazeyjayneone

ANSWER: This is where schools need to ensure they are collecting other data about children. Many schools will have other assessment tools that will cover social and emotional needs. Resources such a FAGUS ( or the use of the ‘Strengths and Difficulties questionnaire ( ) as just two of such ways to collect data and report on the progress children make.

QUESTION: “Why is raising attainment in pupil health and well-being not given as much priority as literacy and numeracy ? Too hard to measure ? 😒Maslow before blooms !” @jackiemaciver

ANSWER: I believe the main answer to this is the constant pressure schools are under to get ‘academic’ outcomes for pupils. Schools need to have the confidence to focus on other needs such as the social or emotional needs – or at least run this support alongside the academic input. It can be hard to measure but there are tools out there to do this. There is also other data schools can use to demonstrate the impact – such as behaviour tracking, attendance – which all tells a picture.

QUESTION: “As staff, how can we avoid PP becoming a short hand for how they should all be supported by schools – how do we keep the individualistic approach with each student? (I’ve heard ‘oh they’re PP so they’ll be/need X” too often…)” @AdeleJBates

ANSWER: There is importance is looking at the group as a whole to evaluate whole school approaches and practice but we have found that by starting with individuals most of the group data takes care of itself. The overall group data just helps check if any groups are falling behind. The PP is also a red herring for staff in schools – always go back to each child and think – ‘What do they need?’ ‘Is it more that the general provision?’ and ‘What can I do to help?’

QUESTION: “Why is PPP funding not available for private schools? Many parents are having to remove their children from state schools and pay for private education to try and meet the needs of their child. Same for home ed although understand potentially very difficult to manage.” @glitternails2

ANSWER: I guess the answer to this is in 2 parts; firstly private schools are not eligible for the funding because they are out of the government direct control, accountability and funding arrangements. The only option for some parents to send their children to private schools in order to get their needs met is a much bigger discussion and probably relates more to my other blog about schools getting ‘it’ in relation to adopted children.

QUESTION: “If specific spend is depending on a child’s ‘needs’ and PP+ for post-Lac pooled with general PP, is it acceptable for a post-lac child that seems to be getting on ok (but there are always things that can support further), not to be receiving very much from their ‘plus’ benefit?” @anisadejong

ANSWER: This is a really interesting question and one that may not actually be a popular answer. But if a Post-Lac child is getting on okay then they may not appear to be getting much or anything from their ‘plus’ amount. In reality the ‘plus’ amount is only small and is unlikely on its own be particularly useful. It is the pooling of this money that can often be used to provide additional staff and resources that will be there ready as and when the post-lac child needs it. This ‘extra’ member of staff may also be being used to do things that are not specifically logged against the spend (Check ins with pupils, smaller groups (not necessarily with the Post-Lac child but would then make the other group smaller) etc.
In the designated teacher guidance there is a sense that post-lac need support regardless – and this includes those who are doing okay but could do even more!

QUESTION: “One more question: what is the role of @NAVSH_UK and how informed are they? In my area @VirtSchl_Kent website info on adoption does not mention PP+ once! In fact the rep at a post-adoption event wrongly said PP+ is only for LAC, not post-LAC.”

ANSWER: NAVSH are a charity who are working hard to support and drive policy change in relation to the role of the Virtual School Heads (VSH). The VSHs are responsible for the education element of LAC children and more recently to advise parents and school on the education of adopted children. After hearing a talk from NAVSH at the Adoption UK conference in November 2017 I feel they are extremely knowledgeable – they are not in charge of the VSHs but instead offer a service to them.

QUESTION: “How can we ensure PPP is there at transition? Academic and financial years clash but is there anyway schools could transfer funds? A child starts sch in Sept, at sch A in Jan moves in March, will not get funding at sch B until April, following year, 5 terms after starting sch.” @JulieJSq1

ANSWER: Indeed – this is always a challenge and as schools hold the PP+ funding for post-lac it is just one of those funding things. The same happens for all the pupil led funding for a child. If they are not there in the Census – you don’t get the money. The same works the other end when children in Y6 leave in July for example, schools that get their budgets in April they will have this money but the secondary school won’t until the following April. It’s just the way the funding works. It goes back to the red herring about the PP+; from a parent’s point of view – don’t worry so much where the money is coming from – focus more about how are the needs of my child going to be met.

6 thoughts on “Pupil premium – Why it can sometimes be difficult to get the right support for adopted children in schools

  1. An interesting read Stuart & very pleased to read that Attachment & Trauma friendly is becoming more of a mainstream approach. I started talking to schools 12 years ago about the multiple needs of adopted children & in time those subject to SGO. The services currently available exceed what I might have imagined possible. Perhaps a way to go but a long road travelled to reach this place. All good wishes to you in your many roles in life.


  2. Great blog, and a very helpful overview of various PP+ issues. I love herring too (see more at the end).

    Ideally, all schools would improve their knowledge and expertise in these areas, prioritising all children’s social and emotional needs. HOWEVER, sadly not all schools really want to do this, or even believe this is the way forward. There is a huge diversity in school leadership – not only in terms of practice but also in terms of ethos, values and pedagogic approaches. Adopters cannot always know in advance which school has the genuine willingness to engage and develop in this way, nor can they always practically access such schools.

    Moreover, there is an implicit pressure and responsibility placed on adopters to not only educate and inform schools about our own children, but even to get schools to shift policy: that can be a huge task. Whilst there are many adopters – often those with relevant professional experience – doing a fantastic job in this respect, there are also many, many adopters exhausted of seeking to educate/engage/convince/‘fight’ various ‘systems’ already: post-adoption support; Adoption Support Fund; therapy; speech and language; CAMHS; SEN support; EHCP; contact arrangements; medical appointments; disability services, the list goes on. And that does not even cover the significant daily emotional input and support many of our children need: the therapeutic parenting; the dealing with violence and trauma; the strategies for the neuro a-typicals; the educating ourselves and, of course, keeping on top of the all-important self-care especially for those of us suffering from secondary trauma.

    Yes, ideally all schools do better on the emotional and mental health front, but that does not necessarily take away from the need to keep Pupil Premium Plus focused on the adopted pupils it is intended to support.
    Indeed, schools have a duty to “do whatever they can to meet and support the needs of all pupils”, just like CAMHS have a duty to do care for every child with a mental health need, and the NHS for every person with a medical need etc. In an ideal world all provision is made (timely) “regardless of the specific funding pot the money comes from”, but unfortunately we do not live in an ideal world and the trough is not limitless. As you rightly point out – schools are under challenging financial pressures. As a result, funds – as well as other resources – are restricted and choices need to be made. At the moment these choices are influenced mainly by the results on which schools are judged (closing the attainment gap), and their beliefs in what might work best to get those results.

    NOT ring-fencing in some (many?) schools means – on the one hand – that those pupils that are least likely to help a school get these results, yet most likely to take up resources, will fall by the waste side. Call me cynical, but I do not think it is a coincidence that the exclusion rate, especially of children with ASD and other SEN, has gone up since the new SEN funding block is not ring-fenced for SEN children! In terms of ‘result per penny’, they simply cost a school too much. But I digress.

    On the other hand, not ring-fencing also means that those adopted children that ‘get by’ despite the challenges; that manage to ‘keep it together’ in school, and be at the ‘expected’ level, will not get additional support in school. Some adopted children manage to get there (sometimes only after many years) because of the enormous input of their parents: they give up work to therapeutically parent; they pay a private tutor or supplement teaching at home; they arrange therapy (and go to therapy themselves!); they ‘hold’ their child together to get through the school day; they pick up the pieces after school, etc.! This is what we do as parents of course, but really some of the pressures could be taken off by targeting the PP+ spending on our children, even when they do ‘get by’. This doesn’t have to be all individual spend, sometimes it can be a ‘pooled’ provision as long as our adopted children are guaranteed to benefit. The amount is not insignificant: relative to the current mean spend per pupil which is around £4800, a premium of £2300 is actually very, very substantial.

    With all due respect – and I truly admire the work you do – I find your call to parents of adopted children to “not get too hung up on Pupil Premium Plus” but to “change the conversations to: ‘These are my child’s needs – can we discuss some things that would help him/her?’” a little patronising. Whilst I have no empirical data, I don’t think many adopters – like pigs at the trough – would simply want money spent on their child regardless. I think many adopters, as well as other SEN parents, relentlessly knock on schools doors begging them to support their child’s needs. However, many are told there are no funds available, or that their child is not the priority.

    Having a ring-fenced pot may go some way in shifting the power dynamics in these conversations.
    I would say PP+ is not always so much an “unintentional distraction” from focussing on our children’s needs, but rather often a potential tool to finally get some leverage with schools and get them to listen and provide relevant support for our children who really could do with a boost whether they are ‘attaining’ or not.

    On the topic of herring: being Dutch I prefer mine raw, but in the UK people seem to like them smoked (as a result of which they turn red: kippers). In my view PP+ is not so much a kipper/red herring that could divert hunting dogs from the scent on a trail, but rather a potentially nutritious meal that should not be left marinating in the communal barrel for too long.


  3. We have a school where the head often uses the phrase, “all children do this” and will not focus any resource at all on our adopted child despite identified needs. We are considering withdrawing their right to identify our child as adopted and therefore claim PP+, is that reasonable?


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