EXTRA teaching, milk, school trips, iPads and anti-bullying efforts are among the ways schools have been spending funding aimed at helping disadvantaged pupils. Most pupil premium funding is being spent on staff time, both for teaching or other support, Advertiser research suggests, including attendance officers to make sure children are at school on time. The funding was introduced by the Government in 2011 to reduce inequalities between students from different social backgrounds. Schools get a fixed-sum for every pupil eligible for free-school meals at any point over the past six years, or looked-after for more than six months. This year (2013/14) schools received £953 for primary-aged pupils, and £900 for secondary-aged pupils. Susan Papas, head teacher of Heavers Farm Primary School in South Norwood (allocated £233,170 in 2013/14, compared to £115,255 the year before), says the money has helped reduce "significant inequalities" her school has seen in attainment levels between children from different backgrounds. She added: "Families who have little money often don't have the resources to give their children the range of opportunities that their wealthier peers might enjoy. "For example, holidays, visits to the big London museums and theatres. For example, lLast year we organised a whole school trip to the beach as over half of our children had not seen a beach before. We have also taken two year groups to the opera. It is experiences like this which we believe give our more vulnerable pupils experiences to draw on in their academic work." Hers was one of several schools to spend on computer equipment, splashing out £30,000 this year on iPads, for all pupils to use, helping with their research, writing and other basic skills. "We also have a range of strategies in place to ensure that our most vulnerable pupils have more access to these devices than other pupils," she added. Both Heavers Farm and Selsdon Primary have invested money in anti-bullying efforts, with Heavers spending £1,000 to "improve teacher and adult understanding of bullying". "We have seen a dramatic reduction in the number of bullying allegations made in school over this year," Ms Papas added. Applegarth Academy, in Fieldway, is among many to spend on improving attendance, with £12,000 of its £223,600 allocation this year going on an "attendance officer and educational welfare." The primary school says persistent absences have more than halved since last year (March 2013 to March 2014), while the number of children whose attendance is below 90 per cent has fallen from 64 to 28. It has helped families re-housed far away to get to school, maintaining attendance for three families put in emergency accommodation outside of the borough. The school has also spent £10,000 on books, encouraging more pupils to read. The biggest spend of pupil premium funding for many schools is on teaching and staff time. Spending this financial year at South Norwood Primary, for example, includes £63,030 on a phonics teacher, £24,000 on an extra teaching assistant for reception, and £13,000 on a part-time English-as-an-additional-language teacher. Della Williams, head teacher of the school, which has been allocated £238,500 this year, says the funding has had a "significant" impact. She added: "Due to the additional interventions that we have been able to introduce, this impacts the children's emotional wellbeing which obviously underpins all aspects of their development. "Self-esteem is a huge factor in limiting progress in learning; once this starts to improve, we can then expect an improvement in the rate of progress." "However, this can be a lengthy process for some children and they need regular support." The funding is paid via local authorities to schools under their control and by the Government to academies and free schools. A spokesman for Croydon Council's school improvement service said: "Croydon has generally seen the [attainment] gap closing, and we are in a better position than some other outer London boroughs." He added: "A picture has emerged showing how high proportions of low-income or disadvantaged pupils does not have to equate to low attainment."
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