Inclusive Governance - Spotlight on Pupil Premium and Free School Meals

Do you want to ensure disadvantaged children are given an equal and equitable experience in education? As a school governor or academy trustee, you can make an impact.

School governors and academy trustees offer oversight on the distribution of funding such as pupil premium and free school meals. In recent years, the number of pupils eligible for free school meals has risen, amounting to 2 million pupils in total or 23.8% of all pupils. It’s also estimated that 2.2. million pupils currently qualify for pupil premium. This is why your input is needed now more than ever.

In this blog, we’ll offer some background on the types of funding available for disadvantaged children, as well as the role you can play in improving their educational experiences. Namely, how you can ensure all children feel represented and included.


Free school meals 

Disadvantaged primary and secondary school aged children get free school meals if their caregivers meet any of the following conditions: 

  • Receive income support, income-based jobseekers’ allowance or income-related employment and support allowance. 
  • Receive support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. 
  • Receive Child Tax Credit (as long as they’re not entitled to Working Tax Credit and have an annual gross income of no more than £16,190). 
  • Receive Universal Credit, earning less than £7400 as a household a year. 
  • As well as other conditions outlined on the website. 

As with many of the subjects covered in our Inclusive Governance blog series, research suggests that children in receipt of free school meals are more likely to experience bullying than their peers. This is where school governors can make a difference in their school, by asking questions about whether anti-bullying policies are inclusive to everybody.

To support these discussions, we’ve released some important resources as part of our ‘Boards Against Bullying’ campaign. You can use these webinars, articles, strategies, and free eLearning modules to tackle bullying as a school governor or academy trustee.


Pupil premium 

Pupil premium funding aims to help disadvantaged pupils achieve by providing extra money for schools. This funding is available to local authority maintained schools, academies, free schools, and non-maintained special schools. In the 2023-2024 financial year, pupil premium funding is estimated to be £2.9 billion nation-wide. Funding is allocated to schools depending on how many disadvantaged pupils the school has. 


Effective uses of pupil premium

Schools determine where the money they receive from pupil premium goes. However, there are limits on the allocation of spending. Any purchase MUST fall into one of the following categories, to improve the educational experiences of children at the school:

  • Supporting high-quality teaching: Pupil premium can fund professional development opportunities for staff to learn about supporting disadvantaged pupils. This includes students with disabilities such as dyslexia, ADHD, autism, or dyspraxia, to name but a few. Funding can also be directed towards hiring more teaching staff to provide one-to-one support, covering for temporary staff absences, as well as other professional development opportunities.
  • Providing targeted academic support: Pupil premium is an opportunity to subsidise tuition for those who need it. This means making educational trips more accessible and offering one-to-one tutoring support. Additionally, pupil premium can pay for educational resources such as textbooks or classroom equipment to support students’ learning needs. As the world becomes more digitally-focused, investing in IT resources can also be a great use of funding. 
  • Tackling non-academic barriers to academic success: Schools can use the funding to provide well-being initiatives. This could include counselling services, pastoral care, or even mental health provision to ensure students can overcome the external challenges that impact on their education. This money can also be spent on resolving attendance or behaviour issues.


Pupil premium and the role of school governors/academy trustees

School leaders are usually the best people within an educational institution to assess pupil’s needs. As a result, they decide where funding should go. The role of a governing board is oversight. As a school governor or academy trustee, you can ensure spending is targeted at the right places and has a positive impact on the attainment and progress of students who need it most. This includes:

  • Asking questions to school leaders about the needs of the students in receipt of pupil premium and where the money should be best spent.  
  • Having meaningful discussions in board meetings on the effectiveness of current initiatives this money is being spent on. School governors can then review whether funds would be better allocated elsewhere. 
  • Ensuring you understand what pupil premium is, how it’s calculated and allocated. School governors should also be aware of which groups receive pupil premium, how the school spends it, as well as its impact on targeted groups, their attainment, and the progress of eligible pupils compared to others. While this is not a legal requirement per se, having knowledge of these areas will support you in your strategic role.


Become a school governor and support our campaign

If you want to see all children thrive, regardless of their background, then we can support you to become a school governor. You can find out more about the role or apply here.

Want to find out more about the impact you can make? You can also sign-up to our next Introduction to Governance webinar here. 


Additional resources for Free School Meals and Pupil Premium: