How to use Pupil Premium Funding for Social and Emotional Support

Exploring the growing need for social and emotional support as part of educational recovery in the wake of the pandemic is crucial. Here we examine the kind of interventions that will help deliver such support to children, helping build resilience, by making the most of pupil premium funding.

The pupil premium is a grant given by the government to schools in England to decrease the attainment gap for the most disadvantaged children. For many primary schools, the pupil premium forms a sizeable amount of the school budget.

Schools now face significant challenges to ensure its continuing success. The pandemic has disrupted education like never before and the road to recovery will require robust strategies. The pressure is intensified as pupil premium spending must cover social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) needs, as well as supporting disadvantaged children by contributing to catch-up opportunities.

Changes to the conditions of the pupil premium funding/grant mean schools will have to justify their spending through additional checks, and there will now be greater focus on evidence-based interventions.

What kinds of interventions and activities can support social and emotional learning and development?

The SEL curriculum should be sequential, active, focused and explicit (SAFE), and ensure continuity through all year groups and stages of development.

Strategies for SEL in primary schools should target skills that have been underdeveloped in children due to the Covid-19 lockdown. In addition, teachers and support staff should be offered training to take a trauma-informed approach to education as part of recovery from Covid-19.

An example of an SEL intervention is focusing on the ways in which students work with (and alongside) their peers, teachers, family or community. While teacher-led activities are very important, they should be combined with other forms of learning and interventions. These can include peer-to-peer collaborations and schemes that are away from the classroom.

There are three broad categories of SEL interventions identified by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF). These are:

  • Universal programmes generally taking place in the classroom
  • Specialised programmes that are targeted at students with particular social or emotional needs
  • School-level approaches to developing a positive school ethos, which also aim to support greater engagement in learning


Activities to support mental health and wellbeing could include:

  • Coaching children to recognise how they feel or how someone else might be feeling
  • Conflict-resolution and guiding students through the steps to help them apply a skill in a new situation
  • Enabling students to practice group decision-making by setting classroom rules together
  • Teaching reflective listening to pupils

Schools should carry out an assessment of social and emotional capabilities and evaluate the impact of SEL interventions.

The EEF has found that SEL interventions have an identifiable and valuable impact on attitudes to learning and social relationships in school, with an average overall impact of four months’ additional progress on attainment.

Examples of best practice and positive outcomes

Case studies shown in the EEF Guide to The Pupil Premium demonstrate examples of pupil premium in action. These include:

Springfield Junior School: With a third of pupils eligible for the pupil premium funding at this school, additional resources were dedicated to teachers’ development and pupils were provided with extra enrichment PSHE sessions. The interventions were adapted to suit the context of the school. Last year 90% of the school’s Year 6 Pupil Premium children achieved the expected standard in reading, writing and maths.

The Aspire Educational Trust: This trust of 10 primary schools adopted an evidence-based approach to improving the oral language skills of disadvantaged pupils. They used the EEF’s Guidance Reports (Improving Literacy in KS1, Improving Literacy in KS2 and Preparing for Literacy) to address barriers relating to vocabulary. The EEF Toolkit’s Oral Language Interventions section showed an average impact of +5 months with an extensive evidence base. The Trust found that disadvantaged students were able to access the curriculum more effectively and confidently, in contrast to previous years.

Implementing a pupil premium strategy

pupil premium strategy only works effectively when a holistic approach is taken.

This is the conclusion that Sir John Dunford found when he spent two years examining what works best, acting as a channel of communication between the Department for Education and schools. He found that the most successful schools used a range of strategies that were also targeted to meet individual needs.

The 15 strategies recommended by Sir Dunford include:

  • Collecting, analysing and monitoring data on groups and individual pupils
  • Focusing on teaching quality
  • Identifying key barriers to learning for disadvantaged children
  • Engaging with parents and carers
  • Referring to existing evidence about the effectiveness of different strategies


Keen to learn more?


Join the EEF, NFER, Inclusion Expert and more, at the Pupil Premium Conference 2022 on 13th July in Central London!


Learn more and register: