Press Release -
What is Priority Literacy?
Literacy support to improve English results at KS2 and KS4.
by Derby Research School
The 1st December has quickly come around meaning not only did we tear open the first window on our advent calendars, but the countdown to finishing and polishing our strategy statements for 31st December is now on. As a Research School, our most ‘popular’ programme of work – for want of a better phrase – is our Making the Difference for Disadvantage Learners programme because of both how crucial it is to our work as leaders and practitioners, and the requirements around the grant conditions which can at times make us anxious that we just may have missed something.
Our work with each cohort is to address both needs:
1) the want to make a difference, have the biggest impact on the staff we work with, the families we serve and the pupils we teach.
2) the desire to do it right, dot all the ‘i’s and cross the ‘t’s and publish our strategy with confidence on the website for all eyes to see, including those of the Ofsted variety.
So, we hope we can take you on a little walk through some resources to support your journey, dial down the noise of the compliance questions running through our heads and allow us the space to focus on the work that matters the most to us – doing the best for our pupils. Here are a run down of our thoughts and recommendations to help you on your way.
The DfE Pupil Premium Website – perhaps a strange one to start with but let’s sate our need to know exactly what it is and isn’t that we are required to do. This DfE website amalgamates a string of resources and guidance to directly inform school leaders what the funding requirements are, including links to strategy templates and a pdf summary of guidance for school leaders (with the much discussed notes on ‘the menu of approaches.) A quick win to orient yourself on the key details.
The EEF Guide to the Pupil Premium – also a recommended read in the DfE’s PP Lead Guidance, this is a useful walk through of the best bets in evidence, sharing a model for the tiered approach and a synthesis of research. The 5 Step process mirrors the DfE guidance, offering frameworks and reflection points to support leaders.
The EEF ‘Menu of Approaches’ Evidence Brief – With the new recommendations last year to articulate the evidence base which underpins your strategy, this key documents supports leaders in how to maximise the ‘menu of approaches’ within the DfE guidance. It signposts to evidence-informed resources to each strand of the menu, providing a strong planning tool to leaders to critically evaluate their evidence-base. The associated poster is a nice visual representation connecting the tiered approach to the menu of approaches.
The EEF Discussion prompts for governors and trustees to support an effective strategy – a critical part of your strategy process which is echoed in step 3 of the DfE guidance is developing your strategy in partnership with your governors, academy trust leadership and trustees (if appropriate). Ensuring our governors have sufficient tools to provide robust challenge is a focus for all leadership teams – this guidance provides opportunities for discussion to consider how the school spends its Pupil Premium. The indicators of good practice offer a critical framework to support purposeful dialogue to champion strategic Pupil Premium spending.
The EEF Tiered Approach Planning Tool – a resource colleagues on our Making the Difference programme find useful is this planning tool. It represents a graphic organiser aligned with the tiered approach to help draft, reflect on and review your current practice and consider where you may have gaps based on a diagnostic analysis of pupil need or the evidence-informed principles in the menu of approaches.
When thinking about developing your strategy, the EEF’s guidance report on ‘Putting Evidence to Work: A School’s Guide to Implementation’ is a strong starting point for forearming us with the tools and principles for maximising the impact of our plans. Step 1 of the DfE’s guidance is to diagnose your pupils’ needs: Understanding your pupils, their families, and barriers to learning should be at the heart of your strategy to support disadvantaged pupils.
What is affectionately known as the ‘blue pages’, the four step model for gathering and interpreting data is a powerful tool to help us challenge how we drill down into our data story. It asks us to acknowledge that we may have initial assumptions which need to be challenged:
Confidently Identify a Priority
Gather Data that is Fit for Purpose
Recognise Weaknesses in the Data
Provide Credible and Plausible Interpretations
With lots of practical guidance and key questions to challenge our thinking, it’s a strong framework to help provide challenge.
Given the range of demands teachers and school leaders are faced with, keeping up to date with high quality evidence generated through research outside of school can prove challenging. If, though, you are going to make strategic school improvement ‘best bets’ based on a range of evidence, identifying credible evidence sources and reflecting on them critically is crucial.
Page 9 of the EEF’s Guide to the Pupil Premium presents us with three key questions to ensure we become critical consumers of the evidence base. We are invited to think of 3 qualities of the research: independence, relevance and purpose. Ensuring we use strong evidence to support our strategy was a key new addition to the strategy with the ‘Menu of Approaches’ and these three pointers are useful for us to challenge the research we engage with.
Hopefully the tools and resources above having sated the most dedicated of leaders with knowledge of the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of the Pupil Premium strategy. At this point, we want to consider further our ‘why’ – we need to be inspired and challenge to help us strive to craft a plan that is meaningful to our pupils in our school in our context. These are my two ‘go to’ texts when I want clarity and passion.
Marc Rowland’s ‘Addressing Educational Disadvantage in Schools and Colleges: The Essex Way’ – This is a phenomenally interesting book in so many ways – Marc seems to boil down so many factors and facts about how we plan to support our most disadvantaged learners into key concepts with really clear frameworks and tools to help translate in practice. The book not only offers concise summaries and a synthesis of the research to support school leaders, but details the extensive work undertaken in Essex to develop a review model to help schools evaluate their strategies. With so many practical take aways, this is a must read for PP Strategy Leads – including colleagues sitting at trust level supporting groups of schools.
Lee Elliot Major’s ‘Equity in education: Levelling the playing field of learning – a practical guide for teachers’ – Lee Elliot Major – the country’s first Professor in Social Mobility – is a fabulous speaker to listen to as he explain his personal journey and wealth of knowledge around the challenge of social mobility. He both inspires and challenges you and his new book allows you to examine disadvantage from multiple perspectives and gives practical advice and ideas to school leaders and teachers – a lens through which to make strategic decisions that could alter the life chances of children in their schools. Putting equity at the heart of its message, it’s a strong call to action for the education system.
“Every teacher needs to improve, not because they are not good enough, but because they can be even better.”
Whilst this is a well-known quote that adorns many a CPD policy, it’s absolutely worth coming back to and thinking about how we underpin our staff development with evidence to ensure it’s as impactful as possible. The principle that professional development should focus on the potential for continual improvement should be a corner stone of our school improvement strategy. Supporting high quality teaching is pivotal in improving children’s outcomes. Indeed, research tells us that high quality teaching can narrow the disadvantage gap.
However, the variation in teacher practice across a school is a significant barrier for school improvement initiatives and therefore deserves a focused plan to elevate the potential of our change plans. To support schools, the EEF guidance report on Effective Professional Development distils the evidence into 14 mechanisms across 4 areas to help schools consider if their plans represent a balanced design:
A useful guide to both evaluate your current approach and plan for future changes to help you translate your PP Strategy into action.
Director Derby Research School
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