Research School Network: Context is key – detailed diagnosis for stronger pupil premium strategy planning How to create an effective Pupil Premium Strategy


Context is key – detailed diagnosis for stronger pupil premium strategy planning

How to create an effective Pupil Premium Strategy

Mari Palmer is a head teacher in a small rural primary school and Director of North Yorkshire Coast Research School. She explains the importance of detailed diagnosis to inform an effective Pupil Premium Strategy.

Being a headteacher comes with a great deal of responsibility.

It’s easy to understand why: schools are often the heart of a community – performing a variety of different roles for the families in our respective local contexts.

This is certainly true for our rural primary school, which is a focal point of the surrounding village.

To provide this support, it’s crucial for us to know our school community, and understand the challenges they face.

Delving into the Data

A key priority for any school is making sure that all children, particularly those from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds, are given every chance to thrive. The pupil premium is one of the most important tools we have to achieve this shared goal.

The first step in developing an effective strategy for pupil premium spending is diagnosing the specific needs of particular disadvantaged children in our setting.

An important part of working in a small rural school is supporting staff and others to understand that disadvantage exists here and what it can look like.

We ask ourselves, Who are the most disadvantaged children in this cohort?’ and, What kind of disadvantage is evident?’. This could include pupils who are in receipt of pupil premium but could also include others.

Analysing outcome data – looking closely at our socio-economically disadvantaged pupils’ progress against national benchmarks – is incredibly important when starting to plan an effective pupil premium strategy. Other vital internal data, including attendance rates and SEND needs, as well as information on wellbeing and safeguarding, also help to build a picture of the current needs of our most vulnerable children.

Looking at data headlines is an essential first step, but delving deeper into what lies behind the data is vital to unpicking the barriers our disadvantaged children are facing. As headteacher, I don’t do this alone: these are shared discussions with colleagues. Becoming expert in our pupils’ is what we aim for.

Pupil premium planning: A case study

During a recent refresh of our pupil premium strategy, we noticed that many of our pupil premium eligible children also had special educational needs – particularly speech and language difficulties.

Through talking to parents, we tried to find out the reasons behind this. These conversations revealed that pre-school settings in our rural context are a fair distance away from where children live and that with the lack of public transport, regular attendance was proving a challenge.

We followed these conversations up with in-class assessment to identify precise learning gaps, before consulting the evidence base to identify a promising approach that could help to tackle these struggling learners. As a result of this research, we decided to implement the Nuffield Early Language Intervention (NELI), a structured programme with a proven record of supporting young children’s emerging communication and language skills.

5 questions for guiding your data analysis

  • How have you gained a thorough knowledge of your disadvantaged pupils’ attainment?
  • How have you compared attainment and progress of disadvantaged pupils in your school against national benchmarks?
  • For disadvantaged pupils whose attainment is below age-related-expectations in your school, what is hindering this? How do you know?
  • What contextual challenges are disadvantaged pupils and families in your school facing?
  • What internal data and insights from colleagues have you used to gain detailed understanding?

Only when we have spent time diagnosing specific children’s needs, using all the information available to us, can we, as a staff, start to plan an effective pupil premium strategy. Until we have diagnosed the problem, we cannot plan the solution.

The EEF Guide to Pupil Premium is a practical guide to support schools to develop their pupil premium strategy based on the best evidence, and to meet updated DfE requirements. Click here to find out more.

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