Research School Network: Implementation matters: addressing disadvantage in schools with low numbers of pupils eligible for The Pupil Premium addressing disadvantage in schools with low numbers of pupils eligible for The Pupil Premium


Implementation matters: addressing disadvantage in schools with low numbers of pupils eligible for The Pupil Premium

addressing disadvantage in schools with low numbers of pupils eligible for The Pupil Premium

Marc Rowland, Unity Research School

Over the last three years I have had the privilege of working with The Buckinghamshire Challenge, a collaborative with the objective of upskilling schools in the latest research and understanding and to support schools to undertake the cultural changes that will make the biggest differences to all pupils, but especially those who are vulnerable or disadvantaged.

Our handbook, published this month, shares evidence, insights and guidance drawn together through the project so far and seeks to empower school communities in this essential focus.

Disadvantage is dynamic and we know that disadvantage extends beyond those pupils eligible for Pupil Premium funding. The following extract draws attention to an often-asked question: how can we best address disadvantage of the low numbers of pupils we have who are eligible for the Pupil Premium?

Addressing educational disadvantage is not a problem. It is a privilege. It will need strong partnerships across our education community. This is true for everyone: selective or non-selective schools and their leaders. pastoral experts and curriculum leaders, Early Years practitioners and experienced secondary teachers, Early Career teachers and governors, local authority officers and external organisations. It will need the acceptance that we can do better, not because we are doing badly, but because the effectiveness of our schools is best measured by how our educationally disadvantaged pupils perform. That can be better.

Evidence from across the country highlights the importance of a number of principles and practices underpinning an effective response to addressing educational disadvantage in schools where low numbers of pupils are eligible for the Pupil Premium:

A good education, with the qualifications to show for it, can transform lives for the better. Conversely, young people who finish their studies without attaining the expected standards will struggle both in further study and the world of work. Education Endowment Foundation Attainment Gap Report

Getting the climate right through teacher agency, shared understanding, shared ambitions. Through building strong relationships, having high expectations. It may be even MORE important to be mindful of these issues where the majority of children are growing up in families with more stable, higher incomes.

• A risk of making presumptions about pupils’ prior experiences, or the lives they are living may be higher. Some families may feel excluded if access to the other curriculum (formal and informal) is linked to social or financial capital. Be wary of social isolation of families. All school families, across the socio-economic spectrum, are part of efforts to ensure social inclusion.

• Ensuring that all staff, irrespective of roles, understand how low incomes impact on the school experience. Think of these families first, however few they may be, when making decisions or plans. See school life through the lens of low-income families, and those that may be less confident about having a voice in the school community. Where families may be less confident in advocating on behalf of their child, for many complex reasons, teachers and leaders need to advocate for the pupil.

• It is always important to remember that some families will always struggle to engage with school life. There are lots of complex, acute, or systemic reasons why this may be the case. It is NOT because those families are less well off. Avoid generalisations about families, or labelling pupils.

• That accurate assessment of need, based on the needs of individuals, provides useful information for teachers and leaders to ensure precise responses, rooted in early intervention. The earlier the intervention, the more likely pupils are to thrive in the school community. Strategies should focus on helping pupils be better learners. Assessments should help inform:

o Teaching and learning strategies
o Targeted academic support
o Personal development
o Pastoral care

• With more limited resources, working with other schools or agencies may be necessary around enrichment, pastoral care, expert input around key issues such as SEMH.

• Each are essential to ensure that disadvantaged pupils are experiencing meaningful success and thriving on a day-to-day basis. Be mindful, particularly with targeted academic support, about how pupils may perceive themselves, and how their peers may perceive them. Be wary of how families may perceive intervention. Always be clear and unequivocal about the why.

• Be wary of making presumption about prior knowledge, language and communication, friendships, learning behaviours, whether pupils are experiencing success in the classroom or wider school life. Pupils may well learn to mask and give the veneer of success, particularly around high performing peers. Ensure that disadvantaged pupils get at least equitable access to high quality, well trained, expert staff.

• Avoid targeted academic or pastoral support which is not aligned to the needs of pupils. This is particularly important when an adult may be an expert in a particular approach, but that approach is not tightly aligned with the needs of the pupil. This can be a risk with more limited finances in school.

• Evaluate the effectiveness of approaches based on the impact on pupils, not whether actions have taken place. Pupil and parent voice, about being included and experiencing success academically, and socially, is most helpful.

• Take care using percentages of pupils achieving a particular standard to measure success or otherwise. Ensure all assessment data, diagnostic and summative, is meaningful for teachers and leaders.

See low pupil numbers as an opportunity, rather than a problem. Be an expert in pupils!

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