Our school, Bay House School and Sixth Form, is different to a lot of schools. Its large size (more than 2,000 learners) and location mean that the intake of pupils is extremely diverse. The difference in “cultural capital" from child to child is huge. Some schools may be pitching their lessons entirely to “disadvantaged" or more privileged learners, whereas teachers at Bay House have to ensure that all of the pupils, regardless of their backgrounds, are engaged and catered for.
Although difficult to manage, everyone at Bay House endeavours to guarantee that every learner succeeds, with “high aspirations for all" being a message that is championed throughout the school. However, the Pupil Premium funding, implemented in 2011, has allowed those pupils with less cultural capital to soar, alongside those who were typically seen to have an advantage. Now the social and economic advantages, can be available for all.
Like most schools, we spent Pupil Premium on things like reducing class sizes and employing more members of staff in the English and maths departments; however, it was clear to our senior leadership team that something else needed to be done to maximise the funding and to ensure everything possible is done for the more vulnerable pupils at Bay House. Additionally, the debate regarding inclusion or withdrawal is something that has been a key issue for our school.
Out of that debate, the Pupil Achievement Tutors (PATs) were born. Primarily academic, our team takes on a holistic approach with our caseload – analysing the data of the vulnerable learners, diagnosing the areas for improvement, and working with pupils and classroom teachers to come up with schemes of learning which ensure that the attainment gap (between those who are eligible for the Pupil Premium and those who are not) is closed.
So far, the team has been a roaring success. Our team dynamic and the “safe place" that we offer has meant that the confidence, the attendance and the attainment of disadvantaged leaners is rising at a rapid rate.
This success is something that can be reflected in the swift expansion of the team. Initially an idea trialled by hiring graduates in English and maths, our team has grown into a hub of cross-curricular, academic and pastoral support. We are a strong team of PATs from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines. We are proud that we each offer something different to the learners of the school. All of the members of our team have a distinct teaching style and personality, which means every learner is catered for in some way or another.
Unlike other expenditure, the PAT team directly impacts just the Pupil Premium learners, meaning that there is a genuine and clear method in place to close the gap.
Our school prides itself on quality first teaching. However, we are aware that for some children that is not enough. We recognise that a lot of Pupil Premium learners require specific and individualised “Wave 3" intervention to allow them to work to their full potential.
The main advantage of our team is the flexibility that we are able to offer. We are able to accommodate the pupil with regards to both schemes of learning and timetabling. Our team is able to offer permanent withdrawal to a select number of pupils with extenuating circumstances which mean they are not comfortable in the classroom. These pupils have English, maths and science sessions with the team and “drop-in" sessions where teachers of other subjects are invited to see them.
Additionally, when it is examination time for the year 11 pupils, we are able to hold workshops which focus on key skills in English, maths and science, both before and after the school day. During these sessions we also look at developing memory and revision techniques, which benefit the pupils across the board and which the pupils say have encouraged them to become more confident and independent learners.
One of the key focuses of our team is to ensure that the intervention we provide is sustainable. The Pupil Premium funding is a blessing and we have recognised that we need do everything we can for our pupils to justify this funding for our vulnerable learners, while securing longevity for our team. This is something that can only be achieved by having a solid, whole-school approach.
In order to ensure that the intervention carried out is sustainable, the main role of our team is the intervention organised for the key stage 3 learners, where a whole range of skills are developed with the pupils. The initial process begins with data analysis: deciding who needs the help to progress.
When those pupils are highlighted they begin a coaching session. This is where we get to know the pupil and we discuss the current reality. Alongside the pupil, we look at where the learner is and where they want to be, and, together, we come up with an action plan to make it happen. This is a part of the role which is very rewarding for us. It is also something that the students have embraced, with one learner saying “it is great to have a say in the work I get to do".
We then are able to devise a targeted scheme of learning for the pupil to carry out over a six-week period, which carries both a low cost and a high impact. This will be an hour of withdrawal time per-week. During this time we have a clear plan of what it is we need to cover and what it is that the pupil should be able to achieve by the end of the intervention and we anchor this with a speech and language focus in-built in all of our interventions, which are developed to hone skills across the curriculum.
When it is time to complete the intervention we still schedule times to “check in" with the pupils and carry out observations to gauge the impact that the process has had in the classroom. As well as this, we also monitor the learner's data.
The role does have its challenges – it is a logistical nightmare! One thing that we have definitely learnt is that we have to make the most of the school day. We often hold targeted spelling and revision and memory workshops during tutor time as sometimes we can't always use the desired subject time due to timetable clashes.
Luckily, the literacy-based intervention sees pupils improve across the board and therefore learners can be withdrawn on a rotational basis across the curriculum. Not only is this beneficial for our planning, but it also highlights the importance of the transferable skills that are being developed across the school.
Having initially trialled interventions both inside and outside of the classroom it is clear that, for us, withdrawing pupils for intervention is far more useful – it is more focused and targeted, and learners much prefer the 1:1 and small group support offered outside of the classroom; they see it as a privilege, “where those who really need the help, get the help", which really makes us feel honoured as a team.
One of the main things that our manager ensures is that we have a high standard of practice and teaching. Although not qualified teachers, we are paraprofessionals, not only with the relevant subject knowledge, but also rapidly developing skills in 1:1 specialised interventions. This has meant that after working in the PAT, members are ready to embark upon teacher training.
Former PATs have used the role as a gateway and gone on to train through schemes such as School Direct and Teach First. PATs are ready to make this transition after just a short while because we make the most of the extensive professional learning opportunities offered at our school and we are also always keen to network with other schools and observe classroom teachers so that we can develop our own teaching styles. We spend a lot of time reflecting on our practice and are always looking at ways to improve.
As previously mentioned, if there is one thing the PAT team wishes to echo, it is the idea of sustainability: intervention that is sustainable for the learners, a programme and team that is sustainable for the school, and sustainability within our professionalism and how we develop our department. This is something which interlinks into our whole-school focus on quality first teaching.
Our job is hard work, but very rewarding! There have been many benefits across the whole school, particularly for pupils themselves who rave about our team, describing us as “caring", “supportive" and (the somewhat questionable) “pushing"! One of the main things that we provide to learners is positive role-models – three of us are former Bay House pupils ourselves, others have or are currently working towards Master's and PhDs, and we have all had a variety of live experiences and past careers which mean the pupils can be inspired.
Our suggestion to any other schools that are looking to build a similar sort of role is to build close ties with other departments. Without our school's fantastic attendance officers we would not be able to do half the interventions we carry out, especially with our year 11s. Their immense wealth of knowledge means that we are able to put provisions in place for pupils in the most extenuating of circumstances. The collaboration we have with them, alongside the Wellbeing Team and the pupil mentors is a fundamental part of our job – it allows us to target the very specific needs of a wide range of pupils and we truly believe that this is the solid foundation of our success so far.
We are busy, but also excited for a new academic year. Our team is going to be expanding even further and we have many more plans as to how we can continue to improve our role. However, for now, it seems to be going in the right direction: we have received a glowing review from Ofsted, we closed the gap in our early entry of the English language iGCSE and, most importantly, the pupils at Bay House are happier, more confident and more engaged with their learning.
Kim Chaney is an English Pupil Achievement Tutor and Keira St John-Mosse the Pupil Achievement Tutor team leader at Bay House School in Gosport.