An article recently published in The Guardian asked: how should schools spend the Pupil Premium? It pointed out that “understanding the complex problems students face at home (as well as in) the classroom (would) help school leaders to use funds effectively”, and suggested that many schools “have put the funding to effective use by gaining a deep understanding of their students and developing a tailored and personalised approach”.
This was the most poignant and encouraging point for me.
Historically, national data indicates that students who receive free school meals (FSMs) do not make the same levels of progress as those students who don’t.
And we all know that the Pupil Premium is most commonly used to implement interventions to ensure that the gap in attainment between those students in receipt of FSMs, which is a key criteria for pupils to receive Pupil Premium funding, and students who are not eligible for FSMs is narrowed.
However, as the Guardian article rightly pointed out, while rolling out generic approaches such as setting up additional lessons for those who need extra help could be justified to an Ofsted inspector, they may not be addressing all the underlying issues affecting students’ achievement.
At All Saints School in Dagenham, we try to look at each pupil as an individual and try to assess the difficulties they may be facing, be it at home or in the classroom, and use the Pupil Premium to tackle these challenges as much as possible.
Over the past two years, through robust tracking procedures, we have been able to monitor the full range of interventions and extra-curricular activities accessed by students in receipt of Pupil Premium funding.
The impact of these interventions is measured by analysing the end-of-year data and GCSE results of those students receiving the funding and comparing their progress and attainment with other students in their cohort.
In addition, we measured our student data against national statistics. The analysis revealed that the gap in attainment and progress of students receiving Pupil Premium funding was in line with other students in the cohort and was well above the national average in all measures. Here are some of the interventions we have undertaken that may work for you:
Homework Club/Lexia Programme
The introduction of the Homework Club was to support students by helping with the completion of home study tasks. Last year, 48 of our students were given access to supervised support after school which enabled them to complete their home study tasks effectively.
In addition, we purchased the Lexia Programme, a literacy-based programme which supports students with their literacy development. We offered 15 of our year 7 and 8 students one-to-one tuition, or small group sessions to practise their key literacy skills, enabling them to access targeted literacy support and this has had a marked impact on their progress as highlighted by their end of year results.
As any teacher will tell you, even the brightest of students will struggle to concentrate, remain motivated and reach their full potential if they are trying to process and deal with emotional issues. In order to support students’ emotional wellbeing we have used the Pupil Premium funding to pay for two counsellors to be based in the school one day a week.
They provide individual counselling for pupils dealing with emotional issues that are proving to be a barrier to their learning. In the past academic year, 42 students from years 7 to 11 have accessed this service to help them deal with a range of issues, such as bereavement, relationship issues and stress.
In some cases our students have been able to access a higher level of support as a result of their interaction with these healthcare professionals.
Prevention is better than cure, especially when it comes to helping pupils with a range of issues that may be a barrier to their learning. Our student support team focuses on mentoring individual pupils and small groups who may have issues relating to anger-management, conflict-resolution, self-esteem and self-confidence. Learning mentors are available to provide personalised programmes for students from all key stages to support with these issues, and we have allocated £68,429 of Pupil Premium funds to this initiative in the past academic year.
It is important to remember that all students are unique. Not all the students eligible for FSM will require academic or emotional support. However, we always do our best to ensure that all students in receipt of the Pupil Premium benefit from this funding stream.
This can include financial assistance for school trips, whether that be a day trip or a residential trip abroad to enhance their cultural awareness, purchasing of revision guides, or even assistance paying for summer schools to raise individual aspirations. Here are two case studies outlining how students were supported through the Pupil Premium funds in the past academic year.
The year 7 student
This student joined the year 7 cohort with end of key stage 2 results that were below the national average with English and mathematics at Level 3. This student was supported with one-to-one interventions in school to raise their levels of achievement. We also purchased a laptop for the student to use at home to further support their after-school study.
Some of the school literacy programmes were installed onto the laptop so that they could consolidate and practise their literacy skills at home. In addition once the student had internet access at home they were able to log-in to the school’s learning platform, which enabled them to access other materials for all subject areas. Within the first year at All Saints the student had reached a Level 4A in English and a 5C in mathematics – an immense achievement.
The year 11 student
This student’s Pupil Premium funding was used exclusively to provide support for their emotional wellbeing and social development.
A variety of life experiences had resulted in this student finding it difficult to make and sustain friendships, which had led to a lack of self-esteem and trust issues.
Over a two-year period this student was able to access weekly one-to-one counselling with a trained Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services counsellor as well as having a learning mentor allocated who worked extensively on raising the student’s self-esteem. The student is currently studying a Level 2 childcare course, is able to work collaboratively with others, and has a close network of friends.
While it is difficult to pinpoint the exact impact that each initiative has had on each child, through our monitoring and tracking procedures, we know the above initiatives have had a hugely positive impact on the students that were involved in them.
Across the whole school, our Pupil Premium strategies have begun to have an impact too, with:
Fifty-six per cent of FSM students making expected progress by the end of key stage 3.
The literacy intervention enabling 100 per cent of students to make progress from their entry point; 82 per cent making progress by two sub-levels or more and 73 per cent making progress by three sub-levels.
All of our looked-after children achieving their target grades.
GCSE results showing an 18.1 per cent positive difference between the attainment of All Saints’ FSM students compared to national results.
We have many more initiatives planned for 2015. For example, we are hoping to allocate funds to our gifted and talented programme to ensure that the needs of these learners are being met. Additional funds will allow us to provide further enrichment activities such as visits to universities, interview skills courses and presentations in school by motivational speakers from the public and private sector.
Regardless of what new initiatives we introduce, ensuring that our pupils are the ultimate benefactors of the Pupil Premium funding will always be our main objective.
Further informationTo access the Guardian article referenced in this piece, go to www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/teacher-blog/2014/jul/22/how-schools-spend-pupil-premium
Corinne Adams is deputy headteacher at All Saints School in Dagenham.
Photo: All Saints School