Leeds East Academy is based in one of the most deprived areas in Leeds, with the proportion of disadvantaged pupils being well above the national average.
The number of pupils on roll is 614 with 78 per cent qualifying for Pupil Premium funding.
In 2011, the school transitioned from an all girls’ school to a co-educational which means that the lower year groups have a considerably higher percentage of Pupil Premium pupils.
There have been considerable changes in the leadership and management of the academy and in September 2014 it became a member of the White Rose Academies Trust.
The school has flourished under new leadership, with our proportion of five A* to C grades at GCSE (including English and maths) rising from 37 per cent in 2013 to 46 per cent in 2014, which bucked the national trend of a five per cent drop that year.
My personal journey at Leeds East Academy started in January 2013 when I was appointed as the foundation school leader, responsible for progress, attendance and behaviour in years 7 and 8.
Historically, pupils had not made good progress at the academy and at the time of my appointment, many were underachieving across a range of subjects. It is the White British males who, both historically and currently, are the main underachieving group.
However, when I joined, the school was under new leadership and new tracking systems were being introduced to monitor student progress. This is one of our major areas of focus, as we have found that pupils who make good progress in years 7 and 8 need less intervention later on in their school career. As part of the Teaching Leaders Fellows programme, a key aim of my Impact Initiative at the beginning of the year was to raise attainment through increasing the percentage of year 7 and 8 students achieving at least three sub-levels of progress in English and maths by the end of the academic year, with a particular focus on White British males.
Evidence suggests that early intervention with pupils proves successful in ensuring expected progress is made throughout their school career.
I was able to monitor the interventions that took place by collating evidence from the selected intervention teachers. The pupils receiving intervention were then tracked through the student progress tracker, which is collected every half-term. This provided clear evidence to measure the impact on pupil progress.
Implementing personalised intervention
We now undertake data sweeps every half-term. This gives all teaching staff, heads of department and pastoral staff an opportunity to analyse pupil progress. The analysis has been instrumental in identifying pupils who are not making enough progress at any point during the year. There has been a key focus on English and maths.
As a school leader, I identify the pupils who are not making adequate progress and then I meet with the relevant heads of departments. These meetings are key to ensuring that the correct pupils receive appropriate tailored intervention.
A variety of interventions is then created for the identified pupils. This will range from teachers planning different activities and resources within lessons to lunch-time clubs, after-school sessions and off-site focus sessions.
One mistake that is often made when implementing intervention is not targeting specific pupils’ needs – intervention tends to be blanketed for groups of pupils.
It is essential to remember when implementing intervention that each pupil will need to work on the area that they are finding difficult and it needs to be specific to each individual.
Through liaising with the classroom teachers, I was able to identify each pupil’s specific needs and then enlist a member of staff to provide this intervention within each subject.
Working with the correct team
There were many key factors to consider when selecting a team to work with on intervention within years 7 and 8.
Many staff were already committed to year 11 intervention as it is a priority within most schools. It was essential that staff involved had the capacity to effectively implement interventions with years 7 and 8. It was also crucial that they understood the importance of individualised intervention and how this should work.
I proposed a potential team to the vice-principal and then with the heads of department. We focused on staff not involved in intervention with older pupils, some NQTs and teaching assistants.
The teaching assistants worked really effectively as they understood the concept of personalised learning. Each member of staff who was selected put together a proposal of how they would run their intervention session. This allowed me as a leader to oversee all intervention running.
I was able to measure the impact through the data collections every half-term and the intervention staff would also update me and their faculty on pupil progress.
Measuring the success of interventions
The evaluation design is an on-going process and it is essential that the identified pupils are monitored over the course of the academic year. If a pupil’s progress is off track, the approach then needs to be adjusted in order to ensure they meet or exceed their targets.
Progress has been compared against last year’s data and we have seen a significant increase in the number of pupils making two or three sub-levels of progress at this point in the year.
Within English and maths, we have seen an increase of five and nine per cent respectively of pupils making two sub-levels of progress compared to this time last year (year 7). The data is additionally compared against the good and expected progress levels nationally, as well as focusing on closing the gap between Pupil Premium and non-Pupil Premium pupils.
In addition, the Academy Action Plan identifies clear targets at the beginning of the academic year for how much progress pupils should be making at different points in the year and is continually monitored.
Top tips for effective intervention
My advice for creating and monitoring an effective programme of interventions includes the following:
Teaching LeadersTeaching Leaders is a middle leadership development programme for high-potential middle leaders, working in schools in challenging contexts. Applications for the Fellows programme are now open. Visit www.teachingleaders.org.uk/our-programmes/tl-fellows/overview/
Ensure that data is accurate.
Intervention must be personalised to each individual student.
Identify a team who have the capacity and skills to deliver high-quality intervention.
The intervention teachers must produce a plan of what they intend to deliver, so middle leaders can monitor and classroom teachers can see what the pupils are learning.
Intervention must then be analysed to measure its success and adapted if necessary.
Chris Reynolds is foundation school leader at Leeds East Academy in Leeds. He is also part of the 2014 North cohort on the Teaching Leaders Fellows programme.