Pupil Premium: General and targeted interventions

Written by: Steve Burnage | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

There is a wealth of research showing what can work with the Pupil Premium. Steve Burnage offers us five general approaches and eight targeted interventions

The Pupil Premium is a valuable and accountable resource to enable schools and academies across the UK support those learners who struggle to make progress. For schools to make best use of this funding, it is important that:

  • Interventions are precisely targeted with clear intervention strategies to support learning and progress.
  • The impact of interventions is clearly monitored, and changes are made when interventions are proven to be ineffective.

Of course, we mustn’t overlook that effective interventions we put in place for our targeted learners will also be effective for all learners. In other words, the interventions we are going to explore in this article are also excellent good practice to support outstanding learning, teaching and progress across any school or group of pupils.

Five general interventions

Although the interventions below are very generic, encouraging all those that lead learning in a school to adopt these simple strategies can make a significant difference to all learners, especially those in receipt of Pupil Premium. The five are:

  • Know your Pupil Premium learners: Find out how your Pupil Premium learners prefer to learn and plan accordingly; taking in their hobbies and interests, their social context and academic background.
  • Think about your learning environment: Think carefully about where Pupil Premium learners are sitting and who they are sitting next to. Highlight Pupil Premium learners on all your seating plans. Use the reflective and predictive data you have on your Pupil Premium learners to identify the specific support they need to make progress.
  • Plan your behaviour management strategies: Pupil Premium learners respond best to a positive learning environment so meet and greet learners at the door to welcome them into the classroom. Develop mutually respectful relationships with Pupil Premium learners and use praise and rewards for positive contributions, good work, exceeding expectations.
  • Target Pupil Premium learners for support: Approach Pupil Premium learners first to see if they understand the task set or need support to complete it. Target Pupil Premium learners for questioning and ask them to respond in full sentences. Use Bloom’s Taxonomy to extend and stretch their answers. Ensure Pupil Premium learners know exactly where they are working at or what are aiming for in the lesson. Continually check the progress of Pupil Premium learners throughout the lesson. Make sure they know their current attainment, their target attainment and what they need to do to improve.
  • Remove barriers to learning: Provide equipment and resources where necessary along with revision and homework materials.

Eight targeted interventions

Moving on from generic interventions, there are specific areas of intervention that can be particularly effective...

1, Feedback

By which we mean effective and timely teacher-student feedback. Providing effective feedback is not difficult since it is just giving information to the learner and/or the teacher about the learner’s performance relative to learning goals. Feedback redirects the learner to better achieve their goals and can be verbal, written, or can be given through tests or by means of ICT.

Providing effective feedback is challenging but we can best support Pupil Premium students by providing feedback at the right time, with a specific purpose and desired outcome. In addition, by ensuring feedback is specific, accurate and clear, we model correct work/processes where possible and appropriate, and we provide opportunities for learners to make improvements following feedback. We can ensure that our Pupil Premium learners have a clear understanding of where they are, where they need to be and possible routes to get there.

2, Peer support/feedback

When learners are encouraged to work in pairs or small groups to provide each other with explicit teaching support and feedback, learners take on more responsibility for aspects of teaching and for evaluating their success.

We need to ensure that activities are sufficiently challenging so learners can benefit from peer support but not too difficult that they cannot succeed without a teacher’s support. Setting up ground rules for peer activities in advance will ensure learners stay on task and are focused on the activity at hand. Reviewing challenges and successes of the peer work will ensure it has a positive impact upon learners’ progress.

3, Independent learning

Learning strategies (sometimes known as “learning to learn” strategies) are teaching approaches which make learners think about learning more explicitly and take ownership of their learning by teaching learners specific strategies to set goals, monitor and evaluate their own learning.

These strategies are more effectively learned when they are taught, modelled and applied in a range of contexts by teaching learners explicit strategies to plan, monitor and to evaluate their learning, and giving them opportunities to use them with support and then independently.

The key is encouraging and supporting learners to identify the steps they need to be aware of as they go through a task to keep it on track. Modelling and explaining the strategies being taught so that learners understand what they are learning also helps to develop this culture of independent learning for our Pupil Premium students.

4, Differentiation

There are three main categories of differentiation:

  • Differentiation by task, which involves setting different tasks for learners of different abilities.
  • Differentiation by support, which means giving more help to certain learners within the group.
  • Differentiation by outcome, which involves setting open-ended tasks and allowing pupil response at different levels.

If we consider the most advanced skills, concepts and facts that the most able student in the class will just manage to get and then move on to consider the skills, concepts and facts that the least able student in the class will just manage to get with appropriate support, we can then ensure the middle ground is covered to stretch the average student in the class.

5, Timely interventions

Using strategies and methods used to narrow the gap between the identified target group and individuals to ensure all learners attain well and make the expected levels of progress is central to our work with Pupil Premium learners. This should be both within and beyond the classroom and should be timely and appropriate to the specific skills gaps and needs of individual learners. It can help to think of intervention in three stages.

Stage 1

  • The effective inclusion of all children in high-quality teaching and learning.
  • A nurturing environment with relevant, tailored and differentiated opportunities for learning.
  • Scaffolding of activities and modelling of exemplar work and responses.
  • Using practical activities and experiential learning.
  • Opportunities for learners to transfer/generalise their learning in different contexts and between different subjects.
  • Opportunities for revision and over learning.
  • Group work with learners of the same ability and of differing abilities.
  • Changing direction and reshaping tasks to enhance pupil progress and understanding.

Stage 2

  • Additional time-limited provision in the form of small-group intervention outside the normal classroom.
  • Interventions for learners who can be expected to “catch-up” with their peers as a result of the intervention.

Stage 3

  • Specific targeted interventions for identified learners outside the classroom.
  • Additional time-limited intervention and provision to enhance the progress of identified children where stages 1 and 2 are not, on their own, having the desired effect.
  • Intensely focused teaching activities which tackle fundamental gaps in skills, knowledge and understanding which are preventing progress.
  • Conducted on a one-to-one basis if the teacher does not expect learners to make the expected progress in a group situation.

6, One-to-one interventions

One-to-one interventions where a Pupil Premium learner is removed from their class and given intensive support through short, regular sessions (about 30 minutes, three to five times a week) over a set period (six to 12 weeks) can often result in optimum impact.

For one-to-one interventions to have maximum impact, we need to ensure that learners are effectively selected, the intervention is in addition to high-quality whole-class teaching, and time is given to allow the student to apply their new knowledge and skills to learning activities.

For the Pupil Premium learner to have some ownership of the intervention, it is important that the planned outcomes are communicated to the learner and evaluated with the learner. We should ensure we involve the learner in self-assessment and use the celebration of success to help build positive and trusting relationships.

7, Collaborative learning

Collaborative or cooperative learning, where learners work together in a group small enough for everyone to participate on a collective task that has been clearly assigned, works well to support Pupil Premium learners if we ensure support is in place for learners to practise working together.

We can do this by setting out and agreeing ground rules for group work and collaborative tasks, appointing a chair or “leader” for tasks to ensure learners are on task and focused, and designing tasks carefully so that working together is effective and efficient.

Using competition between groups to support and engage can work particularly well with boy learners, as can encouraging Pupil Premium boys to talk and articulate their thinking in collaborative tasks.

8, Outside the classroom

On average, the impact of homework on learning is consistently positive (leading to on average five months’ additional progress). There is also some evidence that homework is most effective when used as a short and focused intervention (e.g. in the form of a project or specific target connected with an element of learning) and when it is an integral part of learning, rather than an add-on.

Making the purpose of homework explicit to learners and ensuring that the focus is upon the quality of homework and not necessarily the quantity will also increase its effectiveness in supporting Pupil Premium learners, as will providing feedback on homework that is specific and timely.

Monitoring and evaluation

Teachers need to be able to determine the effect of any change in their practice. In this case, Ofsted will expect to see the impact that the initiatives, funded by the Pupil Premium, have had on attainment. Although the primary driver for Pupil Premium interventions is raising the attainment and aspiration of our students, we still need to be able to evidence impact through some form of a “before and after measure”, or a pre and post-test.

Using suitable evaluation strategies, teachers will have the evidence to determine which practices, policies and interventions are effective in their own contexts. This will be invaluable to inform future practice, including the use of the Pupil Premium.SecEd

  • Steve Burnage has experience leading challenging inner city and urban secondary schools. He now works as a freelance trainer, consultant and author for staff development, strategic development, performance management and coaching and mentoring. Visit www.simplyinset.co.uk and read his previous articles for SecEd, including his previous CPD workshop overviews, at http://bit.ly/2u1KW9e

Pupil Premium Special Edition

This article was published as part of SecEd’s Pupil Premium Special Edition. The edition, published on March 22, 2018, offers a range of specialist best practice advice for Pupil Premium work in schools, including classroom and whole-school interventions, advice for school leaders and more. The entire edition is available to download as a free pdf document on our website supplements page: www.sec-ed.co.uk/supplements


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