As the lead for Pupil Premium across two schools, I have tried to look for positive ways to interact with the parents of our disadvantaged students.
Communication between the school and parents is key to supporting Pupil Premium students in their development and attainment.
There is no obligation for your school to consult with parents about how you use Pupil Premium funding, although many schools will involve parents to a certain degree as we seek to find the best solutions.
Schools must show that they are using their Pupil Premium funding appropriately. This is measured through Ofsted scrutiny and annual performance tables.
In addition, schools must publish details online, including how much money they have been allocated, how they intend to spend it, how they spent their previous year’s allocation, and how it made a difference to the attainment of disadvantaged students (see DfE, 2023).
Formed in 2014, the Mead Educational Trust (TMET) is a well-established and respected multi-academy trust in Leicestershire, with a growing family of primary and secondary schools.
The creation of improvement forums for specific areas within TMET schools, including Pupil Premium, has allowed a collaborative approach in supporting our students regardless of specific need.
This article looks at five areas where you might focus your parental engagement work. This is not a comprehensive guide, but these approaches have supported our Pupil Premium families and helped students in achieving greater success over the last few years.
1, Understand the funding
It is a requirement that the annual Pupil Premium strategy statement is published online reporting how the funding has been allocated within the school during the year (DfE, 2023).
However, parents will often know the specific figures for funding allocations, including how much is given for children who are looked after, previously looked after, children with parents in the armed forces, and those on free school meals.
As such, parents may expect that the full allocation of annual funding is given specifically to their child. However, as we know, funding allocations can often be spread across interventions intended to support multiple young people.
Furthermore, while concrete things like uniform, textbooks, and tutoring can all benefit individual Pupil Premium students, the evidence from the Education Endowment Foundation’s Teaching and Learning Toolkit suggests that quality first teaching has the biggest impact.
But this can often be difficult for parents to “see” as it may lead to funding being used for additional or specialist staffing, time allocation for performance analysis, or the writing of detailed plans.
If this is not explained on the school website parents may feel let down as they will not “see” the funding allocation being spent on their child.
Elsewhere, the strategy statement should be available via the school website, but it can sometimes be difficult to find and is often filled with education jargon and acronyms. When parents are choosing their child’s school this information is key and it is therefore essential that this statement is easy to find, access, and understand.
2, Be clear in communication channels
All communication should be in a clear, concise manner which is easy to understand. We must avoid information overload.
Letters need to be simple to read and Pupil Premium parents need to be clear on the support they can potentially receive for things like trips or careers events. Too many channels of communication can cause confusion and may mean that Pupil Premium students lose out on vital opportunities.
3, Collaborative approach to attendance
Attendance has a direct impact on attainment. There is a strong link between those with poor attendance and poor attainment in all subjects, as measured in literacy and numeracy at key stages 2 and 4.
Official Department for Education analysis looking at the link between absence and attainment and based on the 2018/19 academic year finds that pupils who did not achieve the expected standard in reading, writing and maths at key stage 2 in 2019 had an overall absence rate of 4.7% over the key stage, compared with 3.5% among students who achieved the expected standard and 2.7% among those who achieved the higher standard (DfE, 2022).
And students who did not achieve Grade 9 to 4 in English and maths GCSEs in 2019 had an overall absence rate of 8.8% over the key stage, compared with 5.2% among students who achieved a grade 4 and 3.7% among students who achieved grade 9 to 5 in both English and maths.
These figures are a powerful reminder that attendance is key in improving all student’s success. And we all know that the attendance picture has worsened since Covid.
Figures from the 2021/22 academic year show that 22.5% of pupils were persistently absent, meaning they missed 10% or more of school sessions – around double the pre-pandemic rate (DfE, 2023).
Targeted improvements and support from pastoral leads enable strong relationships to be built between parents, staff, and students.
The required figure of 95% attendance is often unachievable for Pupil Premium students for a variety of reasons. Parents may require additional support with uniform issues, SEND barriers, or mental health support and by the time the 95% threshold is broken it is often too late for students to rectify within the year.
Schools must ensure that parents are aware of attendance targets and are regularly updated regarding punctuality also.
The use of online systems can support parental engagement on these issues, although this should be properly monitored by the school to ensure parents are using the platform in question, remembering that some may need IT support. If there are too many apps, programmes, and online platforms it can be overwhelming and will be counterproductive.
Regular contact with the same members of staff can be supportive for parents and students, as can weekly, monthly, or termly targets for some students, with the school reporting back to the parent for updates and support where required.
SecEd Webinars & Podcasts: For more advice on supporting the attendance of vulnerable students, see our recent webinars via www.sec-ed.co.uk/content/webinars and our recent podcast episode on strategies for boosting secondary school attendance.
4, Know what to learn and when
Many subjects are judged with an examination or non-examined assessment – or both. The use of assessment tracking or up-to-date guidance on the child's progress can benefit parents, who are often the key to explaining patterns in educational needs of a child and who can help schools to create bespoke programmes for students, including tutoring, SEND support, counselling etc.
Attainment in all subjects needs to be easy to understand with simple explanations of the process and methods of assessment within each key stage, subject area or within specific units.
Students are expected to complete 25 to 30 lessons per week, with additional homework. If a parent is aware of the topic content that is to be assessed, then many will be able to better support their child.
5, How to access support
Parents can often feel alone when economic circumstances are difficult. A simple method of contacting the school can reassure parents that their child is supported and can even signpost to further support.
Consider a single simple contact email or number where Pupil Premium parents can access support, advice, financial support, uniform support etc if required in a timely manner. This email or number may be accessed by several staff and may include referrals to education support, local community-based activities, and mental health support.
This small action can support students’ attendance, potential attainment, and attitude towards the school.
Emma Goldfinch is the Pupil Premium lead at Orchard Mead Academy and Kibworth Mead Academy in Leicester. Read her previous articles for SecEd via www.sec-ed.co.uk/authors/emma-goldfinch
Further information & resources
- DfE: Academic year 2018/19: The link between absence and attainment at KS2 and KS4, 2022: https://tinyurl.com/4ue786r9
- DfE: Academic year 2021/22: Pupil absence in schools in England, March 2023a: https://tinyurl.com/5n8kvyxj
- DfE: Guidance: Pupil Premium, last updated April 2023: www.gov.uk/government/publications/pupil-premium/pupil-premium
- EEF: Teaching and Learning Toolkit: https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/education-evidence/teaching-learning-toolkit