At the 2017 Pupil Premium Awards, NACE member Fullhurst Community College was celebrated as a regional champion for its success in raising attainment for those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Deputy principal Tom Hague, who oversees the school’s pupil premium strategy, outlines the key factors behind this success.

While innovative, our approach to pupil premium is also simple, in that it’s grounded in good teaching and learning. We believe the most important factor is what goes on in the classroom, and this is backed up by research – but we also recognise the significance of other factors, such as attendance, behaviour and wellbeing. We take a “marginal gains” approach, trying to remove as many small barriers as we can for pupils, so they can do well academically.

Over half of our students qualify for pupil premium. As the majority, this group is always at the forefront of teachers’ minds, and the expectation of these pupils has to be high, because the school’s success is based on theirs. Though typically on entry our students start below the national average in terms of attainment, they still need to reach the highest levels to have the best prospects – and our disadvantaged more able learners perform above the national average for their group.

Combining external and in-school research

We use a simple software, MINTclass, to identify and track disadvantaged students. When underperformance is identified, we intervene rapidly, giving priority to these students in classroom interactions. We also ask teachers to mark these students’ work first, to ensure they receive timely feedback, and to keep them at the fore of teachers’ minds.

The data we track is not only shared with staff, but also with learners. Visual displays in each classroom show performance against targets, focusing on progress rather than attainment, with the aim of motivating students to keep improving.

Evidence from external sources is also used to inform our pupil premium strategy, including research published by organisations such as the Education Endowment Foundation, DfE white papers, and the work of previous Pupil Premium Award winners. Such research has led us to run CPD on effective feedback, re-evaluate our use of teaching assistants, and even make changes to the way we reward students. However, external evidence is always approached with caution; we are aware that any single intervention will not necessarily work in every context.

Within school, we encourage our staff to engage in research projects, with the intention of raising standards for our students. Recent examples include a project by our Embedding Literacy Leader, evaluating the effectiveness of different reading schemes and subsequent outcomes among students. Such research is showcased in our weekly teaching and learning staff briefing, disseminated by faculty leaders, and uploaded to our staff VLE, so it informs our teaching and learning strategy going forward.

In-school research by one of our Curriculum Leaders focused on effective teaching and learning strategies for more able disadvantaged students, and identified modelling as particularly effective for this group. For example, instead of just giving students a practice paper and then marking it, we break the paper down into chunks. Students are given time to work on a section, then the teacher models the process of answering each question – showing them how the answer is arrived at, how to set it out, and so on.
The modelling approach has worked well in maths, English and science, and we plan to spread it across the whole school – not just for revision and exam preparation, but more widely. This will be one of our main strategies for all students, with a particularly high impact expected for the more able disadvantaged.

Removing barriers to achievement

Being a member of NACE has complemented our intention to continue to drive standards up for more able learners, both in the classroom and from an enrichment perspective. One such benefit of our NACE membership has been CPD, which has helped our more able coordinator to inform the planning and delivery of our More Able Programme. The online resources provided by NACE have been used across faculties within the school, and the research featured on the website has aided our development of teaching and learning for more able learners.

Part of our pupil premium funding goes towards CPD. The funding also covers our More Able Coordinator role, which focuses on support for more able disadvantaged learners, building cultural capital as well as academics. This includes a series of Year 7 projects which students present to parents each half term, and a Year 9 project with The Brilliant Club.

Careers guidance is another major focus in our support for disadvantaged more able learners, with the aim of raising their aspirations. Our full-time lead on enterprise and employability works with all students, with priority given to the more able disadvantaged to ensure they receive bespoke advice.

Beyond this, we try to remove as many additional barriers as we can. In the past year we’ve worked with the Education Endowment Foundation on a research project they were evaluating, running a project to educate our students on good sleep patterns and the importance of sleep. Another example involved reaching out to Specsavers after realising many of our students were reporting difficulties seeing the board; this led to Specsavers developing a free eye-screening kit which is now used by schools across the country.

Our recent success at the Pupil Premium Awards is recognition for the work we’re doing at every level in the school, involving all members of staff. It’s proof that the available research and guidance are effective, and that those marginal gains really add up.

Tom HagueTom Hague is a deputy principal at Fullhurst Community College in Leicester. Tom leads on outcomes and curriculum, including the use of the pupil premium. Tom joined Fullhurst through the Teach First programme, and recently also completed the Future Leaders programme with Ambition School Leadership.

Read more: Rethinking support for the disadvantaged more able  insights from King Edward VI Aston School

Monday, September 4, 2017