By Stephen Farmer, Headteacher of Cranbrook Education Campus
When asked what works well in terms of a Pupil Premium strategy, I always respond that it is about the culture of the school. Staff need to know who their disadvantaged students are and what individual struggles they are facing. We talk about treating disadvantage as a SEND need and ensuring each student has a key adult, usually their tutor and a passport outlining how staff can best engage with and support them.
The core principles we adhere to in all our Trust schools are:
A senior member of staff having responsibility for the outcomes and well-being of disadvantaged students.
Working with CoachBright to ensure Key Stage 4 students have access to an inspirational coach who can help motivate them with their work and hopefully aspire them to explore further and higher education
Use ProvisionMap to track and evaluate all provisions that utilise Pupil Premium funding. Ensuring the best provisions are shared across the school and those that are not having impact are stopped.
Some additional top tips that I would suggest are:
Seating plans are a non-negotiable and staff are able to articulate who their disadvantaged students are and why they are sat where they are. We use ClassCharts which is a great tool as it also is our behaviour management and homework setting system.
An effective outcomes analysis system that ensures all Disadvantaged students are clearly identified and requires staff to document interventions they will implement to support disadvantaged students who are not making the expected progress.
Breakfast club. The most important meal of the day. We work with Exeter Food Action to reclaim food from super markets and our support staff support the club on a rota. Check out the TED talk from Sam Kass called; Want kids to learn well? Feed them well. https://www.ted.com/talks/sam_kass_want_to_teach_kids_well_feed_them_well
Extra-curricular support. The most difficult to evaluate but important for the moral purpose. Many disadvantaged students do not have the cultural capital to bring to the table. By supporting them with extra-curricular activities and to engage with trips, you help them contribute to class discussions and give them experiences to write about.
Attendance. Prioritise the attendance of disadvantaged students. Get on the phone early when they are absent. Have a family liaison staff member who is able to go round to houses and collect students when needed.
Targeted questioning as a non-negotiable. Expectations of disadvantaged students should be high and they should be targeted for questions in lessons.
Mark first. Implement this as a policy and ensure disadvantaged students are getting the best feedback from their teachers.
Homework. Disadvantaged students need to have the same expectations to compete homework but they often need additional support to complete it. Develop a homework club, engage their tutors and ensure they have the resources they need to complete additional work.
Set up assertive mentoring or surrogate parenting. Often disadvantaged students need that additional support when completing application forms, obtaining work experience or reviewing their report.
There is no one-size fits all approach to supporting disadvantaged students and raising their achievement. You have to embed the culture and create the environment for them to succeed. Show them you care and know who they really are and they will come on the journey with you.
Stephen Farmer is Headteacher of Cranbrook Education Campus, an all-through academy in Cranbrook, Devon where 42% of the Secondary cohort are disadvantaged. Cranbrook Education Campus is part of the Ted Wragg Multi-Academy Trust.