A two-stage Pupil Premium strategy

Written by: HTU | Published:

An effective, two-stage Pupil Premium strategy at Stanley Grove Academy has seen the pupils given the confidence to take control of their own learning. Teacher Karen Richardson explains more.

Introduced back in 2011, the Pupil Premium programme is now worth £2.5 billion and the 2014/15 financial year has seen primary schools receive £1,300 for each pupil registered as eligible for free school meals (FSM) at any point in the last six years.

Many primary leaders struggle to balance funds between identified FSM pupils and other equally disadvantaged children, who may not be eligible for Pupil Premium. 

Minding the in-school gap is increasingly becoming an issue too – how do you ensure that it doesn’t widen as the impact of effective pedagogies improves the attainment of all your learners, whether they are Pupil Premium students or not? 

Yet success lies in the countless stories emerging from a wide range of initiatives, which seek to break the poverty and poor outcomes cycle in schools through collaborative school-to-school support.

Our journey at Stanley Grove 

As a school, based in Manchester, we were concerned that many of our pupils were not learning independently. We wanted them to become more self-sufficient, lifelong learners and were keen to see an improvement in their wellbeing as well as in their confidence. 

At present, around 39 per cent (233) of our pupils are FSM children, bringing in a combined Pupil Premium income of £244,618. English is an additional language for an incredibly high number – 95 per cent. There is also a very high proportion of pupils that we know are entitled to FSM, but do not claim them for various reasons.

While we may be a large school, which receives significant funding from the Pupil Premium, it is a real challenge to ensure that the money is spent effectively, and in a measurable way. As a result we got involved with the Challenge the Gap programme, which we felt offered us an opportunity to ensure outcomes were being achieved as a direct result of key changes in expenditure. At the heart of our work has been a two-stage approach.

Stage 1: The Traffic Light Cups

There is often a stigma surrounding FSM children – after all, who wants to be a part of the Pupil Premium club? However this approach has made it easy and fun for children to ask for help.

We introduced coloured cups to the tables, initially involving all pupils but particularly focusing on Pupil Premium children. A red cup means “I’m stuck”, an amber cup means “I have a question”, while a green cup means “too easy”. This tactic allows all children to ask for help without feeling anxious. 

Before the cups were introduced, many Pupil Premium children would have refrained from raising their hand, instead making mistakes and missing out on the vital support that they need.

Stage 2: The 6 Rs

The second stage of our strategy saw us introduce a variant of Professor Guy Claxton’s “Four Rs”, but with six key concepts. Using the terms “reflective, ready, resilient, reasoning, resourceful and responsible”, which we labelled “Learning To Learn”, we were able to help our FSM group, before rolling out the scheme across the wider school.

We made 15 FSM pupils in years 2 and 4 “Lead Learners” in charge of rolling out the six Rs to the rest of the school. Each R was made into a character – Ready Rabbit, Resourceful Squirrel, and so on – to make the campaign feel fun and pupils made posters and puppets to reflect this.

The Lead Learners worked together at lunchtime to better understand what each “R” stood for, and introduced one character a week at assembly and to other classes. The six Rs linked well with the cups, as pupils understand that they need, for example, to be both responsible and resourceful to move forward.

A positive change

We have been using the Challenge the Gap programme for three years, starting out as an accelerator school. Our academy is part of the Bright Futures Educational Trust, which itself prioritises preventative work and developing early interventions for children and families. We are now the lead facilitation school in our Challenge the Gap cluster and have run training for other schools, too.

The impact of our work has been astounding. In the first year of activity, many children progressed two sub-levels and their wellbeing has improved beyond recognition. Some even visit our learning wall independently to get the resources they need to move on, while our pupil surveys show that confidence has significantly increased and that reading progress is much higher this year. Additionally the FSM pupils rolling out the work are now seen as experts – they have a strong profile within the school and are actively engaged in helping others. It is these lifelong skills that we, as a school, are trying to impart.

How we overcame the challenges

It is always a challenge to measure soft skills. This year, we have focused on reading across our trio of schools, which are actively engaging in joint practice development. We meet weekly with our FSM children to discuss reading targets and activity. 

Ahead of the summer holidays, Reading Fairies gave the children a book to read and we have brought together children from across the schools (primary and secondary) to share a Roald Dahl book. 

Both Ofsted and Challenge the Gap quality assurance teams have commented on our pupils’ readiness for learning and their positive new attitude to school. We are now looking at maths across our trio, and how school children can come together to learn on days out.

One of the biggest challenges we have faced has been tackling the ever-present ability versus deprivation debate. Even if an FSM child has high ability, it is important that the funding is still used to help them progress. We use our funding wisely allowing us to appoint a full-time Reading Recovery teacher, and we also have additional associate staff supporting children at key stage 1.

During the last three years, we have developed a far greater awareness of the challenges and learning barriers faced by FSM children and this June, we were graded “good” by Ofsted, despite never reaching higher than “satisfactory” previously. Our pupil progress was noted as being a “real strength”.

Stanley Grove’s tips for success

  1. Give children ownership from the beginning – they often have better ideas than we do. If you give them the control, then the confidence will come.
  2. Ensure all staff are on board and engaged in what you are doing – from the start. Secure the support of heads and senior leadership teams too.
  3. Plan ahead – pre-book dates for when you want to meet up to plan Pupil Premium activity as far in advance as possible, otherwise things will slip.
  4. Make it fun – the six Rs and its characters really worked for us.
  5. Be realistic about what can be achieved – particularly when working with other schools (such as the trio school working found in Challenge the Gap).
  6. Involve parents as much as possible and enlist their support for help with reading, for example.
  7. Involve other year groups – this helped us to adapt our strategy for the whole school and helped to give older children more confidence, as they were helping the younger pupils.
  8. Enlist other schools for joint practice development and keep them informed of how your children are progressing, to further boost their confidence.
  9. Enlist para-professionals (a non-teaching member of staff) to meet with children, attend after-school clubs and support baseline assessments. 
  • Karen Richardson is a Challenge the Gap teacher at Stanley Grove Primary Academy in Manchester.

Challenge the Gap

Challenge the Gap is a whole-school programme that has been shown to improve the academic performance of Pupil Premium pupils through school-to-school learning and a collaborative approach to tackling gaps. It was founded with funding from the Education Endowment Foundation and has been developed by Challenge Partners and 14 facilitation schools. These schools deliver the programme to clusters of three to five “trios” of schools. The trio works closely together over a year to develop and share effective practice. Visit www.challengepartners.org/challengethegap

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