Case Study: Tackling the effects of deprivation

Written by: Various | Published:
Culture: High expectations and quality CPD have seen Barton Hill Academy pupils overcoming disadvantage and achieving above national averages (Image: Supplied)

Barton Hill Academy has a range of provision and strategies to support its pupils, not least those from deprived backgrounds. Jane Young, Jim Piper and Angela Farrell explain

By striving to match or exceed the best academic standards and practice, we are realising our vision for educational excellence in a community with some of the most extreme multiple deprivation in Devon (among the highest 10 per cent for the whole country).

Our vision stems from a desire to be an engine of opportunity for our disadvantaged families by creating an oasis for the children. This should include outstanding learning environments, cutting-edge resources, reflective teaching driven by top-quality CPD, and the highest expectations.

Despite positive Ofsted judgements, accelerated progress and rising standards, the process of academisation in 2012 in the school’s socio-economic context required the senior leader to restore staff belief and self-esteem. That context needed to become the school’s moral purpose and driving force, supported by our multi-academy trust, AET.

Use of Pupil Premium funding

Using Education Endowment Foundation evidence, we set out to provide excellence in the wider curriculum, in broadening horizons and personalising quality of care to meet the health and wellbeing needs of children and their families. Breakfast club is free for all our children, uniform is readily available where required, there is daily physical exercise through professional sports club coaching and swimming for all children, and the highly trained pastoral care team includes three family support workers.

Curriculum enrichment

To enhance our pupils’ world view and counter the isolation and insular perspective that can develop from low aspiration and deprivation, the curriculum links to global society, for example through music and languages.

In their journey through our school, a pupil will learn a new instrument every year, will learn a new language, and will take part in collaboration with other schools on an international level. This will give them the chance to explore vision and values beyond their locality, through visits and visitors beyond their immediate experience, which can provide inspirational cultural and social experiences. These include enriching year group residentials in London and outstanding artistic workshops with internationally renowned published calligrapher, He Jiangliu, an inspirational teacher from Chenghua Experimental Primary – our partner school in Chengdu.

Mindset, CPD, expectation

Educationists and critical friends such as Pie Corbett, Dame Alison Peacock, Dr Tom Robson and Paul Garvey are regularly invited to the school for our professional development. Staff (three of whom are Specialist Leaders of Education) also experience best practice nationally and globally through international educational visits, including to outstanding schools in China and the Netherlands.

We believe that top-quality CPD leads to highest quality teaching. Staff members have taken part in forward thinking initiatives such as Paul Garvey’s Talk for Teaching, IRIS Create and John Hattie’s Visible Classrooms, all of which help the school to facilitate the highest quality self-reflection on teachers’ individual impact. The school’s leaders are grown from within, taking full advantage of the leadership courses regularly offered, while a high proportion of the teaching team are also home-grown, remaining on staff after their training and qualification under our wing.

Academic standards and progress

Bench-marking from FFT ASPIRE is used to set aspirational targets for progress for all groups of children so that we target and achieve progress equivalent to at least the best 20 per cent seen across the country. And standards derived from Target Tracker are used to measure performance throughout the entire school so that we benchmark ourselves against national data. The children feel fully engaged with their learning, as reflected in their survey responses, which place their relationship with their teacher in the highest percentile of their educational experience – 94 per cent of pupils feeding this back as their judgement.

Two teachers per class

The innovative use of two teachers per class in key stage 2 drives progress and ensures immediate intervention and incisive feedback at the point of learning. This facilitates exceptional professional dialogue and ensures that no child gets left behind. The result of this is that our pupils make excellent progress: given their starting points, they reach standards better than the national picture by the end of key stage 2.

Evidence of success

Our key indicators lie in the transformation in standards and progress across the school. Measures implemented by the school have led to published data showing that pupils learn exceptionally well, making progress that is better than pupils achieve nationally, when compared to pupils from similar contextual settings. Similarly, having been below national averages, outcomes in reading, writing and maths combined now comfortably exceed the national picture. This bucks the trend in our local authority, both for large schools and schools in similar contextual settings; we are the highest performing large primary in the area.

Meanwhile numbers on roll have grown from 485 to 650 over the past five years, and the school has gained accolades including: Achievement for All, Naace ICT Mark, Artsmark Gold, Inclusion Quality Mark Flagship School and the International School Award. Pupil satisfaction is high, evidenced by PASS, while our most recent Ofsted (2014) assessed the school as good, but behaviour and safety of pupils as outstanding. 

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