Suggestions for Pupil Premium approaches

Written by: Helen Frostick | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

Drawing on tried and tested practice from her own London primary school, as well as national examples, National Leader of Education Helen Frostick looks at some key tenets of Pupil Premium work

This article focuses on the work carried out on narrowing the attainment gap for Pupil Premium pupils at St Mary Magdalen’s Catholic Primary School in London. It also includes “nuggets” of practice from other schools across the country which I have come across in my role of National Leader of Education and which have had a positive impact on pupil outcomes.

Whole-school ethos of high attainment for all Pupil Premium strategies cannot be effective if they do not sit within a whole-school approach, which is established through an ethos centred on a commitment to high attainment for all. Nor can they be effective if the pupils are viewed as a stereotypical group with less potential to succeed, rather than as individuals.

At St Mary Magdalen’s the mission statement is clear: “We recognise each individual as special. We aim to help all children fulfil their potential. We recognise each child’s full entitlement to education. We value children’s uniqueness and endeavour to nurture their potential. We strive to promote in them a sense of personal worth and self-confidence, as well as an awareness of their responsibilities to self and others.”

Last year at St Mary Magdalen’s was the year of Personal Growth, linked to a wider theme of growth. It was the start of a new five-year plan, themed around growth, which has set out a series of aims for the school:

  • Cultivate community cohesion.
  • Nurture growth mindset.
  • Develop our own nursery.
  • Establish our eco-school.
  • Build a bespoke curriculum.

In keeping with the theme, the visual displaying the School Development Plan in the school states: “Have big dreams. You will grow into them.”

High-quality teaching for all

What high-quality teaching for all looks like in practice is that the more disadvantaged pupils, including Pupil Premium, are seated nearest to the teacher in the classroom. Their books are always marked first.

Observation proformas, used by all staff monitoring lessons, include a section on provision and outcomes for the disadvantaged pupils. We have in place an extra layer of monitoring for all of our disadvantaged pupils who are given individual support plans.

The lessons are pitched high, learning is meaningful and in context, and lessons have an exciting “hook”. Learning to learn is an approach used by teachers focusing on metacognition. The children are taught how to work collaboratively and a growth mindset approach is harnessed to build the children’s resilience and confidence.

Bridging the language gap

The school is language-rich with every bare wall used to educate, whether it is on key stage 1 key words or giant facts about dinosaurs. The commitment to build on all pupils’ vocabulary is focused in the curriculum, but to bridge the gap in vocabulary for some of our Pupil Premium pupils they are bought Christmas presents of sets of classic books – vintage classics for upper key stage 2 and the children’s classics collection for lower key stage 2.

Pupil Premium in the early years are bought sets of magnetic phonic letters alongside the Jolly Phonics teaching book and CD of songs. This is a relatively low expense but it has an impact on the children’s reading outcomes – they want to read the books as they are presents from school.

Addressing behaviour and attendance

Pupils need to be in school and behaving well to achieve their full potential. It is frustrating if the Pupil Premium has been carefully allocated but the children are not in school to access the interventions put in place.

We have a robust approach to monitoring and addressing attendance as soon as it dips below 90 per cent. Often the missing children will be Pupil Premium pupils. Parents are requested to meet with me to explain all of the absences that have caused concern. I put in place targets for improvement. Medical evidence is provided for each absence and daily phone calls take place to chase up each child.

However, this is set in a context of support, primarily. If necessary, the parents will be signposted to the school nurse who carries out fortnightly drop-ins. Health plans are put in place for children with conditions like asthma and every opportunity is used to support the parents towards a more positive attendance. All of our parents attend parents’ evenings, which give me a good opportunity to also book them appointments with myself for an attendance progress meeting.

All of our Pupil Premium pupils are offered free Breakfast Club places. This works well at addressing punctuality too. The club is relaxed, with table tennis, pool and Lego, and this relaxed setting is also a good place to promote oracy development.

Deployment of adults

The vast majority of teachers run tutoring once a week for one to four pupils at a time. All of our Pupil Premium pupils are invited to attend, plus other disadvantaged pupils. The teachers then become learning mentors for the children. They check in with them regularly and help with homework, in particular.

We also employ an additional SENCO for one day a week in six-week blocks to work with all of our Pupil Premium pupils. The cost is high but the impact is also high and it means that the school SENCO is freed up to focus on regular meetings with parents and other SEN requirements in the school.

Support staff are linked to groups of pupils and work on specific catch-up programmes (for example, the year 1 teacher runs a 30-minute Phonics Breakfast Club twice a week). Accountability is built into appraisal. Tight provision-mapping sets out the deployment of additional adults and focuses all staff on measuring the impact of interventions. If a programme such as five-minute phonics is not working for a child then it is dropped and an alternative intervention is found.

Meeting individual learning needs

The school buys into two programmes, which are very effective for all learners: Times Table Rock Stars and Spelling Shed. Other schools recommend 1st Class Maths, which is a 12-week programme accelerating progress and focusing on the basic four operations. We support residential visits, after-school clubs and educational visits for all of our Pupil Premium pupils.

Meanwhile, therapy is offered one-to-one for those in need. Early speech and language interventions are also put in place at the first sign of need, while nurture clubs are offered to build confidence and self-esteem (examples include Lego Club and Techno Kids).

Clear and responsive leadership

Systems must be in place to manage the Pupil Premium. A strategy for narrowing the attainment gap should not just be a website summary, that is posted and forgotten about. The action points need to be woven into whole-school planning. A bi-annual Pupil Premium review is a useful opportunity to focus at a deeper level. Planning extra layers of monitoring for Pupil Premium pupils can bring to light any vulnerable pupils and lead to actions to plug the gaps. A Pupil Premium champion on the governing body as well as on the staff can ensure an extra layer of accountability.

Engaging with parents/carers

Many Pupil Premium parents find coming into school a daunting prospect. At St Mary Magdalen’s, the SENCO meets all of the Pupil Premium parents in her room, which is annexed off from the rest of the school. We offer double parents’ evening slots to all of them, starting in Reception, meaning that the SENCO builds up a strong and close relationship over time. Home visits also help to build up a relationship and identify who might be eligible for free school meals (this is trickier now with universal FSM, as parents are less likely to register their eligibility). A visible and approachable family support worker is also assigned to the most vulnerable Pupil Premium families.

Elsewhere, year 2 parents of the more able Pupil Premium pupils are offered a partnership Homework Club. However, the learning mentors address homework too. For many Pupil Premium pupils, homework is stressful and any way of reducing this anxiety is good for the child’s wellbeing.

Some more Pupil Premium nuggets

  • An able pupil is given whole-school responsibility for leading the school Reflection Group, really boosting her confidence.
  • An able pupil is bought a clarinet and her lessons are paid for.
  • A pupil is leased a bike to cycle to school, boosting both his attendance and his punctuality.
  • Balloons are given to children whose attendance had improved.
  • Postcards are sent home to celebrate the achievements of Pupil Premium pupils.

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