Widnes success story

Trips to the Harry Potter Studio Tour and the zoo are some of the ways a secondary school in Halton has worked towards closing the gap between pupil premium children and their peers.

Ian Critchley, from Wade Deacon High School, explained how the 11-16 school has improved the outcomes and aspirations for those from the most disadvantaged pupils.

The school is based in Widnes, the 18th most deprived borough in England and Wales, which has the highest percentage of people with
level 2 as their highest qualification.

The school uses some tutors to help disadvantaged children, but Mr Critchley (pictured below) explained the school has never used the pupil premium funding for additional staff, in order not to create a “vacuum” if the funding is pulled by the government.

“Not everything we have done has had the desired impact, but it is important to track everything you do to make sure you are not spending money on something that is not making a difference.”

The school moved its leading maths teachers to teach the lower subject sets – “as there is nothing better than improving the outcomes for those pupils than exposing them to the highest quality teaching”.

And ex-pupils, now in further education, come back to help maths pupils.

Explaining why the school takes pupils on excursions to places like the Harry Potter tour and the zoo, he said: “As I mentioned, a lot of pupils do not get out of Widnes, so we try and take them to experience the wider world and experience London. This helps their literacy – so before they go they write a piece about what they expect from it, and then when they are back they write about what they discovered. It is very difficult for them to write about what being on a tube is like if they have never experienced it. We need to get them out of Widnes.”

Trips like this have had a proven impact on attendance.

The school captures data four times a year, and parents and carers receive a hard copy every eight or nine weeks giving the pupil a grade towards learning and attitude and behaviour.

“It is easy for some teachers to say ‘look at the area that pupil is from’ and expect they won’t do very well.

“Teachers’ viewpoints can sometimes limit the expectations of those pupils. That is a barrier we all massively need to overcome in education.

“I can stand up and say this but it might not be the case for your school – you have to do what suits your context.”