Every month a school from the Education Endowment Foundation’s Research School network shares a research-based initiative it has implemented.
A third of our pupils at Springfield are “pupil premium”. Last year we won the National Pupil Premium Awards because our outcomes for “disadvantaged” learners were exceptional, and this year 90 per cent of our 30 year 6 pupil premium children achieved the expected standard in reading, writing and maths.
Since winning the award, many school leaders have asked us to share the principles we work from. We use evidence-based approaches as our starting points and carefully adapt them to our school context.
Our two key principles are very simple:
1. Effective teaching
The most important factor for attainment and progress is effective teaching. This has been highlighted by the Sutton Trust, whose 2011 report on improving the impact of teachers on pupil achievement in the UK revealed that the effects of high-quality teaching are especially significant for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds – equivalent to 1.5 years’ worth of learning.
After considering how this could be realised amongst the myriad pressures of school life, we created additional time and space to prioritise professional development. On the final Friday of every month pupils take part in an enrichment afternoon that is run predominantly by support staff and enhanced by a few local visiting experts, for example a dance teacher or puppeteer. All sessions are based on PSHE themes and follow a rolling programme over the year.
This allows time for a professional development meeting for teachers, in which we deliver training and constantly reflect on school development priorities and approaches. We predominantly use in-house expertise to deliver these sessions, allowing our middle leaders and subject leaders to develop professionally and have regular whole-school influence.
Sources of evidence on effective delivery of CPD (such as The Teacher Development Trust’s report Developing Great Teaching and the Department for Education Standards for teachers’ professional development) underline the importance of having regular sequential slots to develop teaching as opposed to spending an Inset day on an initiative, then returning to it halfway through the year. A three-day CPD programme, “Leading Learning, is delivered by a number of research schools in our network to support school leaders with evidence-based CPD to maximise its impact.
As well as adopting these principles, our commitment to CPD extends beyond the teaching staff. Support staff have a weekly half-hour slot (during our singing assembly) that focuses on their needs and is run by different staff members from within the school.
Pupils make good progress for little cost
2. Focus on literacy
Our second principle is that children need to be good readers to succeed, not just in literacy but to access the wider curriculum. This is supported by a range of recent robust evidence, including the Education Endowment Foundation and Royal Society findings on the importance of early reading as an essential building block of a good education. Both show that poor literacy skills hold pupils back in school subjects over time.
We know that the junior years are of paramount importance in developing children’s reading skills, so we ensure that all pupils read regularly using a structured programme that enables us to match books to pupils with precision. The evidence behind our chosen programme, Accelerated Reader, shows that, delivered well, pupils make good progress for little cost – always a consideration for schools. The scheme also gives us important, nuanced data for each child and helps to inform staff planning. All this is backed up by a culture of celebrating reading with pupils.
Our pupil premium strategy is rooted in our whole-school ethos. We know that if you provide high-quality teaching that is effective for disadvantaged learners then you are providing effective teaching for all.