5 best ways to support your pupil premium pupils

Thanks to Charlie Anderson, Deputy Headteacher at The John Henry Newman School

Since taking over as the pupil premium champion at my school 5 years ago, I quickly learnt this group of pupils are not a ‘one suit fits all’ group.  They are as diverse a group of pupils as you are likely to find, and their needs and barriers to learning are spread across the entire spectrum of needs, ranging from very little to severe.

I realised very early on that ensuring our pupil premium pupils were given the very best opportunities to be successful was not a problem I would be able to solve alone.  And indeed, the definition of success for the pupils again varied significantly from achieving all grade 9s and taking 4 A levels, to getting in to school on time so they wouldn’t miss their PE lesson every week.

Below are five of the best ways we have worked with our pupil premium pupils that have had an impact, and could possibly work in your setting (they aren’t off the peg solutions – as all schools are different – but hopefully they help to spark ideas).

It needs to be cultural!

Often pupil premium pupils’ needs cannot be seen, and there are no obvious barriers when they enter the classroom. The assumption is they will be okay in the long run.  We have had a massive push on ensuring colleagues know that the classroom experience is the number one thing that makes a difference to disadvantaged pupils, and that their learning experience needs to be planned and focused.  We have produced and distributed 10 steps to ‘Closing the gap’, which are now used across the school.  Pupils are identified, feedback is specific, missed lessons are followed up and the quality of the work in books is exceptionally high.  The well-being and school experience is a major focus in all classrooms: ‘it is how we do things here’.

Get the right team round you

As mentioned in the introduction, this was not a job I could do alone.  I needed a group of people I could rely on to do the day-to-day work with the pupils and ones that the pupils would trust.  We now use the Assistant Heads of Year as the main contact with the pupil premium pupils. They meet regularly with the pupils to discuss their school experience, check they have the required essential equipment, and are the first point of contact with parents on matters including results, attendance and behaviour.  I meet fortnightly with the group to share ideas, discuss strategies and talk about ways we can support the pupils.

Working with pupil premium students

Data as a starting point

We use our termly data collection to drill down into the data of our pupil premium pupils, so that we know exactly how they are doing compared to their aspirational targets in all subjects, not just on average.  We then identify those pupils not performing as we would expect, and work with curriculum and pastoral leaders, who in turn work with classroom teachers and form tutors to look at strategies and interventions that have had an impact in the past and could have an impact in the future.  We are specific with the interventions and try to match them to the pupils.

Parental engagement is key

We have increased our work with parents of pupil premium pupils over the past three years to try to get them on board in helping us to support their children.  We write home at the beginning of the year informing parents their children are entitled to the pupil premium grant, and the benefits this has.  Even though reports are now fully electronic we ensure pupil premium reports are sent home and parents are invited in to discuss them.  We hold themed parental support evenings throughout the year and ensure pupil premium parents are invited and that the evenings are as attractive as they can be to get maximum attendance.  All Year 11 pupils have a senior member of staff as a mentor who they meet with each half term, and parents are also invited to attend.

Be creative

As a school, we ensure all pupil premium funding is ring fenced and it is spent entirely on the pupils.  None is lost in the whole school pot and we are open to suggestions from all colleagues on how the funding can be used – no matter how left field!  We have recently started an Outward Bound study residential, MyTutor sessions, incentivised revision sessions, bought laptops, tablets and internet connections as well as the obvious travel, revision and classroom resources.

Be creative

These are some of our go to strategies that we roll out year after year.  There are many others that we have tried and either they have failed, or we are still trialing them to decide on their impact.  We are forensic in our yearly review to ensure we get it right for the pupils.  As stated in the introduction, these are some of the strategies that have had an impact in my setting and with an attention to detail and tweaking they could be successful for you too.

Want to learn more? Take a look at this article for more creative ways to spend pupil premium funding.

About the author

Charlie Anderson (middle) has been teaching for 20 years and is currently Deputy Headteacher and teacher of Physics at The John Henry Newman Catholic School.  His current remit is leadership and management, pupil premium champion and school accountability.  He has also recently completed an MEd in ‘Leading Teaching and Learning’.

Charlie Anderson

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