Unpicking Pupil Premium

The 15 Minute Forum tonight was led by Kate Blight and Chloe Gardner.  The session started by unpicking some of the issues associated with Pupil Premium.  An extract from a BBC news article, highlighted some of the views that contribute to this issue:


The full article can be read here, but this is a concern.  It suggests that working class students are higher unlikely to be successful, because of their lower IQ – and so should simply accept their ‘lot’.  Fortunately, later in the article a more sensible view is put forward by Sally Hunt, General Secretary of the University & College Union:

“It should come as little surprise that people who enjoy a more privileged upbringing have a better start in life. It is up to all of us to ensure that not having access to the social and educational benefits that money provides is not a barrier to achieving one’s full potential.”

This chimes true with our philosophy of ‘Growth Mindset’ – talent and achievement can be developed through hard work, effort and determination.  We talk a great deal about ‘moral purpose’ in education, but what greater moral purpose can there be, than to make sure that your social background does not impact on your future success?

pp2The graph above has now been widely distributed and discussed around twitter and the bloggersphere – and people have divergent views on it.  It’s a summary of findings from the Education Endowment Foundation & The Sutton Trust on the impact of interventions used with Pupil Premium students, against the cost of the intervention.  The full intervention toolkit and accompanying explanation of the research can be viewed here.

Kate went on to discuss some of the interventions cited in the toolkit, that have been successfully used at DHS.  Before this though, she outlined some key things for us all to consider:

  • Make it your business to know who the pupil premium students you teach are – and appreciate that they will probably be starting from a lower position than non-PP students, because of their background.  Highlight them on your seating plans and class lists.
  • The best thing that we can do for all students, including PP students, is teach them really well!  No intervention is better than quality first teaching.  For more on great teaching, look here.
  • Not all students have low academic starting points – but the majority do.
  • Like all students – PP students need to be challenged and stretched.


Not surprisingly, feedback will make a big difference to student achievement.  But, it has to be feedback that is specific to the student, that will make them think about their work.  The best way to do this, is by posing students questions about their work, as they are working i.e. in the lesson.  Once this has been done, they need to be given time to respond to the feedback – DIRT.  Read more about feedback here.


Homework provides students with the ability to practise what they have been doing in lessons – so helping them to embed their learning.  As such, it appears to have a positive impact on achievement.  There is a potential problem here though with PP students.  They may not have a suitable environment at home to do their homework, or they may not be supported to do it, by the adults they live with.  We are trying to address this, by providing a venue (the LRA) and staff after school, who will be available to support students with their homework.

Another important point about homework is that if it is to be useful, students need to get formative feedback on it and be given the support and time to respond to this feedback.  The maths department are doing some great work on this.


If PP students (or any students) are starting from a low position, they need to embed the fundamentals of the subject they are learning, before they can move on.  A ‘mastery learning’ approach may support this.  Rather than just move on from topic to topic, irrespective of whether or not they have ‘got it’, with mastery learning you pick 5 or 6 fundamental topics, teach them one at a time, but don’t move on to the next until at least 80% of the class have got it.


This has been successful in both maths and history at DHS.  High achieving students have peer tutored students who are struggling with the subject.  If it is to be successful though, it needs a degree of planning.  The teacher identifies the specific topics that the students have been struggling with and then briefs the ‘tutor’ student on them – picking out the key learning points and possible misconceptions.  Why is this worth doing?  The ‘tutee’ students have reported feeling less threatened by this approach and are less concerned about making mistakes.  It’s important to stress that the ‘tutor’ is not teaching them – they are walking them through the topic and offering an alternative explanation, whilst encouraging the ‘tutee’ to tackle what they are stuck with.


Following this discussion, Chloe (who is our Director of ICT and Business Studies) outlined some strategies her department has used, to support achievement of PP students.

  • Identify particular groups of students. For us in Computing, we are focusing on how to get more girls into ICT.  One strategy was to participate in ‘Girls in ICT Day’.  This was really successful with PP girls.
  • Raspberry Pi (a small computer) loan scheme. Students can rent out a Raspberry Pi kit and a help book from us to develop their skills at home further and improve their confidence (For another department this could be a book or a piece of equipment that could develop their understanding and knowledge further).
  • Extra-curricular programming clubs focusing on separate groups of students – those who have existing skills and those trying for the first time (buddy up students so they feel more confident in their ability). Get PP students from Year 10 or 11 running a club and deciding what they would like to deliver – with a little guidance. This could improve their confidence within your subject.
  • Contact local universities to set up small group visits for PP students to discuss career opportunities and the work that local companies within your subject field do or get speakers in from local companies.  Raise their aspirations.
  • Providing positive role models within your subject area and explain career options. We embed this into lessons so that students can see why we’re teaching something and what they could do within Computing in the future.
  • Join NACE, this is the National Association for able Children in Education.  This helps you to break down the pupil premium group of students, as they are different levels and abilities. It allows you to focus on more able PP students as a separate cohort, taking into account that the PP student cohort are a diverse group. There are also awards for the students to gain as well as the school, we are members now as a school but if you want log in details, let CGa know.
  • #include, Computer Science for all. http://www.casinclude.org.uk/.  This is a group of teachers, academics and professionals,  who are passionate about giving ALL students the opportunity to study Computing regardless of gender, race, socio-economic status, SEN or disabilities. There are events and blogs which gives ideas and support. Find or create a network of teachers within your subject area – this could be on Twitter or in the local area. (I found #include on the internet whilst researching ideas)
  • Evening sessions with PP students and their parents. Each year group has their own evening from 5pm-7pm throughout the school year and they attend with their parents. Usually after a Tracking Point (data collection) so we can see students who are being projected to underachieve by the end of the year. The PP students who are projected to underachieve are invited to come to an evening session with their parents to develop software skills and improve their work to achieve the next mark band or level. Parents also engage and learn new skills too.  Whilst all underachieving students can attend, PP students are specifically targeted.
  • Personal Intervention Plans sent to all students (not just PP) who need focused support and reminders of the specific improvements they need to make.  This could be theory or subject knowledge and topics or it could be skills in a particular piece of software. Usually those projected to underachieve.
  • Laptop loan scheme for aiding PP students with completing homework (this is in the development stage but could help with improving homework).
  • Purchased the Big Trak robots to engage students and get them thinking about sets of instructions and writing algorithms- this has worked for all abilities within PP and non-PP and the impact has been more students engaging with the subject and asking to learn more about programming. (research if there are any resources within your subject that could further aid learning out of the classroom)
  • Sent 9 students on a FireTech summer school in August 2014 – http://www.firetechcamp.com/  These students were all PP and had low confidence in programming and in Computing lessons in general. They are now ‘Computing champions’ and buddy up in lessons with other students who are struggling in a particular piece of software and offer help and ideas to develop their work. (Are there any summer camps within your subject that could be beneficial?) – So far, 6 of the 9 students that attended the sessions have seen their skills develop and the quality of their work is much higher than others in the class and they are starting to try some GCSE tasks to really challenge them.



Remember, we are in the business of improving life chances.  What better start to their adult life can we give a student from a socially disadvantaged background, than a cracking set of examination results and raised aspirations?

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2 Responses to Unpicking Pupil Premium

  1. Pingback: 15 Minute Forums – Autumn 2014 | Class Teaching

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