Improving the rate of academic progress for disadvantaged students can often seem less like a science and more like a lottery. The interventions and strategies offered by experts are multiple, but knowing which will work for each student is far from easy.
“It can be difficult to know which tactic will make a real impact,” says Christine Terrey, headteacher of Harbour Primary and Nursery School in Newhaven, East Sussex.
For Terrey, however, this is a problem that seems to have been overcome – be it with a little help. Harbour Primary and Nursery is one of around 1,900 schools in the UK receiving support from the charity Achievement for All. A new report by PwC into the organisation’s work found that the progress of disadvantaged students at schools it worked with exceeded government targets set for all students in reading writing and maths. Harbour Primary and Nursery was no exception.
So what is the secret? Terrey is happy to divulge all.
“Closing the attainment gap for disadvantaged children is a priority for school leaders like me. An above average number of our students attract pupil premium funding. The odds seem stacked against them so everything needs to be right at school.
The following five points have been key to the students’ success:
1. Improved parental engagement In-depth 'structured conversations' led by parents have brought disengaged parents back into the school, given us a richer picture of family life and helped raise attainment. 2. Better use of student data We closely follow student progress across the school, checking the impact of interventions. An iPad app gives teachers access to children’s achievement, attendance and behaviour records. Our online ‘e-portfolio’ gives parents a clearer ongoing picture of their child’s learning and attainment. 3. Improved behaviour We’ve introduced a nurture class with one teacher and one highly trained teaching assistant to seven children. We assess their needs with the Boxall Profile and closely track academic progress. 4. Raised attendance Parents formed a self-help group and the school nurse, Family Information Service and our own special education needs co-ordinator (Senco) often attend. The group created an information leaflet that helped improve children’s attendance. 5. Focused leadership The Achievement for All programme is championed by our Senco – who is also a member of the senior leadership team – and governors take a close interest. We’ve developed action plans with our programme coach and staff get CPD that helps them raise attainment for our disadvantaged groups.”