Closing the attainment gap and improving the life chances of pupils from deprived backgrounds is a major focus for schools.
Now research has been published that aims to identify how the best performing schools support pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds – both inside and outside of London.
Here are five findings from the report, published by the Department for Education today:
1. The best schools believe they can make a difference
The researchers found that high-performing schools believe that their practices are enough to make a difference for disadvantaged pupils.
The best performing schools for disadvantaged pupils have high expectations for pupils and try to develop positive relationships between staff, parents and pupils, according to the report.
It says that these schools had a “greater conviction that their practices would make a difference" for disadvantaged pupils.
In contrast, the lowest-performing primaries were less likely to believe that their disadvantaged pupils could meet or better the national average in attainment.
2. Successful schools use a wider range of strategies, including school trips
The research found that high-performing schools, both inside and outside of London, used a broader range of strategies to support disadvantaged pupils than lower-performing schools.
Successful strategies for supporting children from poorer backgrounds included subsiding trips and extracurricular activities, and directing resources towards the early years and foundation stage.
In many cases, the difference between high- and low-performing schools came down to the extent to which schools used these strategies consistently to support disadvantaged pupils.
3. The best schools recruit staff who share the same ethos
The report emphasises the importance of schools employing teachers who share the same high expectations.
In the best performing schools, in both primary and secondary, staff were recruited who believed in the same values and culture as the school.
The new report also says that the best performing schools placed a greater emphasis on the quality of support staff than other schools did.
The research acknowledged that for some low-performing schools outside of London, staff recruitment, retention and turnover was more of a challenge. There were also more frequent issues with staff performance, the report says.
4. Celebrating pupils’ success and aspirations
In high-performing primary schools, researchers found that staff celebrated pupils' success. This was done at every opportunity by building celebrations into weekly timetables and by including parents.
They also found that high-performing primaries used pupils' more “idealistic” aspirations – for example, becoming a footballer or an astronaut – as a positive hook to discuss other career options, rather than simply dismissing them as over-ambitious.
5. There is a high-expectation 'London culture' in the capital’s best performing primaries
Researchers found there was a “subtle but discernible” London culture in high-performing primary schools.
The paper says that the strongest primary schools in London went further than other primary schools elsewhere in building parents' expectations of their children’s future academic and career path.
It also says that high-performing primary schools in the capital were more likely to intervene when staff did not share their high expectations and that these schools also involved pupils in behaviour management to a greater degree than other less successful schools.
The research, by the LKMco thinktank, was based on two-day, in-depth qualitative case studies of 16 primary and seven secondary schools across England, conducted between September 2016 and July 2017.
The DfE has also published a report today examining why schools in London outperform the rest of the country.
It says that the stronger academic performance of pupils living in London compared with elsewhere in England cannot be solely explained by the city's ethnic mix.