What's it like to have a Pupil Premium review?
What’s it like to have a Pupil Premium review from an external expert and is it worthwhile? Head of School at South Bromsgrove High, Chris Smith, tells us more.
In 2012 we got a letter from the DofE congratulating us on our good results, which was a great pat on the back, however, they also pointed out that we had a performance gap for the students who were eligible for Pupil Premium and that we had to take action to address this. At the time we had 15% of our cohort who were eligible for Pupil Premium and had made some headway in closing the gap for these students. We had already put into place various strategies, which included:
- A dedicated Attainment and Progress Officer who focus was to work exclusively with Pupil Premium students
- Subject Specialist TAs in English, Maths and Science to support intervention
What we wanted from an external review
Even though these strategies were effectively starting to ‘close the gap’, we were finding it difficult to pinpoint which strategies were working and to find a methodology to measure them. We also wanted to get a ‘fresh pair of eyes’ on the school to identify any blind spots and to suggest any other strategies we could put in place.
- We found Pat Walters, our Pupil Premium reviewer from searching the NCTL database - http://apps.nationalcollege.org.uk/closing_the_gap/index.cfm.
- Prior to her visit, Pat asked us for our Raiseonline data, PP Self Review, PP spend, and current data analysis
- We created a full agenda for the day where Pat could meet with key staff, students, observe lessons and speak the governor with PP responsibility
- We received initial feedback at the end of the day, and within a week, received her first draft report. We were able to make minor amends and correct any inaccuracies and then received the final version a few days later
So what were the recommendations and how did we respond?
Thankfully the report confirmed to us that we were on the right track with our current interventions and highlighted lots of positive aspects of our work. However, Pat also made several recommendations to improve the current practice. The top line improvements since the review include:
- Attendance - A lot of Pat’s recommendations hinged around attendance. Our PP students were particularly poor attenders and there were various reasons behind this. In order to tackle this issue, we reappointed to the full time position of ‘Attendance Intervention Co-ordinator’ whose focus was to ensure that PP student’s attendance improved through dealing one-to-one with individual cases and overcoming barriers that were preventing them from attending school. This was also an opportunity to review systems and processes to ensure they were more robust.
- Free School Meals - Monitoring the uptake of free schools meals and noting what students were eating was something that we were loosely monitoring but not in a consistent way. We now know which students are eating regularly and are chasing up those who aren’t eating a regular meal at school.
- Created a PP Record – this is a single place where staff can see all of the information related to a PP student. This includes not just their subject grades, but information on their home life, their aspirations, if they have access to a computer at home and if they have a quiet space to complete homework. This gives staff much more of an insight into the motivations and barriers that the students have.
- Governors - Communicate more effectively with Governors on the on-going strategies and interventions in place with a sharp focus on value for money.
- Evaluation - More focus on making sure that all of the initiatives were evaluated and impact identified. This largely consisted of ‘soft’ rather than ‘hard’ data and some anecdotal evidence.
Our Teaching and Learning SLT lead also created this check sheet for staff for every lesson:
So was it worthwhile?
It’s now been a year since Pat completed her review and the strategies that we have put in place are definitely paying off. The process not only highlighted what we were doing well and but also areas for improvement that we were able to focus on and react too quickly. We are still finding it challenging to understand which methodologies to use to assess the impact of interventions and which ones are the most effective, but this is a work in progress! I know that it can be uncomfortable to open up your school to an outside reviewer but the process gave us much more clarity about which direction we needed to go to improve the outcomes for our students, which is most definitely worthwhile!
Chris Smith - Head of School
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