It is no surprise that, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, disadvantaged pupils – including those in receipt of Free School Meals and the Pupil Premium – have fallen further behind their peers. In fact, in a reportpublished by the House of Commons Committee earlier this year, it is suggested that this group – the most vulnerable in our society – are currently between 5 and 8 months behind other children in their year groups. It is more important than ever that schools engage with research in order to readdress the balance and to support educational recovery for those most in need.
Pupil Premium is a government allocated funding pot. It is given to schools to address the current underlying inequalities between children from disadvantaged backgrounds and their peers. Schools receive a grant for each child who has been registered as eligible for Free School Meals (FSM) at any point in the last six years; children who have been looked after continuously for more than six months; and children whose parents are currently serving in the armed forces. This is called the Pupil Premium Grant (PPG). The money schools receive enables them to make additional provisions for their disadvantaged pupils.
Spending of the Pupil Premium in the post-pandemic world, then, is crucial for schools, in order to help reduce the widening gap. New guidance from the Department for Education suggests that a three-tiered approach to allocating funds is the best way to support our disadvantaged children. The three tiers focus on: high quality teaching; targeted academic support; and wider strategies. Let’s take a look at what this might look like in practice:
- High Quality Teaching
High quality teaching improves pupil outcomes. By investing in effective Professional Development, schools and leaders can help to develop teaching quality, and in turn, outcomes for children in the classroom.
The recommendations around Professional Development include choosing approaches that are rooted in evidence, can be delivered consistently across the school, and are wide-ranging. In its report on effective CPD for teachers, the EEF suggests that Professional Development should address and encourage a broad range of skills, including communication, modelling language, assessment, exploration of ideas and instruction. By highlighting these skills, a teacher can consider how to apply them across multiple subjects, and to meet the needs of individuals. The focus here is on improving teaching ability, rather than developing teacher knowledge in a very specific area – this means teachers can use the Professional Development to understand how to best improve their practice in any area of the curriculum.
2. Targeted Academic Support
While high quality teaching will reduce the need for extra support for some pupils, it is likely that other pupils – in particular, those from disadvantaged backgrounds – will need targeted intervention in order to catch up. Small group and one-to-one intervention can be a powerful tool for teaching pupils who are not making progress in their learning in the mainstream classroom. However, it is important that these interventions are carefully planned so that they link to classroom teaching and and provide effective opportunities to secure or build upon existing knowledge and skills.
The key principles of effective interventions follow the ‘SAFE’ approach: they are Sequential, Active, Focused and Explicit. The means that intervention should be planned in line with the existing curriculum, with teachers identifying timely and appropriate opportunities to reinforce learning. Role-play, discussion and small group activities can be used to ensure active learning. Regular, focused and quality instruction for brief periods is more effective than infrequent, longer sessions. And finally, it is important to be clear about the skills being taught during the intervention, and why they are necessary.
3. Wider strategies
The final tier focuses on wider strategies, and in particular, those that target attendance, behaviour, and social and emotional support.
Collaborative learning is a key area for discussion here; when used well, collaborative learning can have a positive effect of behaviour and well-being, as well as pupil outcomes. Effective collaborative learning requires much more than just sitting pupils together and asking them to work together; structured approaches with well-designed tasks lead to the greatest learning gains.
Effective collaboration does not happen automatically so pupils will need support and practice to achieve this. Approaches that promote talk and interaction between learners result in optimum progress.
How can Teach Outdoors help?
Our training programme, Taking the Curriculum Outdoors, is designed to meet all three tiers of the Pupil Premium strategy guidance.
- With a focus on outdoor learning, the programme provides specific, engaging and interactive professional development for teachers. Our programme is evidence-based, and includes sessions on monitoring and assessment. This ensures the focus is on providing high quality teaching, while also demonstrating impact on pupil outcomes.
- Our programme is intrinsically linked to the curriculum. This means that it can be used in addition to classroom based teaching to support elements of the curriculum for children who need extra support or repetition of ideas. Our outdoor learning ideas also follow the ‘SAFE’ principles – perfect for effective intervention.
- If your school is looking for ways to address the ‘wider strategies’ tier, outdoor learning is a great opportunity to explore behaviour, as well as the social and emotional aspects of a child’s development. The learning activities teach aspects of collaborative learning explicitly, and provide the ideal opportunity to practise and develop these skills.
We’re happy to provide further guidance to help schools and leaders determine the best ways to allocate your Pupil Premium funding – please get in touch to discuss further!