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So what should we be doing, or doing more of, or more effectively?

The Pupil Premium currently delivers £50 million pounds ‘additional’ funding to Kent schools. How schools use the resource makes a difference. Some schools are succeeding in narrowing achievement gaps, for example 55 schools have a three year improving trend in narrowing gaps. Pupil Premium funding is now also available for Early Years settings.

  1. The first strategy is to do the core business well, which means ensuring all teaching is good, and teachers improve by working closely with other teachers and learn from the best. The test of good teaching is the achievement of expected and better than expected rates of progress for all pupils. Too much variation in the progress rates for different groups of pupils would suggest the need to re-think teaching approaches.
  2. Consistently good teaching is best achieved in school cultures that support teacher development and improvement, and professional learning, where coaching and collaboration are given more time than compliance activity and where monitoring activities give teachers solutions and ideas for achieving a better outcome.
  3. The evidence suggests that schools that avoid in-school social segregation, for example by rigid ability and attainment grouping with little fluidity, achieve better engagement, higher levels of motivation and more positive attitudes by learners, especially those that are likely to experience disadvantage.
  4. Increasingly, schools are paying more attention to character education, focusing on developing children’s and young people’s attitudes and aptitudes, to improve resilience, self-motivated learning, perseverance and ambition. Social and cultural capital, confidence, self-control and self-belief are as important as cognitive ability for success in education and the labour market. Engagement in enrichment activities help to develop these qualities, including sports, after school clubs and trips. The challenge is to ensure pupils on free school meals participate in them and get the benefits.
  5. Schools that adopt a growth culture that embeds the belief that all children can do better than expected, that their innate abilities and aptitudes can be improved with the right support, and that promotes a culture that does not give up on any child, are more likely to get the engagement and effort by all children to do well.
  6. The Sutton Trust’s evidence papers, including the most effective and low cost strategies in their Teaching and Learning Toolkit, are not used as widely and consistently as they could be by schools to narrow achievement gaps. These proven strategies include the regular use of helpful feedback to pupils, peer mentoring and peer assessment, the use of meta-cognition which encourages pupils to reflect on and develop their learning techniques and habits, and the development of mastery learning (which involves regular practice) and the use of coaching for children and staff. A recent report by The Sutton Trust concluded that while more than 60% of schools had accessed and knew about the Toolkit less than 10% of schools were using the strategies effectively.
  7. And lastly, some children need more teaching as individuals and in small groups in addition to whole class lessons and some children need more help and time to do homework, often in the school because they cannot do it at home. At a time when it is estimated that 50% of children are having extra tutoring outside school, it is not unreasonable to expect that disadvantaged children would need additional teaching and coaching. They are also likely to need the support of nurture groups to build relationships and attachment to learning.