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Tom Sparks (left) and Goffs School Principal Alison J Garner pick up their Pupil Premium award from Nick Clegg

At a premium

Tom Sparks outlines how Goffs School is closing the gap between pupil premium and non-pupil premium students

Posted by Stephanie Broad | July 10, 2015 | Law, finance, HR

Introduced in 2011, the pupil premium is extra funding which all schools in England receive for every disadvantaged pupil they teach. It currently amounts to £2.5bn nationally.   

Goffs School in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire is a thriving and oversubscribed academy for 11 to 18 year-olds, with approximately 1,300 students on roll. Its successful approach to supporting its pupil premium students led to success in the Department for Education Pupil Premium Awards for 2014, where it was the East of England Regional Winner and a National Runner-Up. The Pupil Premium Awards celebrate schools that use the pupil premium to achieve a measurable advance in the attainment of their disadvantaged pupils.

The amount each school receives is determined by the number of children who are entitled to receive free school meals (FSM) during the last six years, or are looked after children (LAC). Each school can choose how that funding should be allocated in order to support the academic success of these pupils. In the Academic Year 2013/2014 we were allocated £188,100 for our 201 pupil premium students – which amounts to £935 per person. It’s a lot of money so it’s obviously vital to get the provision right, both to do the best for our pupils and to ensure that we get best value for money. 

We have used a combination of different strategies to improve outcomes among our pupil premium students and many of them have been researched by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) to calculate the impact on the number of months’ progress that could be gained.

We began by creating a team to monitor and track our pupil premium students, the spending on them and the impact that this has on outcomes. Through this, we know, how much each individual pupil premium has had spent on them and, for many, this has been significantly more than the allocation. This concept of systematic tracking of expenditure has been shared with many local schools as best practice.

A large proportion of pupil premium money has been used to expand staffing in key areas, which in turn led to smaller class sizes for our more vulnerable students. For example, in year 11 science, some of the classes operated with as few as six students and in maths, the smallest classes were operating with 10 in the class. Calculations by the EEF show that this strategy of smaller class sizes achieved a gain of +3 months and that the increased feedback had a gain of +8 months (EEF).

Another key factor in our success has been the work we have undertaken done in partnership with PET-Xi Training. We used PET-Xi’s High-5 booster sessions for pupil premium students in both English and maths for our pupil premium students from year seven up to year 11. ‘High-5’ is a five-day motivational boot-camp style revision intervention programme designed to take students from a grade D to a grade C in GCSE.

Motivational, inspirational and fast-paced, its Foundation level programme involves a process of repeat, repeat, review, and is a proven, highly effective tool for teachers to boost results.

Every day begins and ends with a confidence test in a particular topic and homework is set daily. The team comprises a motivational lead, a subject expert, and support worker, and focuses sharply on confidence building, exam technique and on manipulation of essential exam material. The course is highly structured, the pace is fast and expectation is high.

The feedback from students was very positive and the majority of students made measurable progress during the sessions. Of the students in Year 11 who undertook the course, approximately 80% of them went on to achieve their target grades in Maths. 

Another useful intervention strategy we used included a comprehensive ‘Beyond Study Leave’ programme which prepared students for final exams. EEF research showed that this had a gain of +2 months (EEF).

Other external support, specifically around social and emotional learning, had a gain of +4 months (EEF) and included providing access to two youth workers to support the school’s pastoral care programme. 

Finally, pupil premium funding has also supported students to undertake activities that perhaps they might not have previously been able to do, including accessing curriculum trips and extracurricular activities

The outcome of this has been fantastic. The gap between our year 11 pupil premium students and non pupil premium students for five A*-C now stands at just 10%, with our pupil premium students achieving 65% in this measure - significantly above the national average for five A*-C of 58%.

For English, expected progress for pupil premium students of 68% is 12% above the national average. The gap between pupil premium students and non-pupil premium students has remained at 8%. 

For maths, expected progress for pupil premium students of 65% is 11% above the national average.

In other measures, the gap between pupil premium students and non pupil premium students has again narrowed across key measures. 

Based on their final year 10 mock examinations, we are predicting that the gap will decrease further for this cohort. For five A*-C we are predicting a gap of six per cent for English progress, nine per cent; for maths progress, no gap at all.

We became East of England Winners and National Runners up in the Pupil Premium Awards 2014. These awards reward schools that are able to provide evidence of effective strategies to improve the achievement of disadvantaged pupils and show sustained improvement in raising their attainment.

We were particularly pleased when Goffs was the only school invited to present at the 2015 Pupil Premium Awards in March. Two of our year 11 pupils wrote their own speeches and presented them perfectly to the audience of 250, which included the then Schools Minister, David Laws and then Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg.

During this current academic year, we are continuing much of the best practice that we completed in 2013/2014. However, we are also looking to develop further parental engagement of our pupil premium students, along with developing the access our students have to IT both at home and in school. Finally, we will continue to drive forward our work on raising aspirations for our students.

Tom Sparks is assistant principal and the lead for pupil premium at Goffs School:

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