This final part of DIY Pupil Premium Review focuses on the curriculum and careers & character; the latter could have equally been covered under A for Aspiration but I already had enough As.
Here’s a couple of important notes from the previous posts:
“I wonder to what extent looking at these sub-groups actually helps schools or whether the issues that manifest themselves in poor outcomes for disadvantaged pupils affect all pupils.”
“These are averages and pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds will vary hugely … It’s true for all sub-groups; aggregated data matters little when dealing with individuals.”
Curriculum is very much in vogue, however, unless the accountability system changes it will continue to provide a perverse impact on schools. Until you’ve lived the daily reality of teaching or leading a school in a disadvantaged area/with high levels of disadvantaged pupils, for years, you’ll struggle to really understand or empathise with the depth of the tension. The tension however can be useful to explore your own thinking.
At a primary level getting the basics right – literacy & numeracy and personal & social development – is crucial. Pupils from a disadvantaged background, on average, start further behind than there more affluent peers. They will need more time spent on the basics to catch up. More time on one thing means less on another; the curriculum inevitably becomes squeezed. Ensuring the vast majority of pupils can read, write, think mathematically and interact with others, to an agreed standard, is a crucial part of a primary school’s purpose. So is education in the sciences, humanities and art as well as nurturing a love of learning. It’s a tall order; have you got the balance right? If something has to go what will it be?
At a secondary level Progress 8 looms large as a curriculum driver. Containing up to nine subjects, it has the potential to provide a broad curriculum; depending on the options provided it may or may not. Make sure all the buckets – English including English literature and Mathematics, E-Bacc and Open – are filled. Outliers have a huge adverse impact on a school’s outcomes. Check for any subject weaknesses; core subjects and very large option subjects are the first port of call. Schools in an Ofsted category, instructed to complete a Pupil Premium Review, are invariably there due to test/examination data; let’s not fool ourselves otherwise. They will be obliged to do something about this alongside building a curriculum that shares our cultural capital with the next generation.
Careers & Character
“What do you want to do and who do you want to become whilst doing it”, to rather badly paraphrase Rev. Steve Chalke. I’m not sure to what extent pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds lack aspiration or to what extent it’s the absence of know how or the necessary support that’s missing. Thinking of my own children, post-university, we were able to pay for accommodation for a year or give a month’s salary up front to get one through to their first pay day. Parents from disadvantaged backgrounds may want to do this but simply don’t have the money. Similarly, when I lacked know how I was able to find someone who had it.
Does the school’s careers programme provide pupils with the know how they are missing? Are pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds prioritised when it comes to interviews with advisors and do they get more than the norm if they need it? What does the school’s destination data tell you about where disadvantaged pupils go post-16; how does it match with their more affluent peers?
This isn’t just about know how; it’s about a curriculum, in its widest sense, that develops the confidence and skill set that allows pupils irrespective of background to become the best version of themselves that they can. What opportunities are provided beyond lessons to experience new and different situations; to what extent do pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds access and benefit from them?
Delivering more equitable educational outcomes for disadvantaged pupils is our contribution to a fairer more cohesive society. In this endeavour more is demanded of some of our schools than others; we should respect and celebrate their many successes.
If you would like to read about the A & B of the ABC approach the posts are: