‘Why challenging high performers is important and what we can do’ By Deborah Eyre

Providing challenge for top performers in the classroom is one of the most difficult and long standing problems in British education. Whilst some schools do really well, they remain the minority.

When it comes to gifted/more able your school is likely to be in one of the following categories:

  • Don’t believe in it and hence make no special provision as a result
  • Have a cohort of students identified as gifted or more able – or a similar term – and offer them special opportunities
  • Systematically and purposefully make advanced learning opportunities available in class and in enrichment, and offer them regularly to all or most students.

Generally most schools in England are in the first or second categories, whilst most of the top performing countries in the OECD league tables are in the third. Interesting!

We know that it is important to society, to the economy and to the individual that we challenge those who find learning easy rather than allow them to underachieve, and mark time whilst others catch up. Yet – we don’t do it because (a) we don’t think it is a priority or (b) we don’t really know how to. Systematically reviewing the literature in 2009[1] it became clear that these are universal problems and found in many countries.

So if we want to do better we have to change how we approach this.

Traditionally, work on the more able/gifted has involved identifying a cohort and making special provision for it, but the research shows this is increasingly problematic.

  • Definitions of giftedness have fragmented over time and vary widely, so when you try to identify students to create a cohort it’s hard to know what you are identifying and hence no reliable identification methods have emerged.
  • Those who are identified are given access to special opportunities and generally benefit. Those who are not in the identified cohort do equally well if given the same opportunities. So why are they not getting them?
  • Gifted cohorts across the world have been found to be biased in favour of the affluent middle class. No matter how hard people try this remains the case. Just like in England.

So if opportunities are the important factor, then creating them is the priority. What do good advanced learning opportunities look like? How can we make them widely available? Key players in this field alongside my own writings are Jo Renzulli, Bruce Shore, Joyce Van Tassel Baska and Albert Zeigler. Look out for their work.

Many teachers use Bloom’s taxonomy yet this is over 50 years old. Fresh approaches have bettered and superseded it. My new organisation High Performance Learning[2] (www.highperformancelearning.co.uk) makes use of these. It focuses on advanced learning and systematically building intelligence using 30 research derived competencies that all successful people demonstrate. These relate to developing cognition and also developing the values, attitudes and attributes that top performers need.

If your school wants to do better, then ask yourself these questions:

  • Are we confident about what advanced learning looks like?
  • Do we offer it in our school?
  • How regularly and to whom?
  • Could we improve the frequency with which we offer this or even make it part of our DNA?

Recently Sir Michael Wishaw painted a familiar picture of underachievement for the most able in secondary schools – especially for those from disadvantaged backgrounds. He is getting bullish in his final months as HMCI – suggesting sanctions be applied to schools that consistently fail their brightest children.

Maybe now is the time to focus more directly on advanced learning in your classroom and your school and stop leaving the creation of advanced performers to chance.

Professor Deborah Eyre is Founder, High Performance Learning, and a NET Leading Thinker

[1] Eyre, D. (Ed.) (2009) Major Themes in Gifted Education (4 Volumes). Routledge: London

[2] Eyre, D. (2016) High Performance Learning: How To Become A World Class School. Routledge: London

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“Your feet will not touch the ground.” By Siobhan Horisk

Hackney New Primary School opened in September 2015 with our first two classes of Reception aged children. I secured the job as headteacher in December 2014, and 18 months later we are coming to the end of our first year.

Prior to the school opening I had a glorious period from April to September of planning what was essentially an imaginary school. We had a big blank canvas and could discuss, design and dream about every aspect with a level of uninterrupted care and focus impossible to achieve in a ‘real’ school. I met prospective parents and staff members and my skills of persuasion developed tremendously.

That time was invaluable, not least for reinforcing my absolute respect for class teachers and how exhausting their job is. Being outside of a school for the first time in my career and yet still working long days, I have never had so much energy or head space for other things as I did between April and September last year. Good teachers are giving thousands of feedback points every day, and multi-tasking beyond belief. The learning and wellbeing of the children they teach occupies their headspace until last thing and night and from the get-go in the morning.

“Good Luck!” said my pre-opening OFSTED inspector, “Your feet will not touch the ground.” I smiled to myself, wondering what on earth there could be to do for just two classes – it’s just one year group, right?

“Ha!” I think to myself now. Getting the considerable machine that is a school moving is much more than just managing teaching and learning for two classes.

Simple things like our dishwasher didn’t work. The bicycle storage didn’t come for several weeks which meant carrying 25 little bikes in and out of the playground at the start and end of every day. Builders lingered for about six weeks, and whilst all schools have experienced the trauma of this, to have several of these things not working for us every day was a lot to handle.

In a new, small school, there are few supernumerary people. I found myself doing everything from mopping up urine puddles, hauling deliveries of paper upstairs, lesson observations and staff training to doing school tours and press interviews. In a half an hour I could go from assembling flat pack furniture to presenting to LA or DfE colleagues.

As a new headteacher, of a new school, with a new team, you are completely unproven. Everyone is watching you and tuning in to your every move. You have no sooner reassured them when external bodies are in to scrutinise what you have achieved.

Although our team has some brilliant people on board, in an entirely new team individuals need time to figure out their place in the team – and the joy and trouble with 50 little children starting school for the first time is that they don’t really allow you that time. We needed the best and the brave to take the plunge and put themselves forward to promote their planning ideas, initiate solutions to logistics, and continue to persuade parents that they had made the right choice.

Thankfully they did. Finding great teachers is increasingly like panning for gold; you need to gently agitate the gravel in the pan to get your gold.

Similarly, new parents don’t have other parents to induct them to school life and as nearly all our children are first born there was a much greater amount of communication required.

Like childbirth, I think the memory of these challenges will fade with time. The life of the school has been and continues to be glittered with wonderful moments and the school is blossoming.

My cherished memories are many and so far include our first assembly when I looked at 50 children, from 50 families, and a team of people who, with me, have jumped on board this crazy train and together we were gathered as a vibrant school family. There the children all were in their new school uniforms, and it hit me once more what a privilege it is to have their education and this school in my care. Our teachers are remarkable; and it is my further privilege to witness their heartfelt pride in the progress and achievements of the children they teach.

At the heart of my personal ambition here is being part of something distinctive and something better. More than excellent provision of the core primary curriculum, children have daily, specialist music input and the first year has been pre-instrumental development of their musicality. You should see our music lessons… really! In September the children begin on string instruments including violins, violas, cellos and mini bass.

We believe passionately that time in the outdoors facilitates a different kind of learning and development and makes a tremendous contribution to children’s wellbeing. Children go to a real forest for a real ‘Forest School’ experience once a week, all year round. The daily anecdotes of their forest school adventures sing about the strong contribution this is making to their development and wellbeing. And they love learning.

A colleague visited recently and described the children as ‘so happy and so spirited’ and this was the ultimate compliment for our curious, excited, wondrous bunch and the best acknowledgement of all that our teaching team have done with them at school over this year. Of course, there are always the ‘even better ifs’ and as a living thing the school has great days, good days and some of ‘those days.’

I have been very fortunate to have met a group of visionary and committed founders. It is this vision and unparalleled commitment that has led Hackney New Primary School to be something distinctive. The school was conceived by them; together we have brought it to life and are nurturing its development closely.

As a wise man advised me when I considered this post: if you have ideas about what makes great teaching and if you are passionate about the contribution education makes then surely this is the ultimate job. He was right. ‘Put your hat in the ring’ he said. I did, and 18 months later I would recommend it to anyone else passionate about the contribution education makes.

Do it. Find a great team of governors or founders and with them, create something great.

Siobhan Horisk is founding headteacher of Hackney New Primary School and a NET Associate.

The Case for Arts in Children’s Lives by Kevin Jones

‘Art is a break for my mind. In all of the confusion of life I can find peace through it. I can experience my thoughts and feelings in a physical form.’

So says one of my twelve-year-olds. But the case for Art is not often made on her terms.

Instead, to persuade policy makers of the value of Art, we talk about money. The creative industries contribute £77bn, 5% of our economy, we cry. Or we paint a picture of children’s productivity. Learning arts subjects improves academic attainment. Children who study an arts subject get better grades. Or we argue for social mobility – students from low income families who take part in the arts are three times more likely to get a degree. Or we talk of democracy – arts students are 20% more likely to vote – or of community – arts students are twice as likely to volunteer.

All these arguments are strong and true.

But they have little to do with children.

We debate whether STEM (Science, Technology and Maths) is the key to our country’s future and we argue that STEM should include the Arts and become STEAM, that the future of our nation’s wealth depends on integrating creativity and technology.

Meanwhile, outside my office a small child twirls around while circling a tree. ‘What are you doing?’ I call to him. ‘I am orbiting,’ he calls back, as if it comes as natural as the leaves to the tree. And why should it not?

In the world of the child, science may well be a dance.

There is a wisdom in the dancing child who does not know that art and science are different – who uses them equally to express his creativity.

We can learn much from him and from all children.

I ask my nine-year-olds why Art is important and the word that comes back often is ‘freedom’: freedom to explore ideas and feelings, freedom to make their own marks.

It is important to have the chance to be creative as it gives you freedom of thought. In Art you can go in any direction you like.

When I’m drawing or painting I feel I can escape to the place that I am drawing.

And they cry ‘freedom’ now because the landscape of childhood has changed.

We are told that one third of children have never climbed a tree, a quarter have never rolled down a hill, a third have no idea how to build a den and almost half have never made a daisy chain. The NSPCC, in 1999, reported that 80% of parents wouldn’t let their child play unsupervised in the park. I guess that figure is even greater now. The distance children are allowed to stray from home is, apparently, 1/9th what it was in 1970. In 1971, the average seven-year-old was making trips to friends or to the shops on her own. By 1990 that freedom was being withheld until the age of ten; in just 19 years children lost three years of freedom. They will have lost more since.

More than ever, we need to create a space for our children to explore themselves and their world, a safe space to take risks and face challenges, a space for their imagination.

I love making sculpture as anything is possible and as you work it opens up ideas in your head

You can express yourself creatively and there is no one who can tell you that you are right or wrong because it’s just the way you see the world

Our children relish their power to make and shape and re-imagine their world. It is, after all, what children are for. But we have shrunk the horizons of childhood and made the most shut in generation of children ever. And shut into their homes and their bedrooms, they are often left free to roam through killing fields in video games or amble into brothels on the internet.

We are told that every two days the internet fills with as much new information as was created between the dawn of time and 2003. Children are bombarded with knowledge.

A nine year old tells me of his heartfelt worries about war, deforestation and global warming. I had no such fears as a child.

More than ever children need time to digest themselves and their world, to question and to challenge – to see things as they are and dream of how they should be.

One tenth of all the photos ever taken were taken last year and the internet bulges with them. Images flow at our children like never before.

Our children need more than ever to learn to read and interrogate the visual world in which they increasingly live, to find space to see feelingly, to see with wonder, to connect and reflect.

Almost half of all 14- and 15-year-olds say they are addicted to the internet. The epidemic rise of ADHD tells us of a world too full of sensory noise. In this noisy, busy, overloaded world, children need time to find rest, to find silence.

As my twelve-year-old says of Art:

In all of the confusion of life I can find peace through it. I can experience my thoughts and feelings in a physical form.

Look at my children at work on their ‘Monet: Inspiration from Nature’ project and you will see emotion recollected in tranquility, a tranquility our children need to find.

National Education Trust

‘Feelings’ is another word that comes back again and again when my nine-year-olds talk about Art.

I can let out my feelings in Art, particularly if I am feeling angry.

If I’m angry I go and find my sketch book and I draw or paint, often with dark colours and it calms me down. My mind focuses on what I am doing and I can block out any worries and then everything feels a bit better.

Mostly, they speak of big feelings, of feelings that threaten to get out of control, when the world of childhood threatens to become too much.

And the world of childhood does indeed threaten to become too much.

We are facing a rise of up to 30% a year in the numbers of children and young people seeking treatment for mental health problems. One in ten 5- to 16-year-olds now has a clinically diagnosed mental disorder. In just the last year, the number of 10- to 14-year-olds treated by the NHS for self-harm rose by 30%. It as though a tsunami of anxiety is flooding the shores of childhood.

In an education that defines who we are by what grades we get, children now feel under more pressure to perform than ever before. They are more anxious about anticipated or perceived failures. They develop very critical inner voices. Assaulted by images of perfection, false wants and fashions, snapchatting their way through virtual relationships with friends known and not so known, or glued to their game boys, it is easy for children to lose touch with themselves, to become unsure of who they are and what they are meant to be, to be overwhelmed.

When the world of childhood threatens to overwhelm, the arts help children to discover and organise their feelings safely, to express them and have some mastery over them. When they paint their seascapes, they give shape and form to their big feelings rather than being inundated by them.

National Education Trust

In their own words, my children talk of Art as a form of containment, of connection, of healing.

Our children still arrive at school as they always did, trailing clouds of glorious creativity, curiosity and wonder and affection.

There will be time enough to talk of their contribution to the economy and productivity and progress. First let us learn from our children. Of the many voices calling for creativity to be at the heart of education, none is as powerful as the voice that comes full of thought and feeling from the beating heart of childhood, telling us what the Arts mean to our children’s lives. Let us listen to that voice and be led by the child orbiting the tree, turning his learning into a dance.

Kevin Jones is Head of St John’s College School, Cambridge and a NET Leading Thinker

‘New Year 2016’ by Geoff Barton

I can’t claim actually to have known former Education Secretary Michael Gove.

Yes, I sat in the audience at some conferences he spoke at. I was on the side-lines at a couple of meetings and a dinner where I glimpsed first-hand his well-known mix of the witty and the unctuous. And he once stepped out of a lift in the unglamorous basement of a west London hotel, pointed at me, and said ‘It’s Geoff Barton, isn’t it?’. Then he turned and walked away.

None of this amounts to knowing Michael Gove.

But when his departure from the Department of Education was announced, back in July 2014, I decided to send him one of my custom CD mixes as an understated farewell gift. As visitors to our school know, I occasionally inflict a compilation of uplifting and sad songs, plus cheesy ‘Geoffy B’ jingles, as part of a desperate throw-back to my childhood ambition to be Radio One’s next breakfast DJ.

Whether my small musical gesture of goodwill ever reached the departing Secretary of State, I have no idea. But the CD wasn’t returned in the post and hasn’t surfaced on eBay.

So, no, I didn’t know Michael Gove. But I did know what he stood for. I knew what his ambitions for schools were. We all did. However strenuously we disagreed with many of the approaches and policies he unleashed, we couldn’t avoid being aware of his overarching belief that education liberates, and that the education world needed to intensify its ambition to liberate those whose backgrounds, family finances or postcode would serve as a limiter on a child’s aspirations.

Now, with the aftermath of the Gove project smouldering gently behind us, we stand gazing out at another year: 2016. And it already looks as if we’re in for one of unprecedented of change in education – just as we were last year and the year before.

We brace ourselves for seismic changes to qualifications at pretty much every level. KS2 tests will be different. GCSEs will be different. A/S and A-levels will be different.

Some of the big beasts of the current educational jungle are due to leave the forest – Glenys Stacey leaves her role overseeing the exams regulator, Ofqual. Sir Michael Wilshaw will step down from Ofsted later in the year.

Meanwhile a new national Schools Commissioner, in the shape of the well respected Sir David Carter, takes up post at a time when there’s a government determination to see every school an academy or free school.

That’s just some of the stuff going on beyond the school gates – the ritualistic machinations beloved of policy nerds and the Twitterati. In reality, most of it will hardly impinge on most of us most of the time. We’ve quite enough to be getting on with in our own schools and classrooms – some of it extra work provoked by the relentless thrashing-about by a government that too often confuses change with improvement; and some of it simply the ever-intensifying workload felt by all who work in an education system which is being flogged to its limits.

Which brings us to our current Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, the person who oversees that system.

I have never met Ms Morgan. But, in contrast with Mr Gove, I have no idea what she stands for. Apart from occasional exhortations on building character (a good thing, we gather) or teaching children that our roots are as a Christian nation (pretty unarguable), I’m not sure what we could ascribe to our Education Secretary as a defining philosophy, vision, or non-negotiable point of principle.

Sure – there’s a new Education Act in the offing. This may provide something of a route-map. But so far it’s sounding as if the only actual ambition is to make a reality of the Prime Minister’s determination to see every school in England an academy.

And in my book that’s hardly a vision. Instead it’s a lot of structural tinkering built on a decidedly unproven assumption that academies are by definition better than the kind of schools which in most countries would be seen as the norm – local community schools.

So if academisation really is the big idea, no wonder we feel deflated. It misses the point that what matters most in education is, quite simply, the quality of teaching and learning.

And, as the Scripture tells us, ‘Where there is no vision, the people perish’.

Which is why I’m determined to keep ignoring all those who think my job is anything to do with academy conversion, takeovers of other schools, business plans and boards of directors. It’s all a huge distraction from the important stuff.

I’m convinced that my role is simply to create a culture where we can recruit more great teachers, help them develop, make sure they can learn from each other, and leave them in peace to do their best to build the skills and knowledge of the next generation of young people.

For that, we owe it to our teachers to enable them to focus on the classroom whilst as school leaders we protect them from the swirling madness of external initiatives and political wacky wheezes.

So a key part of our role in the coming year, I’d suggest, is maintaining the confidence to do what matters most in our schools, for our students, for our communities, and not to let ourselves be distracted by anything that isn’t going to help a teacher in our school to teach better or a student to learn more effectively.

How compellingly simple, principled and unarguable is that?

Let’s make 2016 the year of great teaching.

Geoff Barton is Headteacher of King Edward VI School, Bury St Edmunds, and a NET Leading Thinker.

The restless globe

Trick(y) Question: Which is the fifth largest ‘country by population’ in the world today, and will be the third largest by 2050?

Answer: After China, India, USA, and Indonesia, the fifth largest today is ‘all the peoples of the world who are living in a country that is not the one they were born in’.

Scientists generally agree that about 70,000 years ago, Sapiens from East Africa spread into the Arabian peninsula, and from there quickly overran the entire Eurasian landmass. The history of humankind is one of restless migration. We happen to be witnessing at present, often in grim TV images, that natural human characteristic, but that restless urge to move has always been with us. We have long been global citizens, divided by our nation states.

Pundits and commentators in all spheres of human endeavour like to compare peoples and nations, and build news stories around international comparisons. Take the recently published Portland index of so-called ‘soft power’: the ability to achieve influence by building networks, communicating compelling narratives, establishing international rules and drawing on the resources that make a country naturally attractive to the world. Well, the UK comes 1st out of 30; Finland is fifteenth; China 30th.

In education, the international comparators come fast and furious. We can quote PISA (reading, maths and science) or TIMSS (maths and science) to cheer us up one year or depress us the next. Last year’s report from the OECD on literacy and numeracy proficiency placed Korea and Spain at the top, the US and UK at the bottom of a list of 21 countries. Yet another report suggested Britain could add trillions to its economy if it only had the education standards of Poland, Vietnam and Estonia.

We routinely position polar opposite ideas in order to determine which is right. Whenever we follow this process the result is people on both sides trying to thrust their views forward. Positions harden rather than consensus being achieved.

Let us take the recent debate promoted by a TV documentary set in a Hampshire secondary school where students experienced the Chinese way of doing. Have no doubt, Asia including China is indeed the ‘Asian Tiger’. It pulsates with optimism and evidence of rapid progress is visible at every turn. Education merely reflects this wider ambition. Each generation is a fresh start and all students have the chance to exceed the achievements of their parents. Their overall expectations are high and they deliver.

The Confucius education tradition has a proud history and dictates that education should encourage the student to think about how he should live his life and interact with others, and the forms of society and government in which he should participate. It’s not just learning facts but it does place the onus on the student to make the most of what they are offered. This is where the idea that the Chinese value hard work comes from. They do, but so do Singapore and Hong Kong. They believe that hard work rather than background – or even innate ability – is the key to success and that anyone who wants it can achieve it.

So why are they seeking advice from Hampshire educationalists? Well the answer is that we have our own proud tradition. At its best our education system develops individuals who can think for themselves. They are encouraged to question and debate ideas and the result, when done well, is that we produce students who can innovate and problem solve as well as having strong subject knowledge and expertise. Note our very successful creative industries and our record for innovation in all fields as opposed to just routine production.

Yet, both we and Shanghai have our problems. In Asia the challenge is to find an educational style that builds on their success but at the same time encourages the problem solving and innovative thinking which prepares people for leadership in a complex world. In the UK our education tradition seems to create a mixture of excellence and mediocrity as it is much more teacher and school dependent. It’s harder to manage students who think for themselves and question the teacher.

Maybe what we should be taking from Asia (and Poland and Estonia) is their belief in the power of hard work and their belief in students’ ability to succeed. And helping students to understand that they need to take some ownership for their own progress, enjoy the fact that difficulty in any kind of learning is pleasurable, and pursue the route to mastery.

We are restless people wanting to improve how we do things, in all walks of life. We can learn much from other countries and adopt some of their ideas. But wholesale transfer never works – education is context related and reflects a country’s society and ambitions. And in the UK, we should remember to champion our ‘soft power’.

References: The Restless School (John Catt) by Roy Blatchford. High Performance Learning: How to create World Class schools (Routledge, January 2016) by Deborah Eyre.

Shanghai versus England

We do so love the adversarial debate in our country. We routinely position polar opposite ideas and debate them in order to determine which is right. Of course whenever we follow this process the result is bigoted people on both sides trying to thrust their views forward and positions harden rather than consensus being achieved.

The latest, highlighted in a BBC TV series, is the debate about whether Shanghai teaching is better than English teaching. Shanghai, riding high on the OECD tables, and England languishing at 20th. Shanghai reportedly all rote learning and discipline, and England characterised by harassed staff managing increasingly unmotivated children. What a stereotype this is!

I have spent a large amount of time in the last eight years working internationally and as part of that have advised the countries who are certainly performing highly in OECD terms. So I think I know something about this particular matter.

Have no doubt, Asia including China is indeed the ‘Asian Tiger’. It pulsates with optimism and evidence of rapid progress is visible at every turn. Education merely reflects this wider ambition. The Hong Kong Education Bureau staff smiled when I explained that the reason I asked about the demographic profile of the schools I visited was that in my country the family into which you are born is a strong predictor of how well you will do in education. ‘Not so in ours’, they replied. Each generation is a fresh start and all students have the chance to exceed the achievements of their parents. And they mean it! Their overall expectations are high and they deliver.

Of course they do not deliver using the same methodologies as we do. If you know anything about learning Mandarin you will know that traditionally it is acquired through memorisation, with students learning new sets of symbols each day and practising them by rote. So the rest of their education system mirrors this kind of approach. That is not to say that it lacks vision.

The Confucius education tradition has a proud history and dictates that education should encourage the student to think about how he should live his life and interact with others, and the forms of society and government in which he should participate. It’s not just learning facts but it does place the onus on the student to make the most of what they are offered. This is where the idea that the Chinese value hard work comes from. They do, but so does Singapore and Hong Kong, etc. They believe that hard work rather than background – or even innate ability – is the key to success and that anyone who wants it can achieve it.

So why are they seeking advice from English educationalists? Well the answer is that we have our own proud tradition. At its best our education system develops individuals who can think for themselves. They are encouraged to question and debate ideas and the result, when done well, is that we produce students who can innovate and problem solve as well as

having strong subject knowledge and expertise. Note our very successful creative industries and our record for innovation in all fields as opposed to just routine production.

Yet, both we and Shanghai have our problems. In Asia the challenge is to find an educational style that builds on their success but at the same time encourages the problem solving and innovative thinking that prepares people for leadership in a complex world. In our case our education tradition seems to create a mixture of excellence and mediocrity as it is much more teacher and school dependent. It’s harder to manage students who think for themselves and question and this has to be done in an environment of mutual respect.

Maybe what we should be taking from Asia is their belief in the power of hard work and their belief in students’ ability to succeed. Plus, helping students to understand that they need to take some ownership for their own progress.

One thing is for sure: grafting an educational approach from another educational tradition onto our education system is unlikely to lead to success. We can learn much from other countries and adopt some of their ideas. But wholesale transfer never works – education is context related and reflects a country’s society and ambitions.

Professor Deborah Eyre

Ten Reflections to Inform Future Pupil Premium Use

Below is an extract from Marc Rowlands Pupil Premium action research report: Tackling Educational Disadvantage by Understanding What Works.

Ten Reflections to Inform Future Pupil Premium Use:

  1. There is no thing as a ‘typical’ Pupil Premium child. The funding offers a unique opportunity to focus on the individual.
  2. The answers to cracking the code for disadvantaged learners doesn’t necessarily lie in the HTs office. Get teachers to input into provision. Middle leaders should be championing the cause of disadvantaged learners every day. Parents views on how to effectively use the funding can be invaluable.
  3. Don’t wait. Use the funding to enable more regular Pupil progress meetings. Empower TAs to flag up where interventions are not working for a particular child.
  4. Evidence informed, not evidenced led. The EEF toolkit offers a brilliant opportunity for Pupil Premium activity to be informed by evidence. But it was never intended to be used ‘painting by numbers’ style. Finding out what works for an individual school context should be closer to independent travel with a guidebook than a coach trip where you are told when and where to get off, when to eat etc…
  5. Get assessment right. If assessment is inconsistent or poor it is disadvantaged learners that are more likely to ‘slip through the net’.
  6. Monitor progress regularly, evaluate outcomes robustly – but understand that effective quality improvement is not necessarily judgemental.
  7. Be explicit about what you are trying to achieve and by when. ‘Improve numeracy levels’ is not clear enough. Hold yourself to account for this.
  8. Strong values and moral purpose agreed across a whole school are key. Disadvantaged learners need a great experience at school in both structured and unstructured times during the school day. Ensure that disadvantaged learners play a role in wider school life.
  9. Disadvantaged learners are most successful where teachers in the classroom feel accountable for their outcomes.
  10. Welcome external input. Working together over a period of time – with colleagues in your cluster or group of schools can be most valuable. A culture of trust and shared ideas that has grown over time has been of fundamental importance during this project.

Download full report here.