WHAT ARE SUCESSFUL SCHOOLS ARE DOING TO CHALLENGE THE GAP.
The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) highlights effective strategies employed by schools that are successfully improving outcomes for their disadvantaged pupils in this research report.
Supporting the attainment of disadvantaged pupils: articulating success and good practice suggests effective schools are taking a staged, long-term approach to overcoming educational disadvantage. Schools must first deal with the basics of behaviour, attendance and academic competence, before moving onto employing metacognitive strategies, engaging parents, using data effectively across the school and sharing learning with colleagues in other schools.
Below is a summary of the research findings:
Leaders in schools that were more successful in raising the attainment of disadvantaged pupils emphasised that there was no single intervention that had led to success. Rather, more successful schools appeared to be implementing their strategies in greater depth and with more attention to detail.
By comparing more and less successful schools, the study identified seven building blocks for success.
1. Promote an ethos of attainment for all pupils, rather than stereotyping disadvantaged pupils as a group with less potential to succeed.
2. Have an individualised approach to addressing barriers to learning and emotional support, at an early stage, rather than providing access to generic support and focusing on pupils nearing their end-of-key-stage assessments.
3. Focus on high quality teaching first rather than on bolt-on strategies and activities outside school hours.
4. Focus on outcomes for individual pupils rather than on providing strategies.
5. Deploy the best staff to support disadvantaged pupils; develop skills and roles of teachers and TAs rather than using additional staff who do not know the pupils well.
6. Make decisions based on data and respond to evidence, using frequent, rather than one-off assessment and decision points.
7. Have clear, responsive leadership: setting ever higher aspirations and devolving responsibility for raising attainment to all staff, rather than accepting low aspirations and variable performance.
The most popular strategies, and those that schools considered to be the most effective, focused on teaching and learning, especially: paired or small group additional teaching; improving feedback; and one-to-one tuition. These strategies are all supported by evidence of effectiveness in the Sutton Trust/Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) Teaching and Learning Toolkit.
More successful schools have been focusing on disadvantaged pupils’ performance for longer and appear to have developed more sophisticated responses over time. Leaders in more successful schools said it had taken a period of around three to five years to see the impact of changes they had introduced feed through to pupils’ results.
Taken together, the findings suggest that schools which have been more successful in raising the performance of disadvantaged pupils have put the basics in place (especially addressing attendance and behaviour, setting high expectations, focusing on the quality of teaching and developing the role of TAs) and have moved on to more specific improvement strategies.
In order to make further progress, the research indicates that they need to:
- support pupils’ social and emotional needs;
- address individual pupils’ learning needs;
- help all staff to use data effectively; and
- improve engagement with families.
Once these strategies are in place, the next steps on the improvement journey include focusing on:
- early intervention;
- introducing metacognitive and peer learning strategies; and
- improving their effectiveness in response to data on individual pupils’ progress.
Schools which have made the greatest progress in improving the attainment of disadvantaged pupils are in a position to set even higher expectations and to spread good practice through working with neighbouring schools and well as continuing to learn from and contribute to national networks
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