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Opinion4th January 2018

Using the pupil premium to support the whole community

Lesley Keast

Lesley Keast is an Assistant Headteacher at a primary school in Grimsby. Her school is situated in an area of high social, economic and educational deprivation, with an overall pupil premium eligibility of 67%.

Lesley is a graduate of Ambition School Leadership‘s Future Leaders programme. Ambition is an Ark Venture which aims to transform the lives of children in disadvantaged areas by building a network of exceptional school leaders.

Because my school is based in a highly disadvantaged area of the country, our Pupil Premium Policy caters not just for our students, but works to help our families and community as well. Even though our school pupil premium percentage is 67%, the other 33% of our pupils and families are not far above the threshold, hence we don’t distinguish between disadvantaged pupils and non-disadvantaged pupils for the provision we provide.

As educators, I am sure we are all fully aware of the impact family and community have on a child’s school life and education. Working in a ‘special measures’ school within a tight-knit community of two and three generations unemployed, low levels of literacy, high levels of drugs, alcohol and domestic violence mean that the majority of our children have turbulent home lives.

Although our data shows 67% pupil premium across the school, the current year 6 are at 81%. And it is a constant battle to encourage the parents of our Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) and Key Stage 1 students to sign up if eligible for pupil premium, as they do not see the need since their children get a free lunch anyway. This year, under our new substantive head, we encouraged our new parents to come into school and sat with them to help them fill in the forms.

Our school ethos is to ‘raise standards, with every child having every chance’. With this in mind, our pupil premium vision is to ‘raise standards through breaking cycles’.

We have a large pastoral team in school consisting of a behaviour lead, a safeguarding lead and four learning mentors. One of the jobs they are relentless at is keeping our attendance figures above national average, by driving out every morning to bring children in from their homes.

Every day of school is important to a child’s education, especially if they have a disadvantaged background. Our Pupil Premium Policy helps support our hardworking pastoral team by ensuring our pupils are in classes learning, our families feel protected and safe, and our community feels understood and supported.

The pastoral team works tirelessly with our pupils and their families, ensuring our students are in the right mental state to learn. We have children who arrive late to school regularly, but who often need time to ‘offload’ the night before. Our pastoral team nurtures these children, preparing them for a day of learning by listening, talking and constantly reinforcing the message that every pupil is precious to us in school, and how much we want to keep them safe.

We hold each child’s story, making sure we build up the knowledge of each child over time, detailing relevant information such as specific needs/barriers to learning, external agency involvement, provision, outcomes during the pupil’s time at school, progress information, attendance data, pastoral data, teacher comments and the impact this has on the child. This file stays with the child during his/her time at our school so that we can build a picture to help, and to measure our own impact.

Our pastoral team also regularly provides weekend food parcels when our families have nothing to feed their children. Our school recently forged links with Greggs, who help fund our breakfast club, and our local Tesco, which brings unsold bread to our school for our families to take home. And local families have set up a community shop from this too.

As part of our Pupil Premium Policy we have also set aside a communal space which some of our parents have converted into a community library. It is an ideal space as it has separate access and is lockable from the school. As our community has low literacy levels, and often a lack of books, this, alongside the free bread and the community shop, is having a big impact on the trust our families and community place in us.

Provision in school is carefully mapped to ensure we can accurately report our pupil premium policy and spending: external agency time; interventions provided; pastoral care by the team; attendance support; uptake of breakfast club, after-school clubs, booster clubs, holiday clubs and holiday trips for our families; uniform subsidy; school trip subsidy, booster clubs and any extra provision we provide.

Having established more trust amongst pupils and families, our learning mentors are now spending more time supporting our complex-needs children in class, as this is proving more effective.

Our next steps are to maintain this list of children, identified through safeguarding needs, behaviour/nurture needs, SEN needs and/or progress data. These children are discussed at pupil progress meetings and at leadership meetings, where we identify who is best to break the cycle for that child.

Ultimately, we need our children in school so that they can learn: that is the goal. We use the funding to ensure high attendance and settled learners, whatever it takes.

A version of this blogpost was originally published on the Ambition School Leadership website.

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