Ok, so it’s not quite the phrase they use, but reading between the lines? I have received many an email, offering me everything under the sun and that they will be able to improve the outcomes of our PP students? I’m sure their strategies do work, but the question I ask myself is, will they work better that strategies we can implement at our own school, with our own staff, who know our own students?
The Sutton Trust Toolkit, is fast becoming top of my reading lists, and many have said I need to get out more, but for anyone working on improving the outcomes of disadvantaged students this is a must read.
Being a maths teacher anything that is represented graphically is a winner, and it is this graph that is my saviour at the moment:
This has made me think really clearly about the strategies that we should be using to help improve outcomes of our students.
The key is to identify the students that need particular interventions and then focus on exactly what they need. Que early interventions teacher!
What we had noticed at our school was the number of students who were underachieving at KS3. On further inspection what did most of them have in common? They were PP students. These same students in yr 11 were being pulled from pillar to post, subject to subject, trying to catch them up because they were continuing to underachieve. It was most definitely the sticky plaster effect. These plasters would soon become useless, leaks would happen again we weren’t actually helping our students to become better learners. As any teacher can tell you, catching up yr 11s at the end of their schooling is not what needs to happen!
In September we employed our early interventions teacher. Job description: ensure students in KS3, primarily PP students, are making at least the progress that is expected of them in English and maths. It is hoped that this role will prevent the sticky plasters effect in KS4.
Walking into the room, you could be forgiven for thinking that you are in a primary classroom. Not because it looks babyish, but because it is inviting, it is comfortable and it has the comforts the students look for. This is all down to Gillian. Gillian is a primary specialist, she has a good knowledge of both maths and English, and she isn’t afraid of getting stuck in. Being in the room when a group is going on is something else. Students who are quiet in lessons, who don’t participate, now are able to contribute to discussion, they are able to show what they have done, and there is a great sense of pride from each and everyone of the students. This isn’t because the expectations are lower, on the contrary, but because the students feel safe in a small group. Gillian has done a brilliant job at making them feel safe and enthusing them in maths and English.
We started groups in September of yr 8 (our 1st year at the school. Is yr 8) and we focused on students who achieved a level 3 in English or maths. Why? From our experience these were the students who were most likely to underachieve. Students were out into groups of 6 and were extracted from a lesson each week. This session was an extra to their normal English and maths lesson, and so it did mean they were taken out of a non core subject. As you can imagine some staff felt a little disgruntled that “jonny was missing lesson x surely he would fall behind” but now staff can see the benefit that these sessions have in all of their lessons, and on the whole are completely behind all that we are doing to support our students.
These sessions work because Gillian is in constant communication with the maths and English teachers of the students that she supports. She goes into their lessons so they see there is a link between the sessions with her and the lessons in English and maths. She has constant communication with the parents/careers of the students that she supports and this helps.
Not that I am name dropping, but before christmas I went to visit Passmores and meet with Vic Goddard. Everything he said rang true and it cemented in my mind what I already knew. As we were walking around the school there were some students in the canteen working on a project, drinking hot chocolate and eating a sandwich. I was a little bit taken a back, but Vic made me see why, if I am working on a piece of work at home, I will go and make myself a drink, I will have endless chocolate and fruit near me to munch on, it keeps my attention going. Why do we think that isn’t the same for the students. I went back to school ready to tell people what I had seen, walked into the early intervention room and there were 6 students looking up at me with a cup of hot chocolate and some biscuits. The students really appreciated that they were being looked after, and in their eyes they were doing something that they shouldn’t do. But the hot chocolate was more than that, it got them talking to each other, it got their imagination flowing and students, some of whom were reluctant writers, were writing stories using their imagination. Would they have got this without the hot chocolate? Maybe! Did they feel cared for? Definitely! Were they completing the work that would help them progress on? Without a doubt!
But there is no point in keeping on with an intervention if it doesn’t have an impact. So we looked at similar students in the previous yr 8 cohort and measured their progress to their targets at the same point. Impact19/24 had made more progress. And it wasn’t just academic, the confidence in their English and maths lessons had increased!
Last month I received an email from a supply agency stating that they had teachers on their books that could run small group sessions targeting the PP students. It went straight into my trash folder! Why? Because we have our own teacher who knows our kids, who knows their needs, who isn’t afraid to get stuck in and talks to anyone who will listen about what the students are doing with her. She instills pride into each and everyone of the young people that she comes into contact with, and they know that she believes in them, however hard it can be at times!
WARNING: these sessions will not work in isolation, it must focus on the weaknesses of individual students and there must be constant communication between the actual maths and English staff and the intervention teacher!