Pupil Premium: Closing the gap

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By Jill Carroll-Hughes

For 25 years Jill has been a full-time primary school teacher. She has had experience will all age ranges and now works as a Key Stage 2 teacher, on the Wirral Peninsula.

Experienced teacher Jill Carroll-Hughes explains how you can help your Pupil Premium children to reach their full potential.

children writing in class

We are all aware of the plight of some (not all) Pupil Premium children. And we are all coming around to the fact that we cannot use a child’s background as an excuse for them not achieving their full potential. We aren’t responsible for allocation of funding and deciding Pupil Premium spending policies, that’s the job of the head teacher. But we are responsible for sprinkling a little magic into the lives of the children in our care, especially those that may be more vulnerable. The following 10 tips are useful for Pupil Premium, SEN or indeed all children and the focus is ‘closing the gap’.

  1. You will be expected to know who your Pupil Premium children are. Learn them and know the boy/girl ratio. Ensure support staff are also aware of them.

  2. Link your Performance Management targets to your Pupil Premium group. Performance Management is a necessary process and it will make your actions obvious, focused and well documented.

  3. Identify any physical barriers to learning and address them if you can. For example, provide access to drinking water and have a supply of emergency snacks (I have found bread-sticks work well) and baby wipes available. This will ensure that everybody in your class is clean, fed and watered and ready to learn.

    Enhancing provision for Pupil Premium children will undoubtedly deepen their learning experiences and hopefully serve to improve attitudes and aspirations.

  4. Mental barriers may be more difficult to tackle, perhaps needing targeted rapid intervention or counselling. This is more of a funding issue, but it may be useful to speak to the SEND coordinator or the pastoral care worker for advice on this. To help encourage your children to adopt a positive mind-set on a day-to-day basis, you could try playing calming music in the mornings. Always make sure they know what to do on arrival as these children may thrive on routine and consistency. They may also need a little ‘down time’, even if it is only 8:45am!

  5. Try to say ‘Good morning’ to each child. Compliment them, wish them ‘Happy Birthday’ and thank them for doing homework. Asking them for help is a really surreptitious way of complimenting them. Try, “I’ve been waiting for you. Please would you do such-a-thing for me?” These children may need to have their worth pointed out. And what a privilege it is for us to be able to change the course of someone’s day just with a single compliment.

  6. Optimise every opportunity for learning and place Pupil Premium children directly in front of the board. Alternatively, get the children to move one place round every Monday morning.

  7. When marking, put a coloured dot at the top of your Pupil Premium books and always put them at the top of your pile. This will ensure that they always get fresh eyes on them and high quality assessment. When marking their books, trouble-shoot particular sticking points, and use them as the learning objectives and targets for your next lesson. Each one tackled and understood is a little step closer to closing that gap!

    child in after-school club

  8. Pupil Premium research is clear that keeping children in school longer can contribute to progress. It may add to your workload, but have you thought about running a lunch time or evening club? Children can burn energy, practise amazing vocabulary and learn useful skills, while you get to learn how each child ticks. This is a major advantage for you, as the pay-back for behaviour can be unbelievable. Skills taught in extra-curricular clubs may become useful in class and even help the children to raise their aspirations for the future. A child once told me in sewing club that she wanted to become a clothes designer! There are benefits for you too, running or dance club is the exercise box ticked, removing the need for you to drag yourself to the gym after work! Or why not try cookery club and cook up the demo model for your own family when you arrive home? Lead arts and crafts group in the run up to your school production, and get the children making props. Or run a club just because you love the activity yourself. Make it your mission to find a passion in your Pupil Premium children. Plant that little acorn and get watering it!

  9. Poor attendance can sometimes make closing the attainment gap feel a million miles away. So, focus on getting these children (and indeed, all children) into school. Cater for all learning styles and make lessons vibrant. Don’t make being absent an easy choice. As well as helping these children, this will save you time in the long run as it will save you the job of having to start from scratch with some children when they turn up half way through the week, or having to find separate work for returning absentees.

  10. It is widely accepted that providing experiences outside the classroom can contribute to effective learning. This is true of all pupils, not just Pupil Premium. Obviously, cost can be a major disadvantage here, so you will need to be creative. But don’t forget that there is money attached to these children for help with such provision. Now that we use email to communicate, nothing could be easier than making arrangements. Invite ‘no-charge’ visitors into school, such as teachers from other schools, charity workers, ministers, librarians, the fire service or friends of staff. Try the large pizza chains, who will often visit school to work with the children and come back later with cooked pizzas! And contact universities, who can provide specialist outreach visitors such as historians or artists, and bring with them equipment and artefacts. Museums are often free and the major supermarkets are wonderful at accepting groups of children and giving out freebies. Local parks and stately homes often have their own education officers and have minimal fees. And your pay back on trip day? No marking!
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