Strategic School Improvement fund (SSIF) Case Studies

The Strategic School Improvement fund (SSIF) provided £56 million to 171 projects in England, supporting over 3,100 individual schools.  Projects had a variety of foci including maths, English, leadership and support for disadvantaged pupils.  Fifteen SSIF projects ended by March 2019 in the South West.  Project leads have helpfully provided lessons learned, from their experiences of delivering SSIF, in the form of the following case studies:

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Case Studies 

Closing the Gap in Maths at KS2 through developing excellent in teaching and learning. 

All Saints Teaching School

All SaintsThis was a regionally coordinated, system leadership, school improvement project spanning five hubs in the SW in partnership with Teaching School Council SW. Our partners are Exeter Diocese, Torbay and Devon LA, and two Maths Hubs.

The aim was to raise achievement for disadvantaged pupils and close the gap through developing leaders to be able to improve class-based practice (thus addressing regional priorities). Studies show that the biggest impact on learning for vulnerable pupils is high quality teaching. The project had a Train the Trainer approach to develop SLEs to deliver a school improvement. SLEs will deliver, in hubs, a series of face to face CPD and SLE visits to develop maths leaders to be able to improve classroom practice and close the gap.

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Phonics for Fluency

All Saints Teaching School

All SaintsThis bid addressed two key SW themes; ‘developing phonics and improving the outcomes for the most disadvantaged pupils.’ It aimed to enable strategic school improvement in order to drive up reading standards across the SW. 

Core KPIs were to; accelerate pupil progress and increase attainment at EYFS, Y1 phonic screen and KS1 reading outcomes; increase knowledge and confidence in advancing pupil progress in phonics and reading for fluency.  This project built upon a previous successful pilot of phonics school improvement which highlighted the importance in upskilling teacher confidence and expertise in phonics, and the need for coherent phonics leadership across key phases. To maximise impact, increase capacity and upscale the intervention, the lead Teaching School engaged with five other Teaching Schools across the SW in order to develop and enhance SLE leadership and expertise in delivering phonics school improvement initiatives through the hub model.

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Closing the attainment gap in mathematics at KS2, particularly for disadvantaged pupils, through developing excellence in pedagogy, subject knowledge and leadership

BalcarrasBalcarras School

The project aimed to close the gap in KS2 attainment in mathematics, particularly for disadvantaged pupils, in 23 schools in Gloucestershire. The gap was due to groups of pupils having poor arithmetic, reasoning and/or problem-solving skills.

The project set out to reduce this gap through developing excellence in pedagogy, strengthening leadership of mathematics, improving teachers’ subject knowledge, embracing the principles of teaching for mastery, and implementing same day/same week intervention strategies in the classroom.

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Essential leadership: A holistic approach to high quality provision for disadvantaged children

Beach Teaching School

The project facilitated development and leadership of whole school strategies to improve the outcomes of the most disadvantaged 

pupils in our region. The project leaders designed a programme built on  understanding the challenge of rural and coastal deprivation and the actions that diminish the differences in progress and ultimately attainment between Pupil Premium children and that of their non-PP peers.

The project lead coordinated the interventions into a bespoke package for each school, from a menu of support that best met the training needs of staff. The interventions looked at the relationships of all staff with disadvantage students in a school community, and ways to improve the outcomes of students’ attainment in reading, writing and maths.   

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Bridging transition to support accelerated progress through mastery and application in Maths

Bridgwater College Trust

The Bridgwater project aimed to bring the expertise from across the region in Maths to the Opportunity Area of West Somerset. Teaching School Alliances and MATs from Devon and Somerset were working with the CLF Boolean Maths Hub to develop mastery and application in maths from EYFS KS4, increasing rates of progress and levels of attainment. The project focused on raising maths attainment for all, but also focused on closing the gap for disadvantaged students, through developing capacity and expertise in the subject at classroom level, and focusing on transfers between primary and secondary phases.

The project addressed the progress and attainment in Maths which were a regional priority.

Progress for disadvantaged students in maths was significantly less strong than those from a non-disadvantaged background which led to lower levels of attainment at the end of KS4.

Transition between organisations was not effective because the leadership of maths either did not take full advantage of the specific pupil level information available to ensure that teaching built upon prior knowledge or in the case in the Opportunity Area which has a three tier system, QLA is 2 years out of date at the time of transition.

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Leadership for learning: Targeted support and leadership development to improve outcomes and reduce the unacceptable gap in performance between the highest nad lowest performing schools in Bristol (EYFS -–Year 11)

Bristol CouncilBristol City Council

The gap in headline pupil outcomes between Bristol schools was widening across all measures and phases. Results were polarised: outcomes of high performing schools were masking extremely weak outcomes across the city and leadership turnover was high.

This project, based on strong and developing city partnerships, targeted schools in Bristol in challenging circumstances where pupil outcomes were well below local and national averages. Evidence shows the impact of strong leadership on pupil outcomes and Bristol needs urgent investment in developing leadership capacity at all levels within eligible primary, secondary and special schools.

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Improving leadership, teaching and outcomes for disadvantaged learners across secondary provision in South Gloucestershire, through peer review and collaborative approaches to professional development.

Bristol MET Teaching School


The application addressed the urgent need to improve progress of pupils in South Gloucestershire (S Glos), especially disadvantaged (PP) pupils. In 2016, S Glos held the lowest progress in the SW and the largest PP progress gap.

The Secondary outcomes data in 2017 showed little change in 4 stubborn groups: PP P8, Boys P8, HAP P8 and SEND P8. Only one of the Secondary schools had positive (close to zero) P8 and PP P8 in 2017. The % Good/Outstanding schools was only 41% in S Glos (with none graded Outstanding), compared with 85% in the SW and 78% nationally.

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Improving mathematics progress at KS2 to KS3 through sustainable rural solutions.

Cornwall Teaching School Alliance

This project was regionally coordinated with Cornwall and West Devon (CODE) Maths Hub, complementary to All Saints Teaching School Alliance and other Teaching School work. It was a phased development programme in effective mathematics pedagogy, through aspects of mastery, collaboration and meta-cognitive strategies, which evidence shows have a high-effect-size for low-cost and are particularly effective at improving outcomes for disadvantaged pupils, with a focus on developing middle-leaders to sustain and scale the programme.

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Promoting phonics mastery and reducing the attainment gap in the South West

Excalibur Teaching School


The project aimed to promote phonics mastery and to reduce the gap in attainment between advantaged and disadvantaged learners in 52 schools across Wiltshire, Swindon and South Gloucestershire. The schools selected for support had phonics outcomes below the national average (by up to 5%) and outcomes for disadvantaged children well below the national average (by up to 16%).

The key intended outcomes were:

- Increased staff knowledge of and confidence in teaching phonics

- Strengthened leadership of phonics in the supported schools

- Improved overall attainment in phonics (measured by the phonics screening check and by attainment at the end of the reception year), and a narrowing of the gap between disadvantaged children and others

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Developing precision teaching of oracy and phonics through an understanding of early 
language acquisition, using robust assessment tools.

Gloucestershire LA


This project aimed to develop Early Years and Foundation Stage (EYFS) and Year 1 teachers' understanding of early language acquisition and the skills of communication, thereby accelerating the process of learning against the EYFS Communication, Personal Social and Emotional Development and Literacy goals. It aimed to improve children’s ability to learn phonics and thereby increase the numbers of children achieving at least the expected standard in KS1 and KS2 reading and writing.

The main actions planned were a series of professional development sessions, specialist coaching, developing networks to provide support and share good practice and providing quality resources. Throughout the project, participating schools were supported to develop accurate assessment processes and to analyse pupils’ progress, providing robust evidence of impact.

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Reducing the reading achievement gap. Improving literacy skills and progress for KS2 pupils with a focus on those with SEND and in result of the Pupil Premium

Gloucestershire LA 


The project aimed to improve the reading and literacy skills of KS2 SEND pupils and pupils receiving PP and close the current reading achievement gap within the Forest of Dean schools. These pupil groups were achieving below the county and national averages in progress scores for reading and for English and Maths A*-C grades.

The project planned to provide structured training and support to Forest of Dean schools to enable them to identify specific literacy needs and deliver targeted, evidenced based intervention to vulnerable learners. In addition to this, the project planned to work with whole-school and library service partners to develop a culture of ‘Reading for Pleasure’ within schools.

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Developing and embedding successful and sustainable strategies in Somerset schools to improve progress and attainment in KS2 Maths.

Heathfield Community SchoolHeathfield Community School

There is a clear and demonstrable need to address outcomes in Mathematics at KS2 in schools across Somerset both at the Expected and the Higher standard. Our purpose was to significantly improve these outcomes with regard to both progress and attainment and to ensure that good, flexible Maths teaching practices are embedded into every year of the key stage.

The main focus was to implement a range of proven and successful mathematics strategies in the targeted schools across Key Stage 2 that would lead to improved outcomes in the short, medium and long term.

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Plymouth Oracy Project

PTSAPlymouth Teaching School Alliance

“Oracy is what the school does to support the development of children’s capacity to use speech to express their thoughts and communicate with others, in education and in life” (Alexander, 2016 cited in Menzies and Millard, 2016). Empirical evidence and local data identifies a link between poverty, language development, and learning.  There is a causal relationship between oracy and progress and attainment, behaviour, social mobility, mental health, and parental engagement. 

The project improved teachers’ theoretical and pedagogical understanding of dialogic talk for learning, with a particular focus on disadvantaged pupils’ oracy development and educational outcomes.

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Developing pedagogical expertise in KS2 Mathematics

StJohnsCofE2St John's Church of England First School, Wimborne

The project sought to address a lack of expertise in delivering Key Stage 2 maths across Dorset schools. This had resulted in poor outcomes for Dorset pupils. The aim was to improve the level of expertise in teaching, learning and assessment, by improving subject specific pedagogy using evidence based research, thereby improving progress and outcomes for all pupils. The long-term aims of the project were that the progress at KS2 would not be significantly below national rates for any group of students. Short-term aims were that teachers’ knowledge of pedagogy and skills would be improved, and the capability of maths leads in schools to bring about change increased.

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Building capacity for leadership at all levels of the system

WHFWhite Horse Federation

This project sought to combine three things from three different sectors to bring about a synergy and leadership opportunity not seen before. It sought to combine the following to create a unique offer, which saw every member of a school’s staff or indeed a MAT as a leader in their own right. 

The project aimed to develop the leadership potential of many staff groups in school, from an NQT who should be a leader in their own classroom, to an RQT who might start to have a level of responsibility across a year group, to a middle leader leading a department or faculty.

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