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

Beach Teaching School

1. Overview

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.  

The designated school leaders were supported, enabled and trained to understand how to advocate for their disadvantaged children. They now fully understand the issue of the PP Gap, they self-evaluate and drive improvements, they co-ordinate provision, monitor, evaluate and report improvements.  

Through collaboration, CPD and coaching, leaders ensured that practitioners at every level could provide quality first teaching and proven intervention. As a result of engaging in the projects, schools will now ensure strong pastoral provision and a relentless focus on high parental engagement. Quality analysis informed the approach to each setting and a legacy plan will inform and support the continuation of best practice beyond the timescale of this programme.

The programme built strong leadership capacity and succession planning; a highly skilled workforce with true pedagogical understanding; children who are independent, lifelong learners; data that shows diminishing differences.

2. Good practice to share with others interested in running school improvement projects to ensure projects deliver the intended outcome.

  1. The project launch saw 100% attendance and gave each individual provider a shop window to entice participants to engage. High quality speakers to win hearts and minds
  2. The project lead visited each participating school. They conducted repeat visits where there was an expressed need or when individual schools were not engaging.
  3. The mix of core and bespoke offer of intervention allowed schools to take control of their own priorities. This was key to the success of the project.
  4. The addition of provision in response to need as the project progressed (for example, by putting in extra sessions on data we were able to quickly upskill the cohort)
  5. The expectation and facilitation of networking across schools.
  6. The ability to fund supply for classroom staff to attend training.

3. Lessons learned - What the project may do differently in the future

If the project lead were to start planning again, they would take into account:

  1. The relatively brief duration of the project which leaves continuity and legacy vulnerable. Moreover, the tight timetable meant that it was not always possible to give a clear description of what was available sufficiently far in advance for some schools to engage.
  2. We would consider delivering on fewer targets over the longest timescale possible. Consideration of key times of the academic year to avoid would also be of high importance when creating the project timeline.
  3. Unrealistic expectation of impact when dealing with complex issues and systems calling (in some cases) for culture change.
  4. Changes in personnel/school circumstances and competing priorities. Those schools who engaged fully and had the continuity and support of the highest level of leadership within the school showed significant impact within this project.
  5. Established point of contact overload. Finding a system of communication where all stakeholders can communicate without overloading email inboxes would have been ideal from the start of the project. It is worth noting that many school systems do not allow people to access the same platforms. This became a barrier for some.
  6. Limited leverage with regard to engagement. We would use the reimbursement of supply money as leverage for ensuring that all data returns were completed in a timely manner. In future we would consider carefully the format and amount of data asked for from the schools.

4. Sustainability measures taken by the project to ensure improvement are sustained beyond the funding period

Following the collation of the final data, including the hard data that will be published in November 2019, a summary of the key successes will be disseminated to all schools within the project. Case studies from 8 schools within the project will be published both electronically and in hard copy. These case studies will be published to a wider audience including being uploaded to the Teaching School Portal, social media and on The Beach Teaching School website. The Workplace platform online has a membership of 57 from across the 37 schools involved in the project. SSIF Providers and schools post updates on this platform, including school successes and government updates regarding disadvantaged pupils and students. The strong networks that have been created, particularly within the 'Challenge the Gap' cohorts, will continue to collaborate.