This article was originally posted in Headteacher Update 12/1/15.
Inclusion and Pupil Premium expert Daniel Sobel offers some incredibly simple – yet effective – steps to help you think about and demonstrate the impact that your Pupil Premium spending is having.
There are a number of key issues that have arisen time again out of the Pupil Premium approach to social migration. The biggest of course is: “What shall we spend it on?” Followed by a close second: “How do we demonstrate the impact?”
The obvious short answer to the first question is: anything that addresses the need you have identified – which then opens the door to the real question: how do we fully and accurately identify the need of the student? This may of course then give us some sort of baseline to measure any progress against – and there’s your demonstration of impact. Would that life were so simple, this article would end here.
Ofsted now uses schools’ Pupil Premium spending as an indicator of the competence and effectiveness of senior management. They speak not only to senior leaders, however, but also to governors, asking them about the school’s approach and how they know it is working. Staff members lower down in the school may also be asked questions on the topic.
It is key that you are methodical, thorough and clear in your data, not only fulfilling the accountability criteria but also ensuring that staff throughout the school understand your school’s Premium use and aims. Accountability is the factor which ensures that the Pupil Premium makes sense at a governmental level: it is what allows them to provide the funding with no direct guidance about how it is spent. But it can be stressful and difficult for schools to work out exactly what is needed, as well as to gather the data and present it in a meaningful way.
There are three aspects to demonstrating the impact of your school’s work with the Pupil Premium.
- The first is fulfilling formal accountability criteria: presenting data on your website, creating a folder of information for Ofsted, and so on.
- The second is the broader but equally important process of making sure that all staff and stakeholders are engaged and kept updated.
- The third is to ensure that this becomes an on-going cycle, not just a one-off. The Pupil Premium is a process, not a project that can be easily completed and tidied away. With this approach, you will be judged on the dynamism of your system, not just the results (however good they may be).
The following steps are easy-to-implement ideas that are designed to help you in your demonstration of impact. The advice is based on the Pupil Premium Handbook which is an online training resource from the Inclusion Expert website (see further information)
Contextualise: Demonstrate that you really know your students and your approach makes sense for your school.
My team and I have carried out hundreds of Pupil Premium reviews in schools across the country and there is one major similarity between all of the visits: no school is the same. No school has the same student make-up, setting and resources, community and support or lack thereof. Most significantly, impoverishment means something different in every borough, every region, between housing estates and even streets.
Some schools may describe how certain ethnic community students struggle to engage whereas in an inner city London school I visited, they focused their narrowing the gap money strategy on the minority White British boys who performed significantly behind all other minorities in the school.
The first step in the journey then in trying to demonstrate the impact is being clear about what the make-up of your free school meals (FSM) cohort is and the specific challenges that they may face in your region. If you decide behind the comfort of your own desk about what these factors are then you open yourself up to doubt.
Convene a stakeholder meeting and invite representatives from social services, police, youth work, parents and parent support groups and even your local MP. Ask them about the key factors that inhibit progress and how to build aspiration with the community of your students. It is possible that this will end up being a tick-box exercise, but some of the best examples of Pupil Premium spending I have come across have resulted from such meetings.
Put a summary of the minutes of this meeting in the Pupil Premium section of your website and when Ofsted pay you a visit be sure to always begin your discussion of your FSM cohort with: “Our community is unique and our stakeholders have helped us understand that they face these issues X, Y and Z and as a result we have taken the following actions…”
This approach goes a long way to demonstrating your savvy in social migration. Even if your students haven’t made the necessary hard data progress, this will still open the door to being able to demonstrate other progress factors.
Personalise: Demonstrate that you have a bespoke approach to narrowing the gap.
Along with the broader data, include a number of exemplar documents which give a much more precise level of detail. These provide not only a more specific, but often a more accessible insight into one or two of the interventions that the school is using.
It allows readers to engage with specific programmes and targets, and to see the students that these are benefiting (or, equally importantly, not benefiting). Such documents also demonstrate the level of care in the micro-management of the whole project.
They can be given to your team, to senior management, governors, and even posted on the school website, providing individual names are removed. Also, prepare four to five case studies demonstrating how you tackled different types of issues. Not all of the cases have to end in success – it is your thinking, effort and measure that makes all of the difference.
This is an opportunity to show how you go beyond the call of the duty (that is not to suggest that you have to do so, but rather simply draw on situations where you already do!).
The rule of 3: issue, solution and measure
Probably the most significant point in the article is for me to emphasise that it is okay to use soft data to demonstrate your impact. The vast majority of progress cannot be ascertained by the crude measure of a grade or a percentage point.
All major research into narrowing the gap as well as basic common sense tells us that the myopic view of RAISEOnline or whole-school data will simply not tell the story adequately enough. If that is all you show Ofsted when they come knocking at your door then it will be difficult to get a picture of whether you fully grasp the issues.
There is only one basic formula that succinctly captures progress in soft data terms and that has three columns:
- What the presenting issue is.
- What action you took.
- What impact there was.
All key pastoral and inclusion documents and forms are based on this simple formula, from a Pastoral Support Plan to an Education, Health and Care Plan.
At the heart of the question is: what was the issue, what did you do about it, and what happened as a result? If you can present that in succinct bullet points then you have a decent (not fool-proof unfortunately) chance that Ofsted will actually read it.
I have sat on too many tribunal cases where hundreds of pages were presented about a case to the extent that they were drowning in evidence. But nearly all of them have one thing in common – they lost the wood for the trees and they could not answer the simple question: what was the issue and what did you do about it and did that work okay? In Pupil Premium terms you might want to simply add one additional column: how much you spent.
Marketise: It is not just what you know but who you tell
Encourage your school to celebrate its Pupil Premium achievements. After all, the results you achieve with it don’t only represent money well spent, but effective work on the national issue of social migration.
Keep parents and other external stakeholders in the loop: mention the issue in newsletters and emails, and perhaps even link the relevant section of the school website in your email signature.
Post information and positive results on boards in the school. Preface the information on your website by saying that the issue is a high priority for the school.
Beyond the information necessary to fulfil statutory requirements, consider including: a list of your interventions and mention that these are in regular review, as well as some success stories if you can anonymise them appropriately enough.
Similarly, it is also good practice to produce a report on the issue for submission to your governors. This further ensures that the issue is being talked about at every level, and creates a paper trail to prove it. Governor enthusiasm and involvement is obviously a hugely beneficial thing – even without additional funding it would go a long way toward putting structures in place to help Pupil Premium students.
How you create the report is up to you, but it should contain: basic data (Pupil Premium student numbers and other hard data), a summary of the key concerns and successes from the beginning of the year, financial details, how the money was spent, and some of the impact.
Also include some notes on the decision-making process and some more specific information, such as the case studies discussed above. This report, with the minutes of the meeting at which it was discussed if available, would be a valuable addition to the Ofsted folder.