Attainment statistics published in January 2014 show that 37.9 per cent of pupils who qualified for free school meals achieved 5 GCSEs compared with 64.6 per cent of pupils who do not qualify.
With over 80 per cent of its pupils qualifying for free school meals, Pakeman Primary is an inner London school which has more than its fair share of disadvantaged children to support. Yet in 2013 the school was named the national primary winner in the Pupil Premium Awards 2013 for raising the attainment of its disadvantaged pupils.
The pupil premium is additional funding given to publicly funded schools in England to raise the attainment of disadvantaged pupils and close the gap between them and their peers. Schools like Pakeman Primary can choose how they can make best use of the money.
One of the key principles of Social Justice is: recognising that the most effective solutions will often be designed and delivered locally.
‘There is no one size fits all solution’ by Lynne Gavin Head of Pakeman Primary School
Pakeman Primary School has a multi-strand approach to this which has included:
Creating a climate of high expectations
The school has worked hard to establish a climate in which all staff believe that children can succeed. If we have the highest ambitions for our children they will rise to them. Background cannot be allowed to be a limitation.
Ensuring high quality day to day teaching
Poor or inconsistent teaching can have a disproportionately large impact on disadvantaged children. The school has established a model in which non class- based teachers support the development of improved teaching through team teaching and planning and sharing best practice. Every child should be entitled to at least good teaching on a day to day basis. Interventions cannot be seen as a substitute for this.
Linking spending to improved achievement
Pakeman thinks that there is no "one size fits all" solution to the challenges for improving outcomes for disadvantaged pupils. We believe it is about identifying solutions for overcoming the barriers and ensuring that the spending focuses on these and is directly linked to improved outcomes in learning.
Measuring impact carefully
The school has shifted to half termly observations and assessments of teaching staff and support staff and recognises the need for what it calls the "Follow up Factor".
"If interventions aren't having the desired impact, they can be revised, adapted or stopped. We can't waste time - we have to have solutions that work," says Emma Bonnin, Assistant Head.
Developing partnerships with parents
The school believes that working with parents is an essential part of improving outcomes for pupils and has adopted a three-pronged approach to this:
• Developing a climate in which parents feel welcomed.
• Providing parents with opportunities to develop their knowledge and skills.
• Supporting parents in reducing life stresses.
If a parent is in crisis and struggling to cope, how can a child flourish? By building these strong relationships of mutual support, we are managing to turn things around not only for the pupils but also for the parents. Some parents have gone back to further education, have found jobs and most importantly, feel more confident in themselves.
The school intends to use future Pupil Premium money to improve feedback to pupils by providing individual mentoring sessions, extending one-to-one tuition and focusing on digital literacy, which includes the purchase of a school radio station.
“We were absolutely delighted and incredibly proud to be named the ‘National Primary School of the Year’ in the Pupil Premium Awards 2013. Winning this award has been fantastic for us at Pakeman. It reflects and recognises the hard work and dedication of our amazing staff who are determined to provide our children with the best possible education to improve their life chances. We invested the prize money in a new stage and sound system from which the whole school community has benefited by transforming our assemblies, choir performances and productions. In addition, we have been inundated with requests from other schools for support and not only are we sharing our good practice with schools across the country but we are also learning from them, which is helping us to become better still!” Lynne Gavin, Head of Pakeman Primary School.
Funding aimed at solving one problem, delivers better value to the taxpayer if it has wider social impact. Schools play a crucial role in local communities, often providing a hub to build social cohesion between people from different cultural backgrounds as can be seen at Pakeman Primary. This has value not just for parents and pupils, but for the wider community. Social cohesion can also impact on other issues such as crime levels and building thriving local economies.
To find out more about government policy to support children, families and the communities in which they live.
DCLG: Community and Society