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Raising Pupil Achievement – How Do You Know What Works?

Andy Runacres, headteacher of Stanville Primary School, talks about how his school monitors the impact of learning interventions to ensure they are successful in raising achievement.

  • Raising Pupil Achievement – How Do You Know What Works?

When you put a learning intervention in place for an individual child or group, the aim is to lift their achievement and prevent them from falling behind. But do schools really know how effective their interventions are at boosting attainment?

At Stanville Primary School, a high proportion of children receive pupil premium funding or have SEND. So, putting the right support in place is essential to helping a child reach their potential and, ultimately, close the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers.

When I became headteacher in 2016, we already ran a well-established learning intervention programme. But I wanted to know that the support we were offering was not only targeted at the right pupils, but was also actually helping them progress.

Building an accurate picture

As schools, our efforts need to be focused on interventions that work well. So, the first step for us was to get a deeper understanding of what difference, if any, our existing schemes were making.

And in doing that, it became clear that a complete overhaul was required. We needed a robust way to target additional learning support where it would have the greatest impact on achievement and ensure that schemes delivered the best possible outcomes for the children at whom they were aimed.

Knowing the individual

Historically, gathering information on children’s learning progress was not that easy and so we were often reliant on using anecdotal evidence to make judgements on the success of programmes. We decided we wanted to make things a little more concrete.

The first step was to create one place where we could hold key information, such as details of which children had SEND or were receiving the pupil premium, alongside historical and current achievement data.

The management information system was the most logical place for this. This made it easier for us to scrutinise the academic interventions and pastoral support programmes we ran.

With data held centrally, we had a clearer view of the impact interventions are having.

Teachers can see if a lunchtime reading club or an extra maths session is helping to raise the achievement of all pupils, for example – or identify whether certain groups are benefiting most, such as those with English as their first language.

Knowing this means we can decide whether to roll out a scheme more widely or tweak sessions to target individual pupils or groups.

Staff can record details of a pupil’s progress against specific learning goals as part of interventions too, or see if extra support is having a knock-on effect on overall assessment results.

Seeing the bigger picture benefits everyone

It’s now much easier for staff to identify underperformance. The backbone is the data we hold in SIMS Interventions, to which staff across the school have access.

They use it to identify when pupils might need a little extra support. These children might have fallen just under the radar before, but holding information in one place has also enabled us to identify some children on intervention programmes who no longer need to be, saving time and money that can be invested elsewhere.

The changes are already making a difference. We discovered, for example, that one child, despite attending 18 phonics sessions, had made little progress in their reading – their reading ability had increased by only a single word.

Being able to track the effectiveness of these sessions allowed us to tweak the intervention by making it shorter, and the child responded very well – their reading ability increased by 10 words in just five sessions as a result.

A targeted investment

Staff can now also be more proactive in their approach to boosting progress as they can monitor pupils’ achievement over time and plan or adapt interventions, as necessary. If a scheme isn’t working, we can quickly assess the situation and make any changes needed to ensure the children achieve all they are capable of. 

We’re seeing the impact of a more-defined and accountable programme of interventions across the school. At the start of the 2016/17 academic year, 50% of children attending phonics intervention programmes were under their target reading age.

However, in our Spring review, 33% of pupils were reading at the expected level, 67% had exceeded their reading age and not a single child missed their target.

And as I embark on my second year as head teacher of Stanville Primary School, I am confident in our ability to give every child the greatest possible chance of achieving to the best of their ability.

Andy’s top tips for ensuring interventions boost attainment

  1. Set key objectives for interventions and put a robust tracking system in place to ensure they are being met.
  2. Give staff the tools they need to make good use of data so they can plan and tweak sessions to ensure they achieve the desired results.
  3. Keep an open mind – your school’s data might uncover an issue you were not previously aware of that needs addressing.

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