Donna Lee is the Headteacher and Inclusion Coordinator at NACE member and Challenge Award-accredited school Nettlesworth Primary. With over 20-years’ experience as an inclusion coordinator and a specialism in individualised learning, Donna is committed to high standards of teaching and a belief that all children deserve to have teachers who believe in them. In 2013-2014, she led the school as Acting Deputy Headteacher, and obtained the NACE Challenge Award for the first time. She became Headteacher in January 2018 and led the school through an Ofsted inspection, where they were rated as ‘good’, and NACE reaccreditation assessments in July 2018 and July 2021. In this article, she shares tips on how pupil premium can be used to help support disadvantaged children.

At Nettlesworth Primary, we are committed to ensuring the teaching and learning opportunities we provide meet the needs of all pupils, including those of our most disadvantaged pupils.

We ensure appropriate provision is made for pupils who belong to vulnerable groups, focusing on adequately assessing and addressing their needs. These pupils benefit from individualised programmes based on an accurate understanding of what support best suits each pupil. Through this we aim to accelerate progress and overcome barriers to learning so that these pupils achieve similar outcomes to their peers, and to diminish the difference between those entitled to Pupil Premium (PP) funding and those who are not.

We choose to focus on high-quality teaching and effective deployment of staff to support disadvantaged children. Following the national lockdown prompted by Covid-19, it is even more imperative that pupils are supported within the school to ensure that any gaps in their knowledge can be addressed quickly and effectively, ensuring they have all the tools necessary to make progress.

All staff in the school have contributed to the evaluation of the strategy. This has allowed a whole-school overview to be created and has focused the attention of staff on the needs of the Pupil Premium children in their classes, those with the lowest levels of engagement during the pandemic, and those with the greatest recovery needs when returning to school.

Here are 10 approaches that have been key to ensuring effective use of Pupil Premium funding for all learners in our school, including more able disadvantaged learners:

Maximising staff performance and development

Systems and processes such as performance management and coaching are utilised to maximise employee performance. Through tackling underperformance, this secures defined and measurable outcomes through best use of time and efficacy. Performance management is integral to school improvement planning. Staff actively participate in the objective setting and review process, receiving effective feedback to progress priorities by tackling underperformance, celebrating success and developing human resource capacity through distributive leadership of priorities such as pupil premium, sports premium, special educational needs and more able provision. We emphasise the importance of ‘quality teaching first’ and aim to provide a consistently high standard through monitoring performance and tailoring teaching. Utilising external evidence alongside the knowledge of our pupils is used to support our Pupil Premium Strategy.

Investing in developing all staff members

Investing in the development of staff such as teaching assistants and early career teachers leads to a higher level of expertise within the organisation. The creative use of human resources, in partnership with networking schools on a reciprocal basis, enables the development of a culture of mutual reliance and collective buy-in between the More Able Leads – learning from and with each other for mutual benefit for more able learners. This results in improvements in leadership knowledge, skills and behaviours, and improved attainment at greater depth against national comparatives. Using PP funding on CPD to ensure staff have the skills and training to take on more specialist roles is where you will see the biggest impact.

Regular reports at governor meetings

Regular reports and attendance at governor meetings to update on progress helps to secure this focus within the organisation. Designated Pupil Premium Governors and School Leaders continually monitor the progress of the Pupil Premium Strategy to ensure the importance of support and adapt approaches where and when appropriate.

Committing to inclusive, flexible provision for all

We seek to be an inclusive school in which the curriculum is sufficiently flexible to fully match the individual learning needs of all children. Adopting an inclusive environment for all areas of our curriculum is essential to develop the needs of all our children. Our staff ensure that appropriate provision is made for all groups of children who belong to vulnerable groups. Our school has a whole school ethos of attainment for all and view each pupil as an individual.

Pupil Premium Strategy shared with all staff members

The headteacher, in liaison with the Pupil Premium Lead, compiled and wrote the Pupil Premium Strategy and shared it with the whole staff. Members of staff offered appropriate amendments to ensure all areas of the desired outcomes were met. The Pupil Premium Lead then wrote an action plan to ensure the desired outcomes are achieved. This was then shared with all staff during a staff meeting. The strategy is reviewed each term.

Regularly updated pupil premium records

All teachers have a Pupil Premium file that clearly highlights all appropriate information regarding disadvantaged children, including more able learners, within their class. All staff are responsible for collating evidence for each child and continuously updating their files. The Pupil Premium Lead and Inclusion Coordinator monitors the files half-termly. These are very much working documents and staff utilise them to ensure an inclusive provision for our Pupil Premium children. The Pupil Premium Lead and Inclusion Coordinator track the progress of each disadvantaged child and create a termly overview for each file.

Planning for maximum progress in an inclusive environment

Teachers strategically plan, pitch, differentiate and deliver all lessons to ensure maximum progress is achieved in an inclusive environment. First-hand experiences are offered during each topic where the children can develop knowledge and skills. Teacher feedback on pupils’ levels of engagement, participation and understanding of any challenges that disadvantaged pupils are facing are taken into account when developing our Pupil Premium Strategy.

Appropriate use of intervention groups

The Pupil Premium Lead liaises with the Inclusion Lead to devise appropriate intervention groups to ensure progression to diminish the gap in learning. Intervention groups include: Phonics, Reading, Maths, Lego Therapy, Breakfast Club, Tuition, Coordination Programmes and Nurturing. Each teaching assistant maintains an intervention file as a working document. These files are monitored every two weeks, and the progress of the children is discussed with development points offered. The Pupil Premium Lead and Inclusion Coordinator monitor the progress of the disadvantaged children within these intervention groups. The Pupil Premium Lead, in collaboration with the Intervention Lead, delivered CPD to teaching assistants who deliver interventions to pupil premium groups, concentrating on activities, methods of recording, and introduction of a website page dedicated to pupil premium.

Mental health first aid

We have a member of staff who continues to develop her role within school of mental health first aider for any children who may be feeling vulnerable or have any worries or emotional issues which need support and intervention. We also have a group of children who are trained as mental health peers to support other children in the school. Many of these trained children are our more able disadvantaged learners. Staff have participated in training on highlighting strengths in pupils’ work and providing opportunities to raise their self-esteem within the classroom.

Increasing participation in enrichment activities

We seek to enable pupils to engage in school life fully, including support for healthy lifestyles and resources to access learning. Children need to be involved in enrichment within the school including accessing all after-school clubs, visits and overnight residential trips. It is important to make decisions based on an understanding of individual pupils’ needs. Pupil Premium Funding is used to supplement, enhance educational visits and experiences across year groups, and to further target wider identified curriculum resources for Pupil Premium children across a variety of curriculum areas in order to aid children’s understanding, knowledge and key skills of development.

More on Mrs Donna Lee, Headteacher and Inclusion Coordinator

I have been an Inclusion Coordinator since 2000 when I qualified as a teacher from Durham University. Inclusion and individualised learning were my focus when studying for MA in Special Educational Needs and expertise in gaining the National Professional Qualification for Headship. In 2013-2014, I led the school as Acting Deputy Head Teacher in obtaining the NACE Challenge Award for the first time. I became Headteacher of the school in January 2018 and led the school through an Ofsted inspection, where we continue to be a good school, and NACE reaccreditation assessments in July 2018 and July 2021.

I am committed to the highest standards of teaching and learning and believe that children deserve to have teachers who believe in them and have high expectations of all their pupils. It is my belief that every child should have the opportunity to be the best they can be – to enjoy their schooling and achieve as well as they can. I expect staff in every lesson to make every child in the class shine through quality first teaching. I share this belief and expertise through network meetings, with other schools in the North East, and spoke at a more able conference within Durham Local Authority.

I believe you work in partnership with parents to develop a school where no one fails but rather, where every child leaves us having identified a talent, a skill, and intelligence through which they can become whatever they want to be.

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In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, Nettlesworth Primary School has developed a school wide strategy to support disadvantaged learners. We heard from Headteacher Donna Lee about ways pupil premium funding can be used effectively to support learners of all abilities.

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