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Supporting schools to narrow the gap: blog from Natasha Theobald, I CAN Head of Communications

It’s been a busy month for the Department for Education with several new announcements about changes to the curriculum, secondary school accountability and the arrival of the Children and Families Bill in the House of Commons.

At the same time, a report has been released by Ofsted, which looks at how schools are using Pupil Premium funding to support pupils on Free School Meals and looked after children. This follows on from concerns from the Chief Inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, last autumn about how some schools were using the additional resources inappropriately or even not at all.

The main focus of this latest report is good practice – featuring positive examples of how schools are deploying these resources to narrow the gap in achievement between the most disadvantaged children and their peers.

Based on information from 68 different primary and secondary schools, Ofsted has identified some of the key characteristics amongst those schools who are spending Pupil Premium funding to good effect. These include:

  • Focusing on supporting their disadvantaged pupils to achieve the highest levels drawing on research evidence and pupils experiences to allocate the funding to the activities that were most likely to have an impact on improving achievement
  • Making sure that support staff, particularly teaching assistants, were highly trained and understood their role in helping pupils to achieve
  • Ensuring that a designated senior leader has a clear overview of the initiative and the difference it makes to pupil outcomes

Encouragingly, speech and language programmes are used in the Ofsted report as an example of how a good school could target pupils whose progress are ‘being hampered by weak oracy skills’ through the Pupil Premium.

10% of children have significant speech, language and communication needs (SLCN). We know that pupils eligible for Free School Meals are 2.3 times more likely to have SLCN than other children (Dockrell et al, 2012).

I CAN’s programmes, such as Secondary Talk, Primary Talk and the Talk Boost intervention for children with language delay could help schools, which are increasingly required to show how they are addressing the needs of young learners at risk of underachievement.

Read more about the Ofsted report.