Social Class and Achievement Case Studies
- 1 Social Class and Achievement Case Studies
- 2 Summary: What makes the difference
- 3 Engagement with parents/carers and the wider community
- 4 Leadership and Management
- 5 Clearly maintained boundaries, with high expectations of behaviour and attendance, consistently applied and supported by rewards and sanctions
- 6 Strong, inclusive leadership and effective SLTs
- 7 Teaching and learning
- 8 Systematic and rigorous use of data, target setting, monitoring and accountability, assessment, tracking, feedback and moving forward in learning
- 9 Curriculum innovation and enrichment
- 10 Extra-curricular activities and extended school provision
- 11 Opportunities for pupil involvement and voice
- 12 Engagement with parents/carers and the wider community
- 13 Engagement with the wider community
- 14 Appendix
Teaching and learning
A focus on learning
'We focused very specifically on learning. This has been significant in raising standards'. (Headteacher, E)
All the schools had a very clear focus on improving learning as a core aim and this was recognised by all members of the school community.
'Once your education gets better, you get better and better'. (Pupil, D)
'Learning has high status here'. (Parent/carer, A)
Headteachers and senior managers could identify areas of strength and areas for further development in learning and acted quickly to improve matters. There was a sense of practice being reflected on.
'We had a problem with the core subjects. We have turned around our English department. They are now doing very well'. (H)
'There were poor plenaries so we've developed action research with staff – trying new ideas. For example, pupils did not like plenaries with the teacher only picking a few pupils who put their hands up, so we've changed to small whiteboards for pupils for them all to show an answer'. (C)
How to learn was actively discussed in these schools. In school D, for example, pupils explained how their teachers talked to them about learning and gave the example of an assembly about working with others and how to support others in their work. In school F, Year 9 pupils talked about sessions looking at learning techniques and how to improve their learning.
Assessment for Learning (AfL) was used by all the schools, and pupils were involved in peer- and self-assessment. Assessment against objectives and targets was a feature of practice and pupils knew what they needed to do to move on.
'Our teacher helps me plan it out; talks to us when I get it wrong and tells me how to make it better'. (Pupil, A)
'All classes have level information on walls so pupils know what to work on that will move them up a level'. (Member of SLT, E)
Rewards and praise were used to give learning a high status and to motivate learners. At school C, for example, Year 6 pupils accumulated points to earn time in the 'common room' as a reward for good work, and there were achievement or goal-scoring boards outside each class for pupils' names to be added when they moved up a level. In school A, a 'reading passport' scheme rewarded children for reading a certain number of books.
'Now every child wants to do their homework because if you've read ten books you get some points. If we forget the reading book we have to run back to school to get it. The home school reading book is important. They know she (the teacher) will look at it. He says to me, 'Have you wrote in it?' (Parent/carer, A)
Schools had systems to overcome barriers to learning, using a range of interventions. These included learning mentors, homework clubs, revision days, peer mentors and reading buddy schemes. One school had a well-equipped sensory room where targeted pupils spend quiet time with learning mentors. Others had dedicated space to withdraw vulnerable and volatile pupils.
The high status given to learning and achievement in the schools helped pupils withstand any 'boffin' taunts.
'If you don't work, you're a loser'. (Pupil, E)
'Sometimes other kids who don't work say things, but you ignore them because you know what's best for you'. (Pupil, F)
Pupils identified many features that made it easier for them to learn, including 'active lessons', the use of ICT and interactive whiteboards. They recognised that teachers pushed them to achieve and acknowledged that teachers were willing to go the extra mile to help them to do so.
All the schools made good use of teaching assistants. The primary schools typically had a teaching assistant for every class and they were highly regarded members of the staff team.
'We couldn't do it without the TAs: it's how we have used the budget. They are expected to work with the group and they are now good enough to take the class. Expectations of them are very high. We have higher-level TAs but there is no hierarchy'. (C)
Most secondary schools deployed teaching assistants academically to support core subjects and/or administrative assistants to support year groups. These assistants were frequently parents/carers of pupils who had attended the school and felt themselves to be an integral part of the work within departments.
In one secondary school (G), the headteacher had used the budget to cut class size to 20 ('I wanted less chiefs, more Indians'). This has radically reduced staff absence. They also decided to have no cover or supply teachers. ('We have no cover here: I don't want pupils disrupted with people I don't know in front of them.') Instead, they used a large learning centre well equipped with information technology and individualised learning programmes. The same school used assistants strategically in corridors and outside toilets to minimise opportunities for poor behaviour out of class.