‘We must feed the intellectual curiosity of teachers’: Pupil Premium TeachMeet report

Jackson

I sometimes look back at life and wonder how all of the little experiences and choices have all been directing me to where I find myself now.  Part of my role as a Teaching and Learning Assistant Head is to look after the Pupil Premium budget.  I can say without a doubt that I understand some of the barriers to learning that these young people experience as I myself have a ‘disadvantaged’ background – boy those RAISE people sure know how to make people happy…  This doesn’t mean though that I am any more equipped for this role and I’m always hungry for ideas.

It was serendipitous then that I saw the Pupil Premium TeachMeet being held in Oxford coinciding with my journey back from an unrelated event in Birmingham.  I’ve been to many Pupil Premium events and it’s often the same – with a lack of practical ideas and access to leaders who are trying to make a difference.  The format of this TeachMeet was a little different in that it was chaired by Sir Tim Brighouse.  The first time I benefited from his wealth of experience was during my 21st Century Learning Alliance Fellowship.  Then he provided challenge and he certainly did so again during this TeachMeet. 

After Sir Tim’s initial chat, where he talked about the importance of Teachers talking to Teachers about Teaching, talks were given in batches of four with questions and comments from Sir Tim and the audience following.  In the intimate environment of Oxford University’s Department of Education, this was great.  It meant that I took a more away than I usually would. It was also fantastic to hear from serving HeadTeachers.  I was challenged and probed over the ideas I shared and this was refreshing.  It was good to be challenged as well and applauded.  This felt like a real event that could only have been improved by me working in a school in the local area.  There are plans for the same group to gather again, and I hope that this happens.

Sir Tim also said that we must feed the intellectual curiosity of teachers, which matches well to many of the research engagement initiatives that are happening around the country.

For what it’s worth, here are some of the ideas I shared.  They aren’t the total sum of my Pupil Premium plans, but some edited highlights. There were no slides as I prepared my talk using EverNote, which I find most useful when taking notes, apologies for the note form:

Providing opportunities for creativity, curiosity and serendipity within a structure.  

I’ve been struck by the effectiveness of ‘expert’ teachers and their impact on closing the gap. I’m part of an SLT Teaching and Learning team that have an unshakeable belief in the power of great teaching. My work in around the Closing Gaps agenda has mainly been to moving the focus  from Year 11 and away from ‘blame it on maths and English’ toward small, sustainable changes that have impact. It’s important that changes benefit as many students as possible and are able to be implemented by busy teachers.

A lot of my work has been targeted at changing the culture of staff away from a ‘pupil premium champion with an answer’ to individual teachers and departments driving change and taking responsibility for progress. 

Priorities – academic achievement, attendance and providing life opportunities and cultural enrichment as

Building sustainable improvements for a mixed ability group of students – too many teachers still equate disadvantaged background with low ability. 

1. High quality teaching and learning. Referral Form created in Google Docs makes funding available to every member of staff – this is trusting teachers to do the right thing and also allows accountability to be followed through. Ideally I would like to move away from micro-management as it’s impossible to hold people to account when they are enacting your orders.

  • Small and responsive. 
  • Making every member of staff accountable for their gaps.
  • Teacher learning communities focus on PP profiles developed through research into our cohorts and their barriers. Developing case studies and trying to ensure that everything we do as a school has a closing the gap focus.
  • Whole school book look as a learning opportunity focused on PP students as a learning opportunity. One of the interesting takeaways from staff is that they don’t expect enough from students. 
  • Took staff to the cinema and watched waiting for superman to challenge and provoke them into considering the moral purpose of education. They are the super people.

2. Teachers teach each other stuff.

  • Research bursaries x4 looking at translating research into practice. 
  • Meta cognition, visual techniques, homework and peer teaching. 
  • Linked to lesson study and a ‘pedagogy unit’ leading to Action Research, 
  • supported by coaching and tackling something really difficult. 
  • Pass on to the staff. 
  • Building in the capacity for teachers to drive research and create trouble.
  • We want to expand this culture of research.

3. Year 6 and Year 10

  • Peer teaching via Twitter. Started with key terms, tests, revision, linked to exam papers. The year 10 students put together resources about flooding,

4. Attendance

  • In a flat cash budget, looking at supporting existing staff to work more effectively in order to be able to target and speak to students. Use of apps to engage with families. Again, this needs to happen as early as possible.

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