Students from disadvantaged backgrounds experience a range of challenges that impact their schooling experience. Therefore, it is vital to support these students in overcoming these challenges. Above all, this better prepares them for adult life by enabling them to access the same opportunities as their peers with a possibility of pursuing productive career paths. In the UK, Pupil Premium (PP) fund is available for schools to utilise in supporting learners from disadvantaged backgrounds. This includes those from low income families, who currently or have been in care and who act as carers. Significantly, students in these circumstances present with challenges affecting their academic achievement. For instance, studies show that some of the challenges disadvantaged students face are poor communication, low self-confidence, low self-esteem and low attendance. Furthermore, the learners experience poor attitudes to learning, difficulties with developing resilience, aspiration and ambition; conduct problems and poor student-teacher relationships.
General Use of Pupil Premium Fund
PP helps schools put strategies in place to close the attainment gap experienced by disadvantaged pupils. Therefore, it aims at maximising the benefits disadvantaged students can gain from schooling. The use of funds is of utmost importance; schools are able to utilise PP in providing 1:1 support for learners, setup catch-up learning sessions and provide extra tutoring. It can also be directed toward investing in electronics that will boost learning, provide extracurricular activities and running breakfast clubs. Ultimately, PP targets academic and non-academic outcomes which include securing a learner’s social, emotional and mental well-being and promoting positive behavioural skills.
PAGS and Pupil Premium Funds
PAGS® is an online tool that supports the development of a learner across 4 areas: Cognitive, social, communication and self-regulation. Using the tool involves a few simple steps:
- Completion of a questionnaire which enables teachers and parents to gain a holistic view of a learners’ strengths, areas requiring development and creates a profile that highlights gaps that a student may have developed.
- Selection of targets to support the holistic development of the learner
- Implementation of suggested strategies
- Updating of targets once achieved
- Re-assessment of a learner by generating a report. This informs next steps by showing where they have progressed or regressed
PAGS® supports PP’s 3-Tiered Approach
- Improving the quality of teaching
- Using a targeted approach
- Using wider strategies that involve selecting non-academic skills leading to holistic development.
PAGS® builds general academic skills including information recall, research skills, sequencing, ordering and memorisation. Moreover, it builds basic mathematical skills like number value, number operations, fractions, multiplication and division. Similarly, the platform supports the development of language skills by improving vocabulary, comprehension and expressive skills.
PAGS® ultimately builds essential non-academic skills directly related to classroom learning. Specifically, these include developing functional listening skills, improving executive functioning and building attention. Secondly, it improves emotional and mental wellbeing using strategies. Moreso, it supports students cope with change, develops positive attitudes about one’s self and one’s surrounding, deals with bullying, being able to appropriately apply assertiveness and stress management. Thirdly but not finally, the system improves peer interaction by developing an awareness of privacy and safety, impact of peer influence, conversation initiation and relationship building.
Why to opt for PAGS®
The Education Endowment Fund discusses 5 principles surrounding PP which PAGS® meets:
- PP gives schools the opportunity to make a difference to learners from disadvantaged backgrounds. In effect, schools would need to gain a full understanding of the learners’ skills and abilities including their strengths and their weaknesses. Thus, this encourages schools to take a targeted approach and ensure that their efforts are relevant and progressive for any particular student. PAGS® helps students gain from schooling by providing feedback on areas that a learner needs to develop.
- The PP should be spent using an evidence-based approach. Complementary to this, the platform achieves this through the generation of profiles on the learner. Considering that it is based on research and years of experience from leaders in the field; it provides an understanding of where a student profile based on what is considered typical development.
- Quality teaching is another important principle when supporting disadvantaged pupils. Fortunately, PAGS® up skills teachers as it highlights important developmental milestones and provides strategies that are essential in enabling students to gain from the curriculum. This has a ripple effect on other students who are able to learn from up skilled, equipped and informed teachers.
- PP is most effectively utilised when strategies are implemented. This resource shows them a 4-I’s approach to intervention, available in its Driving Manual. It allows teachers to upload evidence and report on progress
- PAGS provides teachers with a unique lens to view students through and understand them better. Teachers gain a deeper understanding of challenges that students face that impact their schooling experience.
Several parting notes to be taken about PAGS® show its unique structure and value in the education system.
- It can reduce the attainment gap and in enrich the lives of disadvantaged students. Certainly, a student who feels understood and catered for will most likely develop positive associations with schooling. This would improve their attendance. Most importantly, PAGS® encourages the learner involvement in decisions made to support them, this accountability and ownership may even lead to improvements in conduct and behaviour.
- Interestingly, PP supports disadvantaged students which should improvement teaching quality. PAGS® helps teachers know what to look for and how to resolve it. Obviously, when done regularly, this continually develops teacher’s skills and knowledge.
- The Education Endowment Fund states that PP should support development of academics and core skills to help students access the curriculum and prepare them for adult life.
- It promotes a whole school approach. It allows those who comprise of a student’s support network to keep updated on the learner’s profile, goals and progress; resulting in improved collaboration between school and parents and caregivers.
Catering for a wide range of needs in a school can present with its own challenges. In essence, PAGS® helps schools work smart rather than hard; it achieves a number of desirable outcomes ranging from improving student performance to developing teachers and improving teaching quality. The digital era is taking precedence and using this platform provides a forward thinking solution to supporting a students on PP.