Pupil Premium: Ensuring Successful Outcomes

by Helen Spring

Last week I attended The Pupil Premium and Ofsted Conference, with the aim of ensuring that we are as up to date on how the pupil premium can be used most effectively. Here is my conference report;

The pupil premium helping primary pupils

The pupil premium, helping primary pupils

Sir John Dunford started the conference last week by declaring that one can never ensure anything, so he’d like to change the name of the conference. This made me a little unsure of what I had signed up to.

“A girl from that estate is never going to go far” should be a disciplinary offence

Sir John, who had started being referred to as Saint John by the afternoon, outlined the need for a whole school ethos. “A girl from that estate is never going to go far,” should be a disciplinary offence, John declared. How often have we heard, “well with a family like that, what else would you expect?!”

High expectations of every pupil are the only way every pupil is going to succeed. Understanding the difference between equality and equity is paramount; this means we need to do more for some youngsters than for others. “There is no such thing as a typical pupil premium child,” announced John.

 What will Ofsted say?

We are always worried about what Ofsted will say. That’s the nature of the education system at the moment. ‘Saint John’ made the point, several times, that we must focus on pupil premium children for the sake of the children, not to tick a box. For some children, school and their teachers are providing the only chance they have to succeed, and their only opportunities to experience the wider world.

Each school should have someone, preferably on the leadership team, who has responsibility for pupil premium. Saint John is the governor with that responsibility at his local village school. I’d like to have seen the Ofsted inspector’s face when she asked the school about pupil premium and then recieved a grilling from the Pupil Premium Oracle himself!

Pupil premium strategies

A number of strategies for supporting pupil premium children were outlined at the conference. These ranged from buying laptops and having broadband installed into children’s homes, to employing a Counsellor, or subsidised school trips.

The National Trust has produced a list of 50 things to do before you’re 11 ¾ and John described schools who have taken this list, adapted it for their own context, using pupil premium funding to promote these activities.   It was refreshing to see strategies that would support all subjects, not just English and Maths.

Sir John emphasized time and time again that there is simply was no substitute for quality first teaching. This supports the findings of the Sutton Trust Education Endowment Trust who have produced a Teaching and Learning Toolkit. The toolkit summarises educational research about improving the attainment of disadvantaged pupils. This document is essential for anyone involved in pupil premium. In fact, I would recommend that every teacher has, at the very least, a quick look at the Evidence and Data chart, which outlines the effectiveness of different interventions to support pupil premium children. If I had known about this when I was in the classroom, I believe I would have been in a better position to support those pupil premium children I worked with.

Pupil premium: effective interventions

The most effective two interventions, according to the toolkit, are feedback, and meta-cognition and self-regulation. Does this mean sort out our marking policy and meta what?! Meta-cognition is basically about learning how to learn. It is about teaching children strategies that can help them to succeed in school. Feedback, as any good teacher will tell you, is not simply about marking; feedback is much more than that. It is sitting down and talking to children, it is letting them know that you care about their progress and well-being.

In addition to the toolkit, I would recommend that all senior leaders read through John Dunford’s ten point plan for spending the pupil premium successfully.

Teachers looking for further support on getting the most out of the pupil premium should also consider;

Effective use of the pupil premium in science

Why formative assessment should be an enduring priority for every teacher

By Dylan Wiliam

“We’ve done AfL.”

As I travel around schools in the UK and elsewhere in the world, many teachers feel that Assessment for Learning is

Dylan Wiliam on Formative Assessment

Dylan Wiliam on Formative Assessment

rather “old hat” — something that they did a decade or more ago — and they are now looking for the next big thing: educational neuroscience, lesson study, mindfulness, academic resilience, or whatever.

The idea of being at the “cutting edge” of new developments in education is attractive, exciting even, but the fact is, there is as yet little evidence that any of these new ideas will have much impact on how much students learn. They are promising to be sure, and may, in the future yield important insights into student’s learning. But right now we simply do not know whether these new ideas are worth pursuing.

Now of course if teachers had exhausted the possibilities for assessment for learning—or formative assessment as I prefer to call it—then looking for “what’s next?” might be appropriate. But in most schools and colleges, formative assessment is neither widespread, nor deeply embedded. What is more puzzling is that all over the world teachers are under enormous pressure to improve the attainment of their students and yet, they are under-using something that we know, from our work with science and mathematics teachers in England and elsewhere, has the power to improve student achievement, even when achievement is measured with standardized tests and national examinations.

Formative Assessment – the heart of effective teaching and learning

However, there is a far more important reason that teachers should be developing their use of formative assessment, and that is that formative assessment is at the heart of effective teaching and learning.

As every teacher knows, students do not learn what we teach. Even in a new topic, where students might start out with relatively similar knowledge about the topic, within minutes, students are at different levels of understanding. In addition, particularly in science, students come to classrooms with a range of ideas about scientific phenomena that are incomplete, or even inconsistent with what they need to learn. David Ausubel pointed out almost half-a-century ago,

The most important single factor influencing learning is what the learner already knows. Ascertain this and teach him accordingly.

This is why assessment is so central to good teaching. Assessment is the bridge between teaching and learning. It is only through assessment that we can find out whether our students have, indeed, learned what we hoped they would learn by engaging in the activities we organized for them.

And that is also why a focus on formative assessment will never be “old hat”. As long as teachers reflect on what they have done as teachers, and on what their learners have learned as a result, and the relationship between these two, then they will always be able to develop their practice. That is why formative assessment should be an enduring priority for every teacher.

Now of course, what we can do in a short online course will be rather modest, but we hope that by participating in this course, you will be able to get some ideas about how you can work with your colleagues to develop your practice of formative assessment further. The work will never be finished—no matter how good you are as a teacher, you can always get better—but as I and my colleagues have worked on the course, we have become convinced that this is an excellent place to start.

Dylan Wiliam will be leading the National Science Learning Centre’s free online course Assessment for Learning

Other related courses you may be interested in:

Regional, non residential courses

Assessment for learning in science (RP203)

Assessment in the new primary curriculum (RP102)

Triple science: Preparing for linear assessment (RP788)

National, residential courses (York)

Leading assessment for learning in science (NY703)

How to assess primary science (NY032)

Outstanding Schemes of Work (NY205)

Assessment for Learning – Making it stick

by Ursilla Brown

Ursilla Brown is the KS3 Science co-ordinator at St Bernadette Secondary school in Bristol and is one of 50 teachers to win £1,000 for their school as a result of their entry in the Rolls-Royce Science Prize. In this article she outlines her entry for the prize and the effect it has had on her school.

Assessment for Learning – making it stick

Research is clear about the impact of assessment on pupil progress – Dylan Wiliam summarises this eloquently in this video clip.

Teachers’ time is being stretched in so many ways that it is crucial that every hour they labour over their students’ books is time well spent.

Assessment for learning cartoon. National Science Learning Centre

Assessment for learning

I attended the Leading Assessment for Learning Course (NY703) at the National Science Learning Centre to gain inspiration for ideas on how to make this fundamental aspect of classroom practice less onerous and more meaningful.

Embedding best practice

One message I gained from the course was the importance of embedding practice across the Science Faculty so that all pupils had a consistent experience of assessment.  When I developed my action plan I was mindful of being realistic in terms of what I could achieve within a given time. In my experience many a plan falls by the wayside due to being over complicated and overwhelming in its expectations. In the Leading Assessment course I was introduced to a plethora of assessment techniques – it is easy to feel that everyone apart from you is already well versed and competent in the whole gamut of strategies. To embed formative assessment in our Science faculty I decided to focus initially on Year 7, since we are in the process of developing Schemes of Work in line with the new framework. I prioritised a specific range of strategies which are being integrated into our existing schemes of work at KS3.

My aims were to:

  1. Develop feedback that requires the pupils to engage and respond in relation to the criteria.
  2. Make assessment less time consuming, as this would be appreciated by all staff and therefore more likely to become practice.
  3. Ensure that feedback promotes stretch and challenge.

With this in mind, the assessment strategies I decided to focus on were:

  1. Use of feedback grids (p112)
  2. Three questions (p129)
  3. Comment strips (p130)

All these strategies and many more can be found in ‘Embedded Formative Assessment’ by Dylan Wiliam. I have referenced the page numbers.

The development of the schemes of work is ongoing, and by the end of this academic year all science staff should feel more confident about marking with a purpose and will be routinely using these strategies with their classes. This should improve pupil engagement in the process of learning and ultimately allow them to develop ownership of their progress.

Another area I am developing is in the improvement of questioning techniques. Again, I have made the targets in relation to this very specific: to have our Year 7 schemes of work furnished with a bank of questions which have been generated using SOLO or Blooms levels. Teachers will refer to these when developing ‘rich questioning’ in lessons to build understanding and gauge where pupils are.

The phrase ‘you can’t eat an elephant all at once’ has informed my planning – without the support of my colleagues and their belief that my intentions are relevant, manageable and worthwhile,  my action plan remains just that.

Putting the Rolls-Royce Science Prize to good use

The Rolls-Royce Science Prize award of £1000 will be put to good use in relation to the targets, initially in purchasing:

  1. Consumables such as paper resources for students to record their responses.
  2. Resources such as the above mentioned text for staff to familiarise themselves with the range of strategies that can be deployed.
  3. Funding faculty time for group planning and peer observations of the strategies in action.

The Rolls-Royce Science Prize is an annual awards programme that helps teachers implement science and mathematics teaching ideas in their schools and colleges. The awards programme is open to all schools and colleges in the UK.

The National of Science Learning Network runs a variety of subject specific professional development courses, including those mentioned above, others related to these include:

Outstanding Schemes of Work

Assessment for Learning – a free online course with Dylan Wiliam

How collaborative learning can be used as a strategy to support differentiation in the classroom.

by Gill Gunnill

Having spent 34 years teaching science in a variety of secondary schools I have used many strategies to differentiate

Collabarative learning as a differentiation strategy in the classroom

Collaborative learning as a differentiation strategy in the classroom

learning for students.  One of the most successful strategies I have adapted, is the ‘quick on the draw’  strategy to engage and support students in their classroom learning. It relies on grouping students in threes according to their learning potential and producing differentiated sets of questions about the text. Here is how it goes;

  1. Each groups’ set of cards is on a different colour so no-one is aware of the level of the questions.
  2. Each of the students is given a role, researcher, scribe or runner.
  3. The runner from each group collects their first card and takes it back to the group.
  4. The group work together with the researcher to find the answer and the scribe writes the answer down.
  5. The runner takes the answer to the teacher who gives formative assessment on the answer if they need to improve.
  6. If the answer is detailed enough and correct, the runner takes back the second question.
  7. This continues until all questions are answered.
  8. Each member of the group is then given a question to answer using the information they have collected collaboratively.

The use of this collaborative working strategy as a teaching and learning tool allows students of similar ability to challenge and support each other. By acting as learning buddies they are able to check each other’s work.

Assigning students to groups and allowing them to work collaboratively towards a common learning goal is a great differentiation strategy because students are also developing independent learning skills. By working collaboratively they are able to share ideas and build on one another’s thinking. They will feel mutually supported and can often explain ideas to others who are struggling, in a language that their peers can understand, thus enabling them to grasp the concept.

It is essential that the learning is carefully managed to maximise the benefits, as  success is dependent on everyone making a successful contribution.

The National Science Learning Network has a range of professional development courses to assist with developing differentiation in the classroom:


Differentiation: Challenging able students in science (NY004)

Secondary and Post-16

Differentiation: Visible progression for all (NY237)

Differentiation: Challenging able students in science (NY231)

Responding to students needs in science (RP220)

Further reading

Differentiation in the classroom

The Squeeze on Science: What support is there?

By Helen Spring

Science is being squeezed out of the primary curriculum says a recent CBI (Confederation of British Industry) report.

Teacher Reading Story To Primary School Pupils

Teacher Reading Story To Primary School Pupils

A number of obstacles are outlined which prevent teachers and primary schools from being able to inspire future generations of scientists and engineers.

Primary School Priorities

We all know that science is much less of a priority in primary schools than it used to be.  As a primary school teacher, how often is your performance management linked to your ability to teach science, or to the progress that your children have made in science?  If progress in English and maths were tracked in the same haphazard way as science is in some primary schools, the schools would be plunged into the category of ‘inadequate’.  I say some schools, as there are many primary schools where the focus on science is clear for all to see;

  • schools who have visiting STEM Ambassadors
  • schools that ensure that their most disadvantaged children have support in science as well as maths and English
  • even primary schools with a resident scientist and a laboratory (check out Lab_13)

Over 30,000 primary teachers are registered with the National STEM Centre, and using their primary resources. A good number are also undertaking funded CPD (Continuing Professional Development) at the National Science Learning Centre.

How high a priority  is primary science in your school?

How high a priority  is primary science in your Ofsted report? How many times does science appear in your School Development Plan?  How much staff meeting time is assigned to science teaching?  When was the last time you were offered or attended any science specific professional development? All of these things support the premise that science is less of a priority in primary schools.

The converse of this is that the Department for Education (DfE), big businesses and charities such as the Wellcome Trust, the Gatsby Charitable Foundation are working hard to raise the profile of primary science through the National Science Learning Network and the National STEM Centre. At the recent ASE conference, there were literally hundreds of organisations which offered support to schools to improve the profile and quality of their science teaching.

The issue is not lack of support for schools and teachers.  The support is there.  The issue is science being seen as a priority, and therefore that support being accessed.

Should science be a higher priority in your school?

It would be interesting to hear teachers’ answers to the question, “should science be a higher priority in your school?”  I suspect that the answer would be yes in a lot of cases.

62% of primary teachers want more professional development to support their science teaching, according to the CBI report.  Again, there are many providers offering good quality, fully funded CPD to teachers.  This includes the National Science Learning Centre which is offering a course on ‘Teaching the Tricky Bits’ of the primary science curriculum in May this year, and ‘Primary Science for Newly and Recently Qualified Teachers’ in July.

How much easier is it to persuade your Headteacher to release you for CPD if there is a maths or english course you want to go on, compared to a science course?

Back in December, David Cameron said that maths and science should be the priority for England’s schools.  We now all need to work together to raise the profile of science in primary schools across the UK so that pupils have the opportunity to be inspired in this vital subject.

 Residential primary science professional development courses

Teaching the Tricky Bits (NY040)

Effective use of the Pupil Premium in Science (NY041)

Primary Science for new and recently qualified teachers (NY015)

The partial eclipse – a guide to safe viewing and teaching resources

By James de Winter

What are you doing on the morning of Friday 20th March?
SE2015Mar20T   I hope by now that you know the answer to this question. Equally I hope that your answer is not “run screaming from the fields thinking that a giant monster is eating the sun and that the world is about to end”. It’s easy to joke that those who saw eclipses as terrifying, inexplicable things that signalled the end of the world as fools but it’s not that unreasonable when you consider that the sun going dark, without warning is quite a remarkable and in many cases, once in a lifetime experience.

It’s quite a testament to the power of science and the predictability of the solar system that we can know, with such precision what will happen and when.

The Diamond Ring of a solar eclipse

The Diamond Ring of a solar eclipse

For us in the UK, we are likely to have close to 90% of the sun blocked by the moon at around 9.30am. The sun will be quite low in the sky but it’ll still be pretty impressive to say the least if the sky is clear and if viewed safely (see note below).  Some will remember the 1999 eclipse, where parts of Cornwall experienced a full solar eclipse and if Friday goes badly then the younger amongst us can wait until 23rd September 2090 when parts of the south of UK will have another full solar eclipse. For the rest of us, the 20th March represents a significant opportunity to remind us of the awe and wonder and the magic of the universe that probably got many of us into science and teaching in the first place.

Much has been written elsewhere about the eclipse and this can all be easily found – so all I’ll say is that it’d be a real shame if we weren’t all able to do something that morning.  Instead  Here are a couple of interesting eclipse based facts that you might not know, to throw into conversation on the 20th.  I will also point you in the direction of some teaching resources and an off the shelf presentation that you could use in school.

Viewing the eclipse safely

Hopefully everyone realises how dangerous it can be to look directly at the sun with anything other than specifically designed glasses or a viewer. You simply must not do it.  The National STEM Centre has full details of ways to look at the eclipse safely, this is one of the resources originally from the Royal Astronomical Society.

 Solar eclipse interesting facts

Halley did more than name a comet

Halley’s prediction of the 1715 Solar Eclipse

Halley’s prediction of the 1715 Solar Eclipse

Edmond Halley is perhaps most famous for his comet, last seen in 1986 and next due to be visible in 2061 reminding us that we sometimes need patience to be an astronomer. He predicted with impressive accuracy the full solar eclipse that cast a shadow across most of Southern England on 3 May 1715. That eclipse lasted three minutes 33 seconds and he managed to get its location within 30 miles and he was only four minutes out. Not bad for a world without calculators.

The Mountains of the Moon, beads and diamonds

Whilst we won’t see a full solar eclipse here in the UK, if you did it would be possible to see a rather amazing phenomena called Baily’s Beads. As the moon moves in front of the Sun and blocks out the light, because the surface of the moon is not completely smooth at certain points the sunlight can pass through some parts of the edge of the moon and in other places not, causing ‘beads’ of light to appear where the light can pass. At one point as the total eclipse is almost formed, where there is only one of these beads, you can observe an effect called a diamond ring – where there is just one bright bead of light and a ring around the silhouette of the moon making it look just a, you guessed it, diamond ring. (Image above)

Solar eclipse presentation for your classroom

David Smith from Highgate School and The Institute of Physics (IOP) produced a great slideshow that draws together some great images that are freely floating around the internet. Some with more detail of the 1715 eclipse; where you might see the total eclipse (if you avoid the polar bears) and a look at where and when the next ones will be. It’s available on the Triple Science Physics community group on the National STEM Centre Website. You need to register to get at the files but it’s free, quick and easy to do so. Registered and logged in users of the National STEM Centre can go to the resource directly here.

 More astronomy resources

If the eclipse stirs your or some of your students interest then, when logged into the community, there are more astronomy resources in astronomy topic in the physics group:

You can go to the resource directly if you are already registered and logged in with the National STEM Centre. 

There is also a separate astronomy community group managed by Tom Lyons ESERO Teacher Fellow that is open to all and has more riches.

A complete history of stars and space in a few hours

If you want to get up to speed on the history of astronomy from the Greeks to the moon landings in a few hours then I’d suggest that the best place to start is the booklet Stars and Forces from the  National STEM Centre eLibrary. It’s a really easy read, written ever so well by Joan Solomon and is possibly the single best primer on space, gravity and the progression of thought and ideas on space I’ve read. Highly recommended.

Further eclipse references:

How to observe the partial eclipse on March 20” from the Society for Popular Astronomy

Preparing your school for the solar eclipse” from The ASE

The Met Office’s event page

The National STEM Centre will be hosting the EU’s Scientix conference in York in April 2015. One of the sessions will be led by ESERO fellow Tom Lyons who will be providing activities, resources and ideas around using space as an inspiring teaching theme for primary and secondary teachers. This is a free conference, totally funded by the European Union.

Differentiation in the classroom

by Becca Knowles

It has always been real challenge for me as a science teacher to effectively differentiate in the classroom when completing practical activities.

Differentiation in the Classroom using the ice cubes demo

Differentiation in the classroom using the ice cubes demonstration

Too often I was tempted to fall back on the ‘follow a recipe’ type practical which although it gave an exemplification of a scientific idea or concept didn’t really require any thought from the pupils. Sometimes the aim of the activity would be a specific skill development which was fine, but with squeezed budgets and a lack of equipment for all pupils, it then became difficult to complete practicals individually and group work was the only option. Within this context there was a real tendency for the most able and manually dextrous to take over.

Practical Differentiation activities

What I really wanted was an activity which hooked the pupils in with the ‘wow’ factor but could have a number of different explanations at an increasing level of difficulty therefore supporting all learners in the class. One activity which seems to tick all the boxes is the melting ice cubes demonstration. There is a real sense of surprise when the ice cubes are placed on the two different blocks and show a different rate of melting even though the blocks look identical. The beauty of this activity is that it is quick and engaging but allows deeper exploration and provides the opportunity to develop explanations at a variety of different levels and with increasing complexity.

Planning differentiation in the classroom

When planning these types of lessons, the main challenge I found was to ensure that pupils were grouped effectively to promote their thinking and talk around the concepts. The pupils are really hooked in at the beginning and it is important at this stage to ensure some prompting questions have been planned to broaden their thinking away from the blocks being identical. With less able students the cognitive conflict when touching the blocks and the ‘cold one’ causing the ice to melt at a faster rate is sufficient to ensure that they achieve some higher level understanding of the action of conductors and insulators. For the more able, the opportunity to consider and explore rates of melting and investigation of different materials or thickness can extend the thinking and allow individual investigation following a number of lines of enquiry.

My role as the teacher was to plan effective questions for the groups and using a taxonomy, Blooms and SOLO, being my favourites, ensured that I could deepen the thinking of all the learners allowing them to show progress within the practical activity.

Bingo! A practical activity which has ‘hookability’ and allows differentiated activity promoting higher order thinking skills.

The National Science Learning Network has a range of professional development courses to assist with developing differentiation in the classroom:


Differentiation: Challenging able students in science (NY004)

Secondary and Post-16

Differentiation: Visible progression for all (NY237)

Differentiation: Challenging able students in science (NY231)

Responding to students needs in science (RP220)

Post-16 Biology teachers may find this National STEM Centre biology investigation skills resource useful.

Here is another of the National STEM Centre’s ice cubes demonstrations on thermal conductivity to help you if you are planning on using this in your teaching.


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