Supporting the Attainment of Disadvantaged Pupils: Articulating Success and Good Practice

Caroline Sharp, Shona Macleod, Daniele Bernardinelli, Amy Skipp, Steve Higgins

05 November 2015

Research report on DfE website | Research brief on DfE website

This research investigated the role of school characteristics; school strategies; and implementation approaches in raising disadvantaged pupils’ attainment. Taking place in 2014-2015, it involved an analysis of English school performance data, a survey of 1,329 primary and secondary schools and interviews with 49 leaders of primary, secondary and special schools.

Also see the associated school leader briefing: Supporting the attainment of disadvantaged pupils: Briefing for school leaders

Key Findings

  • Schools have used an average of 18 strategies to support disadvantaged pupils since the Pupil Premium was introduced in 2011. Greater success for disadvantaged pupils was associated with schools using fewer strategies and a combination of metacognitive, collaborative and peer learning strategies
  • The way schools implement their strategies is important. The research identified seven distinct ‘building blocks of success’ including: an emphasis on achievement for all pupils, addressing the needs of individual pupils, using evidence in decision-making and responsive leadership
  • Schools’ typical pathways to improvement take around three to five years. Beginning with a focus on attendance and behaviour alongside quality teaching, schools can embed their support for disadvantaged pupils, and the most successful are able to contribute to system improvement
  • Certain school characteristics have a strong relationship with disadvantaged pupils’ performance. For example, lower performance was associated with higher absence levels and lower proportions of disadvantaged pupils. Schools in London and the North East had better results for disadvantaged pupils. However, these relationships do not entirely explain the variation in disadvantaged pupils’ performance, between otherwise similar schools, demonstrating that schools have meaningful scope to make a difference.