Bishop Challoner: a Pupil Premium first approach

Bishop Challoner School (secondary phase) has a high Pupil Premium intake of 56% and identified the following the key barriers to learning among their disadvantaged pupils and the wider school:

  • Low aspirations
  • Lack of confidence
  • Lack of role models

In this interview Challenge the Gap leader, Maya Cheetham, describes how the school team rose to these challenges through a Pupil Premium first approach that raised staff awareness and aimed to increase opportunities for their disadvantaged pupils.

Q: What strategies did you use to support the progress of disadvantaged pupils in your Challenge the Gap target cohort?

MC: We chose a target cohort of fifteen Year 7 boys - we are a boys’ and a girls’ school but the gap is, or rather was, bigger in the boys’ school and that's why we focussed there. We called this group our ‘Student Leaders’. We implemented a series of interventions targeted at our Student Leaders:

  • Briefing staff on who the Student Leaders are and creating opportunities for them to have an active role in lessons, for example by picking them to do tasks
  • Trips and opportunities such as; visiting a university, taking part in an ecology science trip and completing the Crest Science Award
  • Being given the other opportunities more broadly such as showing visitors around the school
  • Each boy was assigned a mentor (one of the Challenge the Gap team), the mentors met with parents and then met with the boys on half termly basis to ‘talk’ and discuss transition and progress
  • Group Student Leader meetings where the boys were given homework e.g. to research a resilient person or group tasks on metacognition and learning skills

We have also implemented school-wide initiatives to support our disadvantaged pupils:

  • Setting a school target of at least 60% of pupils on school trips being Pupil Premium in order to reflect the size of the school intake
  • Implementing a Pupil Premium focus onto lesson observation and work scrutiny forms to ensure that Pupil Premium students are at the forefront of teachers minds
  • Developing a Pupil Premium marking first policy across the school
  • Training staff in key Pupil Premium focus areas that we want to see in daily practice across the school including: knowing your students (seating plan with Pupil Premium labelled for all classes), using Growth Mindset language, encouraging staff to talk to students about careers and their own experiences to raise aspirations
  • Creating resilience displays for each subject area across the school to provide positive role models of people who are from disadvantaged backgrounds
  • Leading on INSET and upcoming continual professional development sessions on quality first teaching ideas learnt in workshops e.g. on critical thinking and memory

Throughout the process we have used a whole school approach. We have fed back what we have learnt in the workshops, trying to engage staff in the issues surrounding Pupil Premium. Crucially, we have explained why to level the playing field, we need to put more effort into supporting those students and how important this is. We have shared lots of quality first teaching ideas with our staff so that they are made aware of the things we can do to support, not just Pupil Premium students, but all our students.

Q: Can you tell me about any short-term outcomes of Challenge the Gap that you have identified?

MC: Whole staff awareness of disadvantaged pupils and the means to support them has improved significantly. There has always been awareness and a focus on analysing the data to look for patterns comparing Pupil Premium and non Pupil Premium students but less about what staff should actually be doing to deal with it and specific strategies or approaches that could be used. More than ever there is now a focus and awareness on how starting from the youngest years, establishing a bottom up approach to raise aspirations and confidence will benefit students in the long run, rather than last minute interventions before exams.

We have also seen the increased attainment of our target cohort and other disadvantaged pupils. Between the autumn and spring data we saw that in English overall, Pupil Premium students across the boys’ school did better than their non-disadvantaged peers. Within that, the target cohort has shown even greater levels of progress by 8.3% in English and 2% in Maths making progress between the data points. I think that there has likely been a relationship between their involvement in the Challenge the Gap initiative and their positive academic progress.

In terms of marking, we are seeing no considerable difference between Pupil Premium students and others students’ books. The fact that the work is in line with other students is a good thing but also provides an area of focus if we are to encourage more in depth marking for Pupil Premium students.

It is also worth noting that halfway through the programme year our school had an Ofsted inspection. During the inspection Challenge the Gap was brought up and our efforts in this regard were looked upon favourably by inspectors. In the final report they stated:

“Leaders use Pupil Premium funding effectively to support disadvantaged pupils. The difference between pupils who are disadvantaged and other pupils is reducing at a rapid pace.”

Q: What else has have you found has gone well?

MC: In terms of the workshops, it was great being able to visit a number of different schools and to meet their target cohorts. I think that's a really beneficial thing to do, seeing people's’ progress throughout the time we've been involved, it’s been fantastic. It has been a great opportunity to ‘magpie’ ideas from other schools. The programme has also been very positively received by the senior leadership team and the headteacher in our school.

As a whole school programme, it has allowed me to talk to people in leadership roles in other schools and feedback to leadership here, giving me a lot of opportunities to get an out of department policy making view. It’s been beneficial and I’ve really enjoyed it

Q: What else has have you found has gone well?

MC: In general, our programme facilitators, Karen and Jen, were really supportive in all the workshops and so were the staff from the other schools. It was a very supportive environment. We were given a lot of time to work on our ideas and everyone was really receptive.

Q: What would be the “even better ifs”?

MC: I don't think there were any necessarily, just smaller things. I think the final workshop came at a busy time before exams. I think that could have been after half term so that we had more time.  

I think there could also be further opportunities to share the different data tracking systems used in schools and additional support on how we can adapt these. It was however really interesting to see how other schools are tracking their pupils’ progress.

Q: Can you say in one sentence what you think of Challenge the Gap and the impact it is having in your school

MC: Being part of Challenge the Gap means that our Pupil Premium students are now at the forefront of teachers minds, and more than ever they know why there is a gap, why it shouldn't exist and simple effective strategies to ensure teaching and learning opportunities are the best they can be to try and make sure that gap doesn't exist at all.


Bishop Challoner School took part in the Challenge the Gap programme this year as part of our Compton Cluster (North London). To find out more about the Challenge the Gap programme and how you can get involved please email ctg@challengepartners.org

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