Case study

Onslow St Audrey's: Testing and refining effective interventions for disadvantaged pupils

Onslow St Audrey’s is a secondary school based in Hatfield, Hertfordshire. Onslow St Audrey’s participated in a Challenge Partners programme supporting them to test and refine effective interventions for disadvantaged pupils in 2018-19 led by The Compton school. 
The Compton School are Lead Practitioners working alongside Challenge Partners to develop and deliver the Excellence for Everyone Programme. The Compton are currently leading an Excellence for Everyone cluster and keen to hear from schools wishing to join them. To find out more about The Compton cluster, other lead schools or the programme contact [email protected]
Read below Onslow St Audrey’s goals, journey and outcomes from taking part in this programme:

The Challenges: 

Onslow St Audrey's School has a high percentage of pupils from a disadvantaged background (40%). The school identified that their pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds consistently underperformed when compared with the non-disadvantaged cohort. They identified the following as the key barriers to learning among these pupils:

  • Poor attendance
  • Lack of engagement 
  • Limited parental engagement
  • Lack of resilience
  • Low levels of literacy/numeracy


In this case study school leader, Jessica Flint, (Assistant Headteacher) describes how the schools mission was to reduce the performance gap by removing the barriers faced by their disadvantaged students. 
Q: What were your goals for the programme?
JF: Our main goal was to work towards reducing the attainment gap by removing the barriers that faced some of our disadvantaged students. We wanted to ensure that staff within the school were aware of up to date research about how to tackle the causes behind the difference. As a school we also believed it was important that our students from disadvantaged backgrounds should not be seen as a homogenous group, where a simple tick list approach could have an impact. We wanted to address the needs of each student individually rather than label them as ‘disadvantaged’ in an effort to improve their experience of school.
Q: How has the programme supported you both individually and as a school?
JF: The programme has supported me in a number of ways. Firstly, it provided regular opportunities to engage in relevant research and evidence that I could feedback to other leaders and teachers within the school. The programme was also an excellent opportunity to work with colleagues collaboratively to develop and refine strategies whilst implementing them. In schools visits from the programme facilitators were also beneficial.
Q: What did you do as part of the programme?
JF: A number or strategies and changes have come out of being part of the programme. We firstly created a mentoring programme for our target cohort called the OSAmbassadors. They worked with staff throughout the year on group and team activities to build resilience and engagement in school. The group also explored themes related to resilience and Duckworth’s work on being more ‘gritty’ by creating a poster about ‘The Power of Yet’ and shared it with their peers through displaying one in each classroom. This was so successful that it is being repeated with a different year group next academic year. 
We have also introduced a school wide ‘Word of the Week’ tutor activity. This has been done in an effort to address the low levels of literacy of some of the disadvantaged students within the school. One of our group members has taken this further and made it a focus of her NPQSL project. 
Within our workforce we have cascaded information about using strategies/techniques to increase metacognition and self-regulation in pupils. A noticeboard was also created in the staff room to share ideas/research that we’d gained from the workshops.
In addition, we rewrote our Pupil Premium strategy and increased the profile of our message about raising the attainment of disadvantaged students.
Q: What was the impact?
JF: We noticed an impact after the new strategies were implemented. Firstly, attendance of the target cohort has improved since taking part in the initiative. Engagement with mentors has also improved within school and all but 3 students will be continuing with their mentors next academic year.
There has already been some improvement in attainment, even though it is slightly variable, and school wide the gap between disadvantaged pupils and their non-disadvantaged peers has narrowed in all year groups. 
The biggest impact has been on the engagement of the target cohort in school and this is due to the improved relationships with the colleagues involved in the programme.
Q: What has been your key learning from the experience and programme?
JF: A significant gain from the programme would be that a focused approach is important to tackling the attainment gap within our school. However, the key for us is to have a dedicated and informed team leading our whole school initiatives to ensure impact for all our students, but particularly our disadvantaged students.