Case study

The Victory Primary School: differentiated reading support

The Victory Primary School is a primary academy in Portsmouth with 31.5% disadvantaged pupils. By providing additional challenge and support, the school has unlocked the reading abilities of their ‘invisible’ pupils.

The challenge

The Victory sits in an underprivileged area with a high level of disadvantage. Pupils were joining reception with low reading skills and parental and community engagement had historically proved particularly difficult for the school.

The response

The school identified a target cohort of 15 disadvantaged pupils in Year 3 who were struggling with reading, and set out to offer a differentiated package of support for them. They started by dividing the 15 pupils into three different groups, reflecting their reading levels, and set ambitious progress targets for each group. They found each group needed tailored initiatives to respond to their diverse needs.

For the first set of pupils, grouped as ‘emerging’, the school team identified the pupils’ fluency as stilted, making comprehension difficult. The team responded by tasking the para-professional to spend focussed time with pupils to provide one-toone core reading skills support so they could read fast enough to understand stories.

The second set of pupils needed to develop their questioning skills around a text. Pupils were set tasks in retrieval questions, inference questions and ways to identify characters’ feelings and authors’ choices. The team ensured the pupils had opportunity to develop this further practice by arranging extra afternoon provision.

For the final set of pupils, the school team focussed on developing their understanding and responses to more demanding questions requiring a deeper understanding of text. The team’s work was centred on developing discussion activities, including pupils discussing their own life experiences, to better understand feelings within the text.

The outcome

100% of children in the target cohort achieved or exceeded the expected standard, with some pupils making outstanding progress. Teachers said the children were better able to access the curriculum, with a greater depth of understanding, and they had seen the pupils become happier and more confident. Across the school, staff have become more aware of pupil premium pupils and recognise the need for greater tailored support.

Key learning

The school reported the programme made them recognise the importance of putting pupil premium pupils at the forefront of all they do. They reported great impact within the target cohort, who did not have multiple barriers to learning or identified Special Educational Needs. These ‘invisible’ pupils needed greater challenge and support to reach their potential. Staff leading on pupil premium have now been given wider whole-school influence as well as more time and resources to consistently reflect and plan for their pupils.

The Victory Primary School took part in the Challenge the Gap programme this year as part of our Portsmouth Cluster. To find out more about the Challenge the Gap programme and how you can get involved please email