Every year, published results demonstrate various national trends in attainment gaps. Some of these gaps fluctuate, whilst others become alarmingly wider with each passing year. Pupils Premium, LAC, SEN, EAL, gender, subjects, More Able, Middle Attainers - it can feel sometimes that there are so many target groups that it’s rare to find a pupil who isn’t in some kind of ‘at risk’ category! How can schools begin to close these seemingly never-ending gaps whilst maintaining positivity with pupils and staff?
Bespoke tracking, intervention and evaluation is key: whilst it is important to consider the recognised trends and risks of key groups, it is equally important to remember that not ALL pupils in this category will need the same support, if any. For example, you may teach pupils in receipt of the Pupil Premium allowance, who are not in need of any additional academic support. Therefore, your role is to monitor, track progress closely, and let them get on with it unless you see a cause for concern. Similarly, many EAL pupils will outperform even our highest hopes for them once they have gained fluency in the English language, and have little need for additional support.
By tracking well (get your department on board with a simple shared system to make this as easy as possible),you will begin to see where your resources are best used, without ignoring the research that warns you of possible gaps. It is important that It also means that, should a pupil appear without a particular category, there will be a robust and flexible enough system of support in place to allow them to be helped regardless.
In a nutshell: Mind the gaps, but don’t make them if they aren’t there.