How to Help Disadvantaged Students do Better: 3 T&L Learning Strategies, 7 Steps for SLT, and 9 Conclusions

popular strategies schools use to raise attainmentschool pathways to raise attainment over 3 to 5 years

Top Strategies for Getting Better Results with Disadvantaged Students: A Blueprint for All?

According to the results of research published by the DfE this week (Nov, 2015), the following is a summary of what the most successful schools are doing to help disadvantaged students improve educational attainment.

Top 3 Teaching and Learning Strategies:

  • paired or small group additional teaching
  • improving feedback
  • one-to-one tuition

Other findings related to success:

  • “More successful schools were more likely to be using metacognitive/independent learning and peer learning strategies (although this relationship was only statistically significant in secondary schools)”. Metacognitive strategies were defined as those “designed to help pupils to learn how to learn, by encouraging them to think about their own learning more explicitly […] achieved by teaching pupils specific strategies to set goals, and monitor and evaluate their own academic development”.

7 Steps for Leadership Teams:

The report found that while there was no single intervention that had led to success overall, it was possible to identify seven building blocks for success to be implemented by school leadership teams:

  1. Promote an ethos of attainment for all pupils, rather than stereotyping disadvantaged pupils as a group with less potential to succeed.
  2. Have an individualised approach to addressing barriers to learning and emotional support, at an early stage, rather than providing access to generic support and focusing on pupils nearing their end-of-key-stage assessments.
  3. Focus on high quality teaching first rather than on bolt-on strategies and activities outside school hours.
  4. Focus on outcomes for individual pupils rather than on providing strategies.
  5. Deploy the best staff to support disadvantaged pupils; develop skills and roles of teachers and TAs rather than using additional staff who do not know the pupils well.
  6. Make decisions based on data and respond to evidence, using frequent, rather than one-off assessment and decision points.
  7. Have clear, responsive leadership: setting ever higher aspirations and devolving responsibility for raising attainment to all staff, rather than accepting low aspirations and variable performance.

9 Key Conclusions Reached by the Report:

  • Schools which have been more successful in raising the performance of disadvantaged pupils:
    1. Have put the basics in place – addressing attendance and behaviour, setting high expectations, focusing on the quality of teaching and developing the role of TAs
    2. Have moved on to more specific improvement strategies.
    3. Have been identified as ‘early adopters’.
    4. Have supported pupils’ social and emotional needs, addressed individual pupils’ learning needs; helped all staff to use data effectively and improve engagement with families.
    5. Have focussed on early intervention, introducing metacognitive and peer learning strategies and improving their effectiveness in response to data on individual pupils’ progress.
    6. Have been found to then be in a position to set even higher expectations and to spread good practice through working with neighbouring schools and well as continuing to learn from and contribute to national networks.
    7. Have found that there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to closing the attainment gap.
    8. Have found that a number of measures are required, tailored to each school’s circumstances and stage on the improvement journey.
    9. Have found these measures to include setting a culture of high expectations for all pupils, understanding how schools can make a difference, selecting a range of evidence-based strategies tailored to meet the needs of individual schools and pupils, and implementing them well.

Source Info:

Research and analysis

Supporting the attainment of disadvantaged pupils


Department for Education

First published:

5 November 2015

Part of:

Education of disadvantaged children

Applies to:


Research into how schools are raising the attainment of disadvantaged pupils.

Ref: ISBN 978-1-78105-518-2, DFE-RR411

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