10. Raising Achievement in the National Curriculum: Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership
The project provides support for pupils whose academic performance has been adversely affected by poor command of English. The project has recruited staff to provide direct support, particularly in the development of English language skills. Pupils are targeted in partnership with individual schools, for the purpose of raising achievement and attainment across the whole of the curriculum.
Working practices for the activity in individual schools are negotiated with each school to permit maximum ownership and flexibility. This also ensures that the support is integrated into the overall priorities of the school. As part of this process, agreement is reached with each school on the contribution which the project will make to its development plan objectives and attainment levels.
Background - Problems to be Tackled
- The project works through the system to lobby, correlate needs and actions, and "join up policy". This is where links with the heart of the Local Education Authority (LEA) count. It places a high priority on partnerships with schools and community organisations. In relation to the ethnic minority communities especially, this is seen as a strategic asset, helping them to secure support for their schools' based work, for example, from elders and religious leaders. This is particularly important for some groups of young women from ethnic minority backgrounds.
- The project has also placed a high priority on developing their 'back office' functions. SRB is flexible tool alongside other resources for this type of support work. This is especially so by comparison with Section 11, which tends to prescribe activity. Their view, however, is that the SRB procedures are "overbearing". The back office functions, therefore, shelter the practitioners from having to deal with any more than the minimum necessary SRB procedures, by acting as a strategic intermediary between the SRB (and other sources of funding) and the schools.
- Strategic linkage between SRB activity and heart of decision making in mainstream organisations is critical. This project is a 'change agent' - designed to engineer changed practices in the LEA and in schools. Linking in the OFSTED and National Curriculum attainment issues into the design of the project was also important. The project is a direct support to mainstream education attainment priorities as far as schools and community organisations are concerned.
- Targeted education attainment and Life Long Learning Support are key tools in community development and capacity building. The experience of this project suggests that it is especially powerful in ethnic minority communities.
The core problem to be tackled by this project was the poor performance of children whose academic performance has been adversely affected by a poor command of English, arising from social, economic, cultural, and linguistic factors. Within these broad criteria, the project aimed to target two key groups:
Tracking of indicators like Free School Meals, and the year on year changes in language abilities, indicated that out of 9,010 pupils of children from ethnic minority heritage:
- pupils living in the most deprived communities in Coventry; and
- pupils who have a first language other than English.
This assessment was part of an annual process of review of school and pupil performance by the Advisory Service. This identification of problems in relation to effective use of English was also borne out by data in National Curriculum Assessments.
- 963 had little or no English, either written or oral;
- 1,181 spoke English adequately for daily functioning, but vocabulary and comprehension were inadequate when dealing with classroom work;
- 1,846 used English characterised by mistakes stemming from using mother tongue grammar or style, or the misapplication of the learned rules of English grammar; and
- 1,818 used generally adequate English, but attainment was at a lower level than genuine ability would indicate because of lack of precision and accuracy.
The proposition was, therefore, to develop support with schools, within school to help with the literacy attainment of the targeted young people in order to support and improve their overall levels of attainment within the National Curriculum.
How the Project was Developed
This project builds on - and extends - work that has been going in Coventry Schools for the past 10-15 years or more. The Project Managers are a specialist unit, the Minority Group Support Service (MGSS), within the Support and Advisory Service of the LEA.
The MGSS has had long standing links with schools and community organisations in Coventry in the areas of highest concentration of ethnic minorities. These links, along with the related close working relationships and the Section 11 activity, which predated this SRB project, all provided a basis for its development.
The MGSS worked through these networks to develop the body of support from schools and community organisations for the project. Within the LEA, the MGSS reports direct to the chief education officer. The chief education officer supported their project proposal through the process of assessment within the Local Authority, and between the local authority and the Coventry and Warwickshire Partnerships (the lead body for the Round One SRB bid under which this was supported).
The project provides support for pupils whose academic performance has been adversely affected by poor command of English. Pupils are targeted in partnership with individual schools, for the purpose of raising achievement and attainment across the whole of the curriculum.
Working practices for the activity in individual schools are negotiated with each school to permit maximum ownership and flexibility. This also ensures that the support is integrated into the overall priorities of the school.
As part of this process, agreement is reached with each school on the contribution which the project will make to its development plan objectives, and attainment levels.
Core systems are followed, however, in monitoring and evaluation of progress across all of the schools who are supported. These systems are integrated with the OFSTED monitoring indicators. Thus this project generates data which is compatible with the overall MIS for education attainment in Coventry, and provides a tracking of each child for as many years as they benefit from the project's support.
Examples of Activity Objectives
- Collaborative work with class and subject teachers to develop and deliver individual programmes of language support across the curriculum.
- Developing bilingual approaches to learning in the early years to enhance conceptual and social development of young children.
- Developing the first language skills in ethnic minority children and recognising that these language skills are recognised and accredited.
- Supporting each school in becoming more responsive to the needs of targeted pupils through contribution to development and curriculum planning through the provision of in service training for mainstream staff.
The targeting in the project seems to have worked through a series of phases, influenced by judgements about the scale of resources on the one hand, perceived needs and the responsiveness of schools.
These phases have involved activity that has targeted all children from ethnic minority backgrounds and a target group of 35 schools (in the most deprived areas of Coventry). These may vary from year to year, according to the latest available information on each school's attainment and performance.
Work has also been targeted at intermediary organisations - groups of elders, and mosque communities, for example - to provide support services to young women in Asian communities. There is a growing need to target refugee communities.
SRB resources: £1.9m over five years. Full cost: £7.956m, all matching from the LEA and Section 11. (Section 11 is now part of the Schools' Standard Fund, for which the LEA bids, but which schools themselves receive as part of their funding. Schools, therefore "buy back" services from the MGSS.) Under these arrangements, the MGSS has service level agreements for a range of services including this project with 120 schools.
Outcomes and Achievements
- The mid-term evaluation is in hand at the time of writing.
- Each teacher employed as a specialist through this project works with 120 pupils per year. This is used as the basis for the calculation of outputs. On this basis, the project will reach 36,000 children during its lifetime.
- Resources for schools are relatively expensive in terms of numbers of teachers and classroom assistants. For example, 40 teachers and 38 education assistants work with a group of six primary schools as part of the Early Years Intervention elements of the project.
- OFSTED inspections identify the high quality of the support to children in acquiring English as an additional language. For example:
- Stanton Bridge Primary School: 'The provision of (specialist) staff has a direct and positive impact on the quality of education, progress and achievement of pupils from minority ethnic communities, enabling them to acquire language, knowledge, skills and understanding in a way which ensures that they access a full curriculum and make the most of their abilities.'
- Edgewick Community School: 'The quality of provision for supporting pupils for whom English is an additional language is excellent. The ethos of the school celebrates the value of all individuals, their language and culture. The work of the (specialist) staff enables pupils to develop specific language skill and greater conceptual understanding across the curriculum, while retaining a clear sense of self-worth and social identity.'
- Broad Heath Primary School: 'Overall the provision made for children learning English as an additional language is of high quality and a significant strength of the school. Teaching is very good, the curriculum is broad and assessment is used effectively to meet individual needs. The team work very well together. The quality of planning is good.'
Tel: 024 7671 7800
Fax: 024 7671 7900