The link between family income and educational achievement is a complicated one, so our approach to overcoming it has to be a multifaceted and collaborative effort with others committed to the same vision. The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) is an independent grant-making charity dedicated to ensuring that children from all backgrounds can fulfil their potential and make the most of their talents. Their support for our work has helped us develop a truly innovative partnership programme.
EEF was pivotal, along with our partners Teaching Leaders and Future Leaders, in helping us to develop Achieve Together, an initiative which focuses on whole-school approach to improvement. Achieve Together helps to build a sustainable and collaborative network between and beyond schools, leveraging the support of partners at all levels of the school and local community to work towards a model of school-community collaboration.
This initiative is unique in that it focuses solely on improving the educational outcomes of children in areas of high poverty, while supporting schools to work with multiple organisations to address a unifying set of measures around closing achievement gaps.
Drawing upon our respective experience in running high-quality training or development aimed at different levels of staff, the Achieve Together initiative is currently testing how far a whole-school focus on teaching and leadership can accelerate closing the attainment gap for children from low-income communities. Forty two schools from across the North East and the North West are participating in the initiative.
Fran Craik is Associate Assistant Headteacher at St Wilfrid’s School in South Shields, where she has seen the benefits of the scheme first hand: “We start by using our data to identify up to 50 students in the year group who are high-achieving but currently under-performing and who we believe would really benefit from the intervention.
“Our Teach First participants then work with up to seven students each, providing a mix of coaching and pastoral support over a six to eight month period. The impact we were able to gauge was that 60% of the cohort of 50 pupils achieved 3+A/A*’s in the 2014 GCSEs, which was bang on target.
“It’s been incredibly fulfilling to work together to drive up standards not just for St Wilfrid’s, but for students from a range of schools. The project has attracted the attention of four other schools, which are now working with us to roll out intervention to their own students.”
Dr Kevan Collins, Chief Executive of EEF, believes the success of our partnership lies in sharing a common belief in the importance of collaboration and testing new approaches: “Teach First is a charity that shares our aim of raising the attainment of disadvantaged pupils. Our funding is helping Teach First to develop strong partnerships with Teaching Leaders and Future Leaders, by working together to test a new model of school improvement, “Achieve Together”. We see Teach First as playing an important role in ensuring that new teachers in schools in low-income areas have access to evidence that can help them to become great teachers.”