The world is getting darker | bringing light to those who need it most

“Of course, poverty isn’t the only way in which people get overlooked by society; there are many ways that the world has of saying, “you don’t belong here.” …  I wanted to say, “yes, you DO belong. We all belong here.” (Tom Percival, 2022, from “The Invisible”)

Our world is getting darker. In the enveloping gloom, individual children are becoming invisible, trapped by circumstance. We urgently need to wield our collective power and throw light on those who are fading. If we choose to work in education, and we do, then we also choose to make a difference to the lives of all children. And if it is about all children then we are compelled, through our shared duty of care, to tackle the eye-watering and widening inequality. Together we must secure far greater equity through education, giving individuals what they specifically need and seeking to close the growing chasm between those that have and those that have not.

It is already too dark, for too many: the cost-of-living crisis, fuel, inflation, pandemic, political uncertainty, instability, conflict, the education system… has disenfranchised and exacerbated hopelessness. Everywhere you look in education the gap is widening. Whilst advantaged children and families have some (much) immunity, the world is forcing disadvantaged children and families to re-prioritise and step further back. This is cumulatively, and seemingly irreversibly, eroding status, belonging and undermining esteem.

Over 4 million children, and rising, are growing up in poverty. Everywhere, families are struggling to meet their basic needs, forcing education and wider experiences to be inaccessible, unaffordable (in time and money). Securing the basic needs overwhelms, gradually removing the colour and slowly, intractably dissolving individuals who are ever more invisible in our world; hidden in plain sight.

”(Our) focus on (eye)sight means that we often are at a loss on how to deal with things that are invisible… and it works against us when it’s … invisible over time (like disadvantage). When there’s a conflict between what we know and what we see, we often default to the wrong one.” (Seth Godin)

As educators, we are, for many children, the only second chance, but we are evidently not yet meeting that challenge. There is a heartbreakingly large number of individuals fading within our society and in our schools. But it is not hopeless, we should take heart, because we have what we need. We can create the conditions that offer hope, build status, esteem and agency; empowering children to become more visible. Ensuring that those experiencing disadvantage, are given the opportunities and experiences to be the masters of their fate and captains of their soul. (William Henley)

Together we are obligated to tackle this invisibility and empower the marginalised, at a time when we are also distracted by these darkening times. Our collective endeavour, is to use education to illuminate and bring more colour, to more lives. It is through our leadership and in teams, that we can unswervingly focus on our best levers, teaching and culture to bring light to this darkness and to say, “yes, you do belong.”

The following explores the key bets for securing greater equity through education for presently disadvantaged children. Whilst far from exhaustive, they seek to stop children from fading and becoming invisible.

This builds on What if we are the hope? | Closing the gap curriculum as the lever  


Disadvantage even over attendance first (culture)

“One measure of poverty is how little you have. Another is how difficult you find it to take advantage of what others try to give you.” (Michael Lewis)

One way to guarantee the invisibility is to accept poor attendance, everyday a disadvantaged learner is not in school the gap grows. It takes a whole school to improve attendance, because it is a team sport, with an individual focus. Seeking preventative strategies based on really knowing our individual children and families, as well as our responsive actions, reaches out and encourages/expects attendance. We must commit to persistently and insistently working to remove barriers to attendance. So that we, meet them there, apply equity, ensure that they are pushed and pulled to school, resisting the forces that encourage retreat.

It is not good enough to just have good provision, we must support individuals to be present, visible and to take advantage. This is, of course, tightly linked to the quality of education, no one actively misses high quality provision, or the best party in town. Disadvantage attendance is the one measure that can be chased and improved every day; and every day counts when we tackle invisibility.

Measure what we care about (Leadership)

“You should measure things you care about. If you’re not measuring, you don’t care and you don’t know.” (Steve Howard)

Not measuring what matters adds another layer of invisibility. Measuring what matters focuses our accountability systems and our attention towards enacting the level and depth of equity required to make a difference. Giving permission and incentivising colleagues to chase what is worth having; giving children what they specifically, individually need.

“This is Vanity Fair a world where everyone is striving for what is not worth having.” (William Thackery)

The early advantage, linguistic privilege and supported opportunity that advantaged children enjoy, accumulates success, regardless and sometimes in spite of school. With less early advantage, disadvantaged learners need schools to be excellent, only then will provision reach and achieve the equity required to accumulate advantage. It is the attainment of disadvantaged learners, even over, that is the best measure of the effectiveness of provision. How far a school or Trust achieves attainment mobility and closes gaps to be in line with advantaged learners is the barometer of the quality of provision.

“Making good use of school time is the single most egalitarian function the schools perform, because for disadvantaged children, school time is the only academic learning time, whereas advantaged students can learn a lot outside of school.” (Hirsch)


Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing (Teaching)

“Teaching quality is important. It is arguably the greatest lever at our disposal for improving the life chances of the young people in our care, particularly for those from disadvantaged backgrounds.” (Peps McCrea, 2016)

The quality of education, particularly teaching, and the culture of schools are the main things for securing equity and growing great humans, with the agency needed to exploit their future. This is the bet, consistently applied, over the 12,000 lessons and the 15,000 hours they are in school (age 4 to 16), that will reverse delayed attainment, linguistic under-privilege and accumulate advantage.

Disadvantage learners disproportionately thrive when teaching is strong. When it is weak, advantaged learners still make sense of it, whilst disadvantage learners fall even further behind.  When teaching is purposeful, precise and where language and explanation includes and does not exclude learners, disadvantage learners make more progress. Where expectations remain high and where we scaffold to fill gaps in understanding, spiralling and bouncing back and forth in the curriculum we secure a narrative that has the footholds, ropes and ladders for disadvantaged learners. We need to avoid presumptions of language, background knowledge and self-efficacy (Marc Rowland). Of course, disadvantage learners really need us to follow learning to meet need, to explain clearly and well, model expertly and to engage in explanation; making learning explicit, coherent and accessible.

Viewing teaching through the disadvantaged lens forces us to really explore, know and understand where learners are, find out what they know, what they don’t know and teach the next bit (Asubel). Whilst knowledge is power, it is understanding and application of knowledge that is king. The mind best understands facts when they are woven into a conceptual fabric, such as a narrative, mental map, or intuitive theory. Disconnected facts in the mind are like unlinked pages on the Web: they might as well not exist (Stephen Pinker). Teaching that deeply understands subject, the substantive concepts, its architecture, offers the best route map for disadvantage learners; it weaves nets.

Weaving curriculum nets (Teaching)

Decisions about what knowledge to teach is an exercise of power and therefore a weighty ethical responsibility. What we choose to teach confers or denies power (Christine Counsell). There is nothing more important for disadvantaged learners than a well sequenced, conceptually coherent curriculum that efficiently, and intentionally enacts the best of what has been thought and said. If the curriculum is overloaded, disconnected, full of arbitrary knowledge we will not be weaving conceptual nets and much will slip through as unresolved cognitive conflict. It is the progressive and precise sequence, coherence and clarity that disadvantaged learners really need.

When we teach out of sequence, disadvantage learners assume that they do not understand, and this encourages further retreat and desk top truancy. Really, deeply thinking about why this, why now is so important – we often seek to cover too much, to move on too quickly and to be activity/task driven, instead of securing the conceptual spine that, once in place, will hold and accelerate future learning. Disadvantage learners need us to really know our subject and the progression, they neither have the time or the wider schema to make sense and find their way through the arbitrary or the ill-sequenced. Curriculum is arguably the most important lever that we have, it is further developed here: Closing the gap curriculum as the lever 

Vocabulary | give the keys of language (Teaching)

“Education is the process of preparing us for the big world and the big world has big words. The more big words I know, the better I will survive in it. Because there are hundreds of thousands of big words in English, I cannot learn them all. But this does not mean that I shouldn’t try to learn some.” (David Crystal)

Big words, for a big world. Vocabulary gifts the keys of language, the basis for deeper understanding, but even more importantly gives access to culture, enfranchises and privileges learners. Being vocabulary-poor disenfranchises and excludes, it takes the colour away. Teaching (exploring, marvelling at) words in context, in subjects, connected to big ideas and concepts makes children feel clever, builds esteem and, most importantly, the words are stickier in schema.

“The large amount of school time spent in direct word study is not being spent on systemically becoming familiar with new knowledge domains, where word learning occurs naturally, and up to four times faster, without effort.” (Hirsch, 2017)

It is a feature of growing up in an advantaged home that words become jewels in conversations. And it is the etymology and structure of words that really intrigue and make individuals feel clever. Gifting a wealth of words to children, unlocks doors into the past, into interesting places and times, uncovering provenance, quirky connections and ; Joy filled learning.

By paying attention to vocabulary growth at the micro level, we can better understand it, we can go to cultivating it and in so doing every child will be gifted a wealth of words.” (Alex Quigley, 2018)

Oracy | valuing everyone’s voice (Teaching)

“It may seem an obvious thing to say, but one of the best things we can do with young children is to have interesting and enjoyable conversations with them.” (Michael Rosen)

Oracy exposes language, vocabulary, thought, cultural capital and understanding to all. Our sentences and words open the window to our understanding and how individuals navigate the world. Disadvantaged learners need full immersion in rich conversation, be given permission to listen, encouragement to be heard and the safety to articulate understanding out loud. In doing so they fire the connections, build word wealth and secure schema that grows confidence, cognition and enables musing and exploration. It is why we should be picky on full response, why we should provoke and encourage discussion and debate. It is also on this sea of talk that great writing happens. We need to articulate our ideas and thoughts, our opinions and cogitations to bring colour to learning, to revel in thinking and for individuals to find their voice.

“If we are truly committed to empowering every young person regardless of their background, with the belief that their voice has value and the ability to articulate their thoughts so others will listen, then it is time to get talking in class.” (Beccy Earnshaw)

Reading | opening eyes to multiple worlds (Teaching)

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” (Dr Seuss)

Reading and the development of reading is fundamental for accumulating advantage. It is hard to over-state the importance of reading: it develops cultural capital, comprehension, vocabulary, thinking, empathy, inference, confidence, concentration, oracy, writing, esteem… all the ingredients required to achieve attainment mobility. Alex Quigley offers this helpful summary on developing reading:

  • Start with careful planning a broad and balanced curriculum that brings a world of knowledge alive.
  • Ensure pupils do lots and lots of reading of challenging texts.
  • Support pupils to develop, connect and cohere their knowledge.
  • Give pupils targeted, text sensitive support to deploy reading comprehension strategies, with a gradual release of responsibility.
  • Avoid over-practising comprehension assessments that can compromise curriculum time for read extended texts. (Alex Quigley, 2022)

More than any other subject, English – and especially reading – gives pupils access to the rest of the curriculum and is fundamental to their educational success. (Ofsted, English Research Review, 2022)

Hunt don’t fish (Teaching)

“Fair doesn’t mean giving every child the same thing, it means giving every child what they need.” (Rick Lavoie)

We are pre-programmed in education to seek equality, which in most areas of life is essential. But disadvantaged learners need more than equality, they need equity, they need what they need, not what everyone needs. This ensures that we privilege and prioritise the needs of disadvantage learners – to know exactly where they are and give them what they need – and to do that we need to hunt not fish. To fish is to cast the net and do the same for all (privileging advantaged) to hunt is to seek to meet the individual needs (privileging disadvantage).


Advantaged childhood; one of high-demand and expectations (Culture)

Sit up at the table, elbows, don’t talk with your mouth full, use the right tense, sit up, can you rephrase that, do you know where that word comes from, you know that links to this and what we saw there, finish all of that, put you knife and fork together, dry-up, put away, finish your homework, when is your tutoring, tidy your room, what time is training? have you got your violin out for tomorrow? do you need a new reading book? what time do I pick you up from rehearsal? we are going to the theatre on Saturday after hockey, have you applied for that part time job?….

To grow up advantaged, is to experience the constant drip of expectation, self-fulfilling and accumulating advantage over time. The shaping, informing, correcting, pickiness, opportunity laden, supported experiences add up to add advantage that presents to adults as innate ability, even talent. Those experiencing disadvantage (only an economic label) have had fewer opportunities, less education and guided experiences, which slows progress, accumulates disadvantage and presents as less able (less talented) and once this sets-in, it holds on through life. This perpetuates the opposite of a virtuous circle, a vicious circle, where we consistently over time (perhaps subconsciously) expect less of those with delayed attainment and increase the gap. Disadvantage is a process (born out of circumstance(s)), it is not an event (Marc Rowland).

Our job is not to collude with circumstance, but to maintain high expectations, understanding that if we let them off, we let them down. We must avoid deficit discourse, assumptions of innate talent and loose language that reinforces, often unintentionally, disadvantage. When we see delayed attainment, we acknowledge that nothing fundamental can stop attainment mobility or the closing of gaps, except, of course, if we fail to advantage those presently experiencing disadvantage.  

Give Status (Culture)

“It is difficult for us to realise how much information is socially transmitted, because the amount is staggering and the process is largely transparent.” (Pascal Boyer, 2018)

As individuals, we have an un-ending well of status to give to colleagues and to children. The opportunity to give status is a fundamental human gift to others. To give status is to be interested in every child, who they are, what they are doing, smiling, acknowledging, encouraging, noticing, being present. It costs us nothing, is a measure of our shared values and plays out in every interaction.

“…feeling deprived of status is a major source of anxiety and depression. When life is a game we’re losing, we hurt. …status is a resource as real as oxygen or water. When we lose it, we break.” (Will Storr, 2021)

Given that we measure our status against those with whom we spend time, our classrooms are crucibles of comparative status. Our classroom cultures must level status upwards and not inadvertently reinforce disadvantage or status based on early advantage and current attainment.

“We can’t help leaking expectations, through our gazes, our body language and our voices. My expectations about you define my attitude towards you.” (Rutger Bregman)

Build belonging, distribute esteem (Culture)

It may not appear obvious, but schools are the most trusted, resourced and the most able to tackle inequality and to combat the growing darkness in our communities. Our superpower is education and that is where we can shine the light and support children to find colour, to belong.

“To feel a sense of belonging is to feel accepted, to feel seen and to feel included by a group of people… to not feel belonging is to experience the precarious and insecure sense of an outsider.” (Owen Eastwood, 2021)

How then, do we create belonging in our language, values, artefacts, behaviours, routines in schools to say to all children that they belong. To what extent do we see the development of culture in schools as a curriculum to be taught and enacted, not left to social forces? This seeks to create an empowering and ordered culture to enable psychological safety, creating the climate to tackle disadvantage.

The development of shared language and lexicon is a purposeful activity that understands that some words, phrases and attitudes reduce status and belonging (often unconsciously). We must select, develop and reinforce an empowering language to enable individuals to belong, feel safe and be able to prioritise learning.

In this decade, with the inevitable challenges, our duty of care to the children we educate is to build their self-esteem, so that children have purpose, dignity and feel the glow of accomplishment. A marker of our success will be the extent to which we are able to distribute and redistribute esteem.

“…we need a redistribution of esteem… to live lives of decency and dignity, winning social esteem. …we can travel the road to 2045 with purpose, dignity and accomplishment.” (Peter Hennessy, 2022)


In the dark there is light (Team)

“How a society treats its most vulnerable is always the measure of its humanity.” (Matthew Rycroft)

Whilst it is darker and ever gloomier, we should remain optimistic and empowered. Those who are presently disadvantaged depend on us, we are their greatest hope, their best second chance. We do, however, need to actively choose to care, to privilege and to apply equity through education. To measure what matters, drive up attendance, focus on the main things, invest in curriculum, teaching, vocabulary, oracy, culture. To have high expectations, to give status, create belonging and systematically build esteem.

This is our duty of care, it is what matters, it is why you are here. Go forth, build a coalition, a movement within your schools, across schools and across Trusts, for communities, within our regions. A movement that seeks to bring light to those who need it, to support children who are fading, to build the colour back in and to make sure every child has a fair chance, so we can say, “yes, you DO belong. We all belong here.”  

“We are bound by a sense of shared belonging and collective responsibility; about strong local communities, active citizens and the devolution of responsibility. …ensuring that everyone has a fair chance to make the most of their capacities and their lives.” (Jonathan Sacks, 2020)


Dan Nicholls | October 2022

Thinking and content heavily influenced by colleagues within Cabot Learning Federation

Part Two | urgent action required, addressing disadvantage

As educationalists we still have an urgent, deeper problem; one that may already be irreversibly entrenched by a pandemic whose impact has not been felt evenly. It is more important than ever for us to work together to deliberately and systematically address deep-seated inequality and act now to slow the growing gulf between advantaged and disadvantaged children; so that children are not permanently defined by the pandemic, because they have the tools to choose what they become…

To give the power of choice is deeply embedded in our values as educators, but we will require the bravery to step into the light of the new normal and be the change that is needed, if only we’re brave enough to be it…

When day comes, we step out of the shade aflame and unafraid. The new dawn blooms as we free it. For there is always light. If only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.” (Amanda Gorman, 2021)

Ten months after writing Urgent Action Required | addressing disadvantage we find ourselves still in the midst of a Pandemic, one which has touched our lives. The sad truth is that the stark asymmetry of society, education and opportunity, embarrassingly revealed by the pandemic, still dominates, condemns and limits the lives of disadvantaged children. It is very hard to under-play the steepness of the challenge that we as educators face.

“We must have a bold and comprehensive plan … a long-term strategy, fully funded, planned by educationalists with cross party consensus, that looks forward for the next five years to support those most impacted by COVID-19 over their educational lifetime.” (Sammy Wright, Social Mobility Commissioner, 2021)

There is increasing hope as we extricate ourselves from the pandemic, but the sickening reality remains, the impact of the pandemic and the deep economic and social cost will burden communities and individuals into the middle of this century. This piece of writing, however, is born out of optimism not pessimism, hope not futility. It offers a framework for understanding how we can support all individual disadvantaged children to thrive in our increasingly asymmetric society and acceleratingly complex future.


Accumulating disadvantage, the past, present and future | the asymmetry of life

“…what future?” (Enola Holmes) “There are two paths that you can take Enola, yours or the path others choose for you…” (Eudoria Holmes) “Our future is up to us!” (Enola Holmes, Film, 2020)

Accumulating disadvantage and advantage is founded in early life and is perpetuated through education to fundamentally influence and determine the opportunities that are available through adulthood. This accumulation cements and calcifies the asymmetries that are hard wired into our society and education system. The interaction and compounding impact of the factors that accumulate disadvantage and advantage are detailed below: (the table contrasts key factors that influence disadvantaged and advantaged children in the past and into their future)

Accumulating advantaged and disadvantage in the past and future: self-perpetuating and reinforcing

“…with each new thing you learn, the better you’re able to absorb the next related fact.” (David Eagleman, 2020)


Life as a series of opportunities | those that we take and those we miss

Between life and death there are opportunities that we play going forwards through childhood and adulthood. For some this is a a joyous stroll through a land full of possibility for others it is a world that happens to them, a life that limits their opportunity to try another life…

“Between life and death there is a library,” she said. “And within that library, the shelves go on for ever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices. Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?” (Matt Haig, The Midnight Library, 2020)

Considering life as a one way journey along routes punctuated by opportunities helps our understanding of disadvantage by pushing us to look forward and not just backwards to support disadvantaged children.

“…you possess only a single life, what you devote yourself to (or the experiences you have) send you down a particular roads, while the other paths will forever remain untrodden by you.” (David Eagleman, 2020)

Early experience and opportunity lay the ground (load the deck, build the foundation) for the future. Some individuals accumulate knowledge, understanding, self-esteem, self-confidence, self-belief, a set of tools that open doors and routes in their future (not initially foreseeable); the foundation for self-agency; picking and choosing and playing with opportunities as they present themselves.

The reverse is also true, if we consider life as a set of opportunities, disadvantaged children and individuals have had fewer opportunities in the past, now and in their future. Disadvantaged are, therefore, more likely to…

  • … have fewer opportunities (recognised or not) now and in the future, those that appear and those that are self-created.
  • … are far less likely to step forward when opportunities present; more likely to self-de-select themselves and step back.
  • … and have fewer tools to use, previous experiences or self-belief to exploit each opportunity. 

Tackling our disadvantaged problem forwards (as well as backwards)

We remain very uncomfortable with the truth that…. however effective we believe our present education system is, it fails, year after year to address the disadvantaged gap; there is very limited evidence of attainment mobility in our schools; disadvantaged children at age 16 are 18.1 months behind their more affluent peers, and worse still “…we could be at a turning point .. we could soon enter a period where the gap starts to widen.” (EPI, 2019)

Whilst we need to assess the deficits in learning of disadvantaged children by looking back at what is missed or insecure (literacy, language being key levers), we should also look forward into their future and consider how we can load their dice and increase their (life) chances. Increasing the child’s chance of recognising, creating, stepping into opportunities in their future with a set of personal and academic tools and keys that will exploit the opportunities that life throws up.

How far do we consider the future and the specific tools that individuals need to thrive and make the most of opportunities that present themselves within the enigmatic variation of life (Michael Blastland, 2020)? Whilst academic qualifications act as a passport through future doorways, what else allows individuals to thrive? What is the balance of competence and character that supports progression? What secures a good quality of life? To be able to make their own choices? To be able to influence the world around them (directly and distantly)? How do we best support disadvantaged to be competitive?

A personalised approach that may also consider how best we build specialisms, areas of competence to accumulate advantage so that they are competitive with their more advantaged peers may prove a useful enablers for individuals. Essentially accumulating advantage for disadvantaged children (and in specific areas), to create character and competence so that their, “Childhood is not a destiny.” (Robert Sampson)

“… lives are lived forwards but can only be understood backwards. Though life is shaped by various forces, as we know, it is also shaped by living, by particular experience as it unfolds.” (Michael Blastland, 2019)


Present level of attainment, delayed attainment and attainment mobility

We must work harder to recognise a child’s present level of attainment as just that the present level of attainment. This understanding of attainment removes assumptions, language (either conscious or unconscious) that attainment or ability is fixed. It usefully opens the door to discussions about delayed attainment (particularly pertinent now) and to attainment mobility the ability for children to progress from low to high attaining compared to peers (something that education does not achieve well). In this sense learning is a way of creating abilities; how far can we support disadvantaged to create their own potential...

“Learning now becomes a new way of creating abilities rather than bringing people to the point where they can take advantage of their innate ones … People are not born with fixed reserves of potential; instead potential is an expandable vessel, shaped by the various things we do throughout our lives. Learning isn’t a way of reaching one’s potential but rather a way of developing it. We can create our own potential.” (Anders Eriksson)

… it is also helpful not to be fooled into believing disadvantaged children are less ambitious and aspirational. This maybe how they present, but often the opposite is true, not having the means and being deeply influenced by our lived experience may tell a different story.


Talent identified in hindsight as the consequence of effort and practice over time

Creating the opportunity to bring innate talent to the surface for all individuals. Creating the opportunity for individuals to be inspired by, experience and persist long enough with something so that they become better than average; triggering something in their self identity that allows them to continue to develop confidence and competence in something over time that then in hindsight appears to be talent.

What we see as talent is almost always the product of practice (deliberate) over time. How then do we support disadvantage to develop competence that might in the future be deemed to be a talent?


Life chances turn on small things, moments and chance | an opportunity to sow seeds and load the dice for the future

“..we are each made up of numerous possibilities.. “We discover the possibilities by doing, by trying new activities, building new networks, finding new role models.” “We learn who we are in practice, not in theory.” (Herminia Ibarra, quoted by David Epstein, 2019)

The thing with disadvantage is that regardless of the present level of disadvantage we can accumulate advantage over time, at anytime, it is not something that starts when disadvantage is removed and it may well turn on small things as well as complex things, in seconds or years. How do we support children to fall helplessly in love with their future passion, perhaps in brief powerful encounters?

“Beneath every big talent lies an ignition story – the famously potent moment when a young person falls helplessly in love with their future passion. … Talent begins with brief powerful encounters that spark motivation (ignition) by linking your identity to a high performing person or group (or self image). This is called ignition, and it consists of a tiny, world shifting thought lighting up your unconscious mind: I could be them (or do that, or achieve that)” (Dan Coyle)

The path we take through life is influenced in complex ways as a journey of loaded chance and opportunity. How accessible the opportunities are depends on the level of advantage or disadvantage. The way that opportunities playout over a lifetime, in often unpredictable ways, means that increasing the future chances of success and accumulating advantage can arise in even the smallest conversation, some praise, meeting them there, asking how things went, building confidence, knowledge and understanding all have the ability to build a can-do identity and increase agency that unlocks opportunities. As educators we cannot see the future, but we can increase the chances of disadvantaged by creating a broader toolbox for these future opportunities and experimentation:

“… mental meandering and personal experimentation are sources of power, and head starts are overrated.” (David Epstein , 2019)


We are all responsible, there is no opt out | It is everyone’s problem

As educators we have significant influence on all individuals that we interact with; we leak our expectations and attitudes. Some of these will be inconsequential, but others may be life changing.

“Every day, we make each other smarter or stupider, stronger or weaker, faster or slower. We can’t help leaking expectations, through our gazes, our body language and our voices. My expectations about you define my attitude towards you.” (Rutger Bregman, 2020)

The good and the bad news is that every interaction along life’s journey has an impact on us and informs our sense of self and our self identity. The good is that everyday there are multiple ways to influence those around us. The impact can be fundamental and is likely to bear little relation to the amount of time or investment it takes. Because we live life forwards there is no telling the impact the educators have on children on their journey through childhood into adulthood. Applying this underlines the importance of culture, the importance that it is everyone’s job, that we should not partition our disadvantaged work into time-limited strategies – it is an all the time thing. And we are all responsible.

“…who you are emerges from everything you’ve interacted with: your environment, all of your experiences, your friends, your enemies, your culture, your belief system, your era – all of it.” (David Eagleman, 2020)

The bad is that everyday in every interaction between educator and child we will consciously or unconsciously do one (or a mix) of the following. Underlining the complexity of addressing disadvantage we need to consider how far our culture, curriculum, teaching, culture, rules, routines, language, our assumptions, bias – condemns, confers, colludes, mitigates, or removes disadvantage?

  • Condemn: to assume fixed attainment and capability making disadvantage the defining feature of an individual. “That child’s disadvantage is permanent.”
  • Confer: to give someone the identity of disadvantaged. Applying all of the damaging stereotypes and generalities of disadvantage. “Yes, you are disadvantaged”
  • Collude: to act together in order to deceive through agreeing the extent and on going impact of disadvantage. “Yes, life is difficult because you are disadvantaged”
  • Mitigate: to support and reduce the impact of disadvantage “No, you have agency over what you do and where you go”
  • Remove: to undo disadvantage by accumulating advantage “This does not define you or pre-determine your future.” (could have been ‘reverse‘, but this does not fit with choices made going forward, and may inadvertently suggest unpicking the past, rather than adding to a character and competence toolbox that takes advantage of opportunities in the future, further this might be better termed as ‘adding advantage or accumulating advantage

Educators are not consciously the creators of disadvantage, but we do make choices, minute by minute, that can limit the impact of disadvantage on a child’s future, so that collectively, consciously, together, we enable our disadvantaged children to write their own stories, to grasp, shape and wrestle with their own future. Giving them access to the game and the rules and the tactics and the confidence and self-identity to have agency.

“It was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college, but it was very, very clear looking backwards 10 years later. You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in the future … believing the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart …and that will make all the difference.” (Steve Jobs)


Keeping the main thing the main thing | Teaching as the key lever for accumulating advantage

One of the biggest levers for accumulating advantage for disadvantaged is to invest deeply in supporting and developing professionals to teach well; professional development that focuses on:

  • the key spine of what matters most in the curriculum, delivered with purpose and passion; making it unavoidable and compelling. Build curiosity and questioning in all children to secure their ability to make decisions, take chances and have agency now and in the future.
  • direct instruction, explanation, modelling. Investing deeply in explanation so that we scaffold understanding, based on a progression of key organising concepts and ideas brought alive by judicious selection of the most relevant and compelling knowledge. Building schema that provides the foundation and touch points that will come easier to advantaged children.
  • deliberate practice. To build confidence and success on meaningful and challenging tasks.
  • diagnostic assessment, high quality feedback. The biggest advantage that advantaged children have had and have are rapid, high quality feedback loops. From a young age advantaged children are corrected and encouraged; this matures into a self-directed search for feedback as a positive mechanism for growth and improvement. For disadvantaged it can be something that exposes, humiliates or offers confirmation that the world happens to them. Feedback has the potential to be transformational and comes in all forms, a glance, a smile, a comment, conversation, caring, valuing the person, simply repeating what has been said, questioning, pausing, motivating, (written feedback), comparison, modelling… again revealing the importance of human connection
  • Literacy and Language: the cornerstones of unlocking disadvantage. All teachers and wider colleagues have a role in both literacy (all aspects) and language (including vocabulary). Particular focus on oracy is leveraging for disadvantaged; again this is precisely what happens in the homes of the advantaged from an early age.

Teaching that has a strong narrative that is conceptually strong, relevant and feels important so that learning is irresistible supports the likelihood that we will accumulate advantage in disadvantaged students. Particularly where we are able to cumulatively support and expect individuals to complete meaningful and challenging work; building self-belief, self esteem and igniting the curiosity present in us all.

“This change-only-when-relevant feature reminds us that the brain is not simply a blank slate upon which the world scrawls all its stories. .. Experiences turn into memories when they are germane (to our lives).” (David Eagleman, 2020)

Teachers who, “foster rethinking cycles by instilling intellectual humility, disseminating doubt and cultivating curiosity,” (Adam Grant, 2021) are more likely to equip students for their future; to know what to do when they do not know what to do.

“Collecting a teacher’s knowledge may help us solve the challenges of the day, but understanding how a teacher thinks can help us navigate the challenges of a lifetime. Ultimately education is more than the information we accumulate in our heads.” (Adam Grant, 2021)


What if our connection with Education is elasticated to the point of failure?

In middle and long distance races athletes describe the rubber band that exists between themselves and the runner(s) in front. Once this extends too far there is a point of no return, the band snaps and it is impossible to catch-up.

Sadly this may also be true for disadvantaged children over time (and accelerated during the pandemic). There is a point when disadvantaged children increasingly self-deselect themselves from engaging, attending and trying; they become disenfranchised from education. The elastic snapping and the checking-out of education may sadly be the case for an eye-wateringly high number of disadvantaged children. Our challenge, for these individuals, will not be simply to close gaps, but to prove to those who are no longer in the game that education, itself, is worthwhile.


What you have (or have not) in your locker counts (you in or counts you out)

When advantaged children get good at something they stack their internal locker with evidence of success (their sense of identity or self). Numerous affirmations build up in their locker to reaffirm their ability and alter, enhance their self belief and agency. The number of affirmations and the amount of evidence is not compromised by odd failures or negative comments; their sense of self (worth) is unwounded and their agency undiminished.

The reinforced, affirmation and evidence rich locker of advantaged individuals

For disadvantage, their lived experience can leave their locker for a range of aspects of their life sparse. This leads to a propensity to not try again and risk further weakening the locker that may lower self-agency and give a suffocating sense that the world happens to them. The downward spiral of which leads to on-going self de-selection from trying, risking failure, (that their locker will not resist). New opportunities are not seen as such (in fact the opposite) and the disadvantaged step back, not forward, further accumulating disadvantage.


The disproportionate impact of achieving meaningful and challenging work

Disadvantaged individuals (and all children) need to have the opportunity to wrestle with and succeed at meaningful and challenging work. This speaks directly to their identity as a learner. It gives a new sense of achievement, alters the self identity, contributes to their self-belief locker, accumulates advantage, loads the dice for the future, decreases the likelihood of self de-selection and strengthens agency. Bit by bit the more we, as educators, build these opportunities the more we mitigate disadvantage and accumulate advantage.

“Once a student sees that he or she is capable of excellence, that student is never quite the same. There is a new self-image, a new notion of possibility. There is an appetite for excellence.” (Ron Berger)


For a disadvantaged strategy, look within as much as out for answers, think in years not terms, reject initiatives, think systemic change, build culture not working groups

The scale of our disadvantaged problem is too big for short term strategy, initiative and short term interventions, it requires something deeper and systemic; our approach needs to become what we do (without trying), because it is in the culture, in the approach, owned by all. So…

  • … do look outside for inspiration, but build your approach on what you learn about disadvantage in your context; the answers and approach lie within you and your community; strategies do not travel well. Thinking deeply about disadvantage and context and ownership with strong execution matters.
  • … do not seek initiatives and short term interventions. Systemic change is required that is irreversible (not least because disadvantage holds on to individuals over time).
  • … plan to address disadvantage in the long term, think 3 to 5 to 10 years in terms of timeline. Resist the one year plan punctuated by short term interventions.
  • … do not think of disadvantage as one homogenous group; this issue is only understood by fully understanding each individual disadvantaged child and how best to accumulate advantage for them.
  • … do not just fixate on the past and gaps that exist, also consider the future for disadvantaged students, what do they need to thrive?
  • … do invest in teaching (the every lesson, everyday lever) and culture to accumulate advantage through the lens of competence and character (particularly self-belief and self-esteem) to give self-agency.

“Success is not a random act. It arises out of a predictable and powerful set of circumstances and opportunities.” (Malcolm Gladwell)


This is personal | the need for human to human contact | post-pandemic rocket fuel

Children typically think in the now. Emphasising human contact and quality interaction between and adult and learner in the magical places we call schools may well be the best recovery from the pandemic. Dwelling and colluding on the impact may not serve children well; keeping the Main Event, every lesson, everyday as the focus will likely best serve disadvantaged children.

“It is difficult for us to realise how much information is socially transmitted. because the amount is staggering and the process is largely transparent.” (Pascal Boyer, 2018)

Human connection is perhaps the most important contributor to accumulating advantage; it is perhaps the key ingredient in early advantage before the age of 4. The pandemic significantly reduced socialisation and human connection; reducing the staggering amount of information that is socially transmitted. We all bear this responsibility, that young people watch, imitate and learn from us and that this shapes them over time. This human connection may be the biggest loss during the pandemic, but may well prove our greatest super power in the post pandemic.

“We have to see to be able to do. … You play a role in passing on cultural norms and nuances. …people who we connect with, who we trust and who we are exposed to. These are the three fundamental factors that underpin who we learn from or imitate … shaping us at each and every moment of our lives.” (Fiona Murden, 2020)


Seeking equity | giving disadvantaged what they need

“Fair doesn’t mean giving every child the same thing, it means giving every child what they need.” (Rick Lavoie)

We should not consider disadvantaged as a single homogenous group; considering them as a group has significant negative consequences and troublesome stereotypes that will mis-serve disadvantaged children. We must maintain the view that disadvantaged children are individuals and as such we should not confer or label as disadvantage, but understand each child and give them what they need; seek equity give individuals what they need.


But what about the post-pandemic? | gifts for disadvantage from the pandemic?

  • The advancement of and use of technology to support learning has the opportunity to supplement the main event (every lesson, everyday) to support learning and to deepen learning. There is also significant opportunity to democratise learning and increase accessibility to teaching and learning 24/7. Securing accessibility to technology needs to remain a key priority post pandemic.
  • Starker understanding of the role of assessment in leaning and the need for feedback to support progress; the significantly weakened or limited in distance learning.
  • Disadvantaged individuals are likely to have weakened their present level of attainment relative to more affluent, advantaged peers. We should avoid demoting disadvantaged down set or to allow the new attainment level to limit our expectation of them. Before our situational blindness kicks in and the new level becomes defining; we need to seek equity alongside teaching the Main Event (every lesson, everyday)
  • We need to understand the impact of the pandemic on the self-identity/self-esteem locker of each child. Actively encourage and secure early success on meaningful and challenging work; building self-esteem, filling their lockers and ensuring they increasingly step forward, not back.
  • The deeper connections with family that have developed through the pandemic provide a significant opportunity to support disadvantaged children: whilst children spend c.950 hours in classroom and well over c.1200 hours in school each year, accounting for sleeping, they spend closer to 4000 hours per year with parents and carers.

The So What? | How far are we meeting the following challenges?

The following is offered as a set of challenging questions for us to consider how we are accumulating advantage for individual disadvantaged children, so that they feel and are more successful now and in adulthood; how best do we gift each child with the self-agency that allow them to make choices, seize opportunities and thrive in life.

  1. How far do we know, at an individual level, the nature of disadvantage in our context: how it accumulates over time to limit opportunity generally and specifically in our community?
  2. How far are we able to recognise “present level of attainment” and “delayed attainment” so that we do not inadvertently assume fixed ability and reduce attainment mobility?
  3. How far is addressing our disadvantaged problem everyone’s business? Understanding that we are all responsible and leak our expectations all of the time.
    • do we condemn, confer, collude, mitigate or remove disadvantage?
    • do we focus on our language, actual and body language?
  4. How far do we believe and invest in human connection as the key to accumulating advantage. The lack of human connection may have done the most damage in the pandemic, by contrast it is likely to be our superpower to influence and gift choice to our disadvantaged children in the post-pandemic.
  5. How far do we know that this needs to be an investment over the longer term, aimed at system change (teaching and culture). Initiatives and intervention are poor substitutes for systemic, irreversible change that influences how we educate over time to accumulate advantage?
  6. How far do we focus on the main thing as the main thing for accumulating advantage: teaching well? How far is this focused on:
    • what matters most, building curiosity and questioning in all children,
    • direct instruction, explanation, modelling; progression of key organising concepts and ideas brought alive by judicious selection of compelling knowledge.
    • deliberate practice, building success on meaningful and challenging tasks.
    • diagnostic assessment, high quality feedback: rapid, high quality feedback loops.
    • Literacy and Language: the cornerstones of unlocking disadvantage.
  7. How far are we looking not to just to fill the past gaps for disadvantaged, but equally seek to load the dice for disadvantaged children by looking into the future and equipping them with the tools required to recognise and step forward for opportunities with competence and character that allow them to thrive and influence their world (building self agency)?
  8. How well do we prepare disadvantaged students to:
    • recognise and create opportunities for themselves? (including being curious and asking question)
    • have the agency to step forward for opportunities?
    • have the tools to be able to exploit their opportunities?
  9. How far have we really considered what it is that allows individuals to thrive now and in the future? How far does the present education system set individuals up for success? How do we tip the balance, load the dice to give disadvantaged access to life and the rules?
  10. How far do we understand that an individual’s self identity and motivation to continue is determined by their sense of self and what they have in the locker? How far do we build in affirmations and evidence of success for children to actively build this confidence?
  11. How far are we exploiting the opportunities afforded by our deeper connection with families and communities and our use of technology to democratise learning?
  12. How far would addressing the above make everything else in education either less important or not required?

We should remain optimistic and hopeful for the future; we have remarkable educators in all areas of our sector; with the right focus we can help all children to make something of their lives in a future that is unlikely to be dull.

“Our task is to educate their whole being so they can face the future. We may not see the future, but they will and our job is to help them make something of it.” (Ken Robinson)


Dr Dan Nicholls

February 2021

Disadvantaged children | think low attainment not low ability

ATT00031

“What if… we view disadvantaged children as low attaining and not as low ability, instil a deep and widely held belief in what is possible and then set eye-watering targets that underline our ambition to overcome the inertia of context.”

It is probably true that… Primary and Secondary schools need to do more to close the gap in attainment between disadvantaged and advantaged children; perhaps seeing it more as low attainment and not low ability or delayed progress and not that there is a limit to a child’s potential. We know that gaps appear early (ages 0-4) and widen through a child’s education. All of which has a deep impact on the child’s life chance and success that ultimately leads to generational cycles of poverty and disadvantage.

Which begs the question… what does it take to close these gaps and disrupt the loop of unequal opportunity and outcomes?

believe-in-kids


What if… education reinforces early advantage and accumulated advantage for advantaged students and inadvertently creates conditions where early attainment gaps widen?… do we disadvantage the disadvantaged?

Malcolm Gladwell identifies in Outliers that we often perpetuate early advantage. He exemplifies through the Canadian Ice Hockey League where those children selected at 4 and 5 years old, are generally the oldest and largest children; having their birthdays in Jan, Feb and March. These children enter the hockey Academies, experience great coaching, many hours of practise (largely deliberate in nature) and of course they thrive, out-strip their slightly younger peers and go on to be professionals. Not because they are more gifted or talented than those children born later in the year, but because they were a quarter to fifth older and larger than their peers when selected…what happened next just served to prove the selectors and scouts right.

“Autumn born students showed higher attainment and made more academic progress over KS3.” (DfE, 2012)

What if… as educators and teachers we are complicit in the widening of gaps and perpetuating the early advantage of students from advantaged backgrounds?

“Within the complex landscape of differential attainment, socio- economic disadvantage appears to be the most consistent predictor of attainment, particularly for children and young people from white ethnic groups.” (Ofsted)

What if… we recognise that low attaining disadvantaged children on entry to Primary and Secondary school are actually low attaining and not low ability. What if we are actually see “delayed progress” and not fixed ability or limit our belief in what disadvantaged children can achieve.

What if… there is a wide-held and embedded belief in the ability of all disadvantaged to achieve and attain – life enhancing qualifications and skills that will break the generational cycle of poverty? What if… we did not assume that this belief exists? The type of belief that enables and levers success for disadvantaged students needs to be to depth and has to live and breath in the organisation – it has to be felt and ubiquitous in all that happens.

What if… we build in greater ambition for disadvantaged students? At the start of secondary why do we not set low attaining disadvantaged children a full level of progress each year?

What if… we understand that this higher ambition and action seeks to close early gaps in literacy and numeracy for example – because these gaps disenfranchise children from their education and maintain the loop of poor outcomes, with each generation.

What if… we understood that disadvantaged students are prone to “self de-selection”. They are more likely to see an opportunity, chance or activity as not for them and de-select themselves. What if we had a policy of “meeting them there” – to ensure that disadvantaged children attend extra-curricular events and attend trips etc. … and to deliberately plan lift the cultural capital for each child.

What if… we understand that disadvantaged students are more likely to have an external locus of control and more likely to assume that their experiences and opportunities in life are determined by others and that they are not in control of their own destiny (internal locus of control). All of which links to the self-esteem and self-confidence that is more prevalent in advantaged households, where there is an assumed progression and a greater internal locus that expects individuals to take control of their future; making things happen.

What if… we understood that not all disadvantaged students are disadvantaged and that there are many advantaged students who are disadvantaged? Do we use our own understanding and soft intelligence to identify our actual disadvantaged cohort?

What if… we sense-checked our pupil premium spending to ensure that the strategies we are using are not in fact enabling advantaged students to flourish further,(obviously no bad thing) but that they targeted at enabling disadvantaged to close the gap and achieve. This can only be born out of a deep understanding of what being disadvantaged really means.

What if… we realise that pupils premium spending should be proportionate to the numbers of disadvantaged and that only by measuring impact can we truly understand what and how we close the attainment gaps?

What if… we gained a deeper understanding of what it means to be disadvantaged – not because we intend to mis-understand the complexity of socio-economic disadvantage by creating unhelpful generalisations, but so we can find a language, approaches, strategies and teaching that unlocks and reverses the disadvantaged inertia that slows/delays progress.

Key factors can include: worklessness, low parental education, lower ambition, less well informed choices, poor home study routines, poor diet, overcrowding, alcoholism, violence, chaotic homes, lower access to books, tables, further resources, reduced cultural capital, visits, newspapers, discussion, debate… (obviously these are generalisations – there are many disadvantaged backgrounds that support and provide conditions for children to thrive and achieve beyond that achieved in advantaged households.)

“Students’ academic attainment and progress are strongly influenced by the education level of their parents. Influence of Fathers’ qualification levels only half as strong as mothers. Positive parenting experiences, especially the early years Home Learning Environment (HLE) helps to promote better longer term outcomes.” (DfE, 2012)

By understanding context we can inform the quality of provision that enables all children to exploit their one chance.

Slide08

What if… we understood that gaps in attainment happen early ages 0-4 and that these gaps typically widen through Primary and Secondary education. “Success is what sociologist would call accumulative advantage.” (Gladwell, 2008)

“Overall, attainment gaps are present from the early stages of education and progressively worsen during transition and through each phase.” (Ofsted)

What if… we understood that these gaps widen because of the Matthew Effect: “it is those who are successful, in other words, who are most likely to be given the kinds of special opportunities that lead to further success.” (Gladwell, 2008)

Differences in academic attainment and social-behavioural development related to background emerged early (at age 3) and remained fairly stable to age 14. (DfE, 2012)

What if…  the quality of Nursery education is a key determining factor. It is not uncommon for gaps to be significant at Reception and that this often directly relates to whether the child has attended Nursery and then whether this is of good quality.

What if… we understood that the summer holiday break (in this instance in the US) has a greater impact on disadvantaged children than advantaged children exemplify the home-advantage of advantaged children…

“The wealthiest kids come back in September and their reading scores have jumped more than 15 points. The poorest kids come back from their holidays and their reading scores have dropped almost four points. Poor kids may out-learn rich kids during the school year. But during the summer, they fall far behind.” … “Virtually all of the advantage that wealthy students have over poor students is the result of differences in the way that privileged kids learn while they are not in school.” (Gladwell, Outliers, 2008)

What if… we took seriously our collective system leadership responsibility for supporting families and by extension all children to make strong progress between 0 and 4. Fully exploiting the potential offered by all-through Academies. This connects the dots and works to remove/improve damaging transitions.

What if… all leaders and teachers are leaders of learning? And that this is never divorced from an on-going and deep dialogue about how we best-teach and support all children to close gaps. Indeed we have a moral obligation as leaders to close these gaps, because only then do we enhance life chances, break the generational cycle of poverty and leave a legacy that we can be proud of.

“Disrupt the loop of unequal outcomes.” (Ofsted)

What if… targets for disadvantaged students were set to close gaps (not to maintain them)? Too often we set targets that simply maintain the gap (for example 4 levels progress for all). And in this moment we limit what is possible and set our ambition for disadvantaged students – we are confirming previous disadvantage – we are seeing disadvantaged students attainment as their potential and limiting our ambition for them. Disadvantaged students need the opposite of this … to be offered a deep belief in them and their ability and that with the appropriate provision delayed progress can be reversed – not least because we should see low attainment not ability and that progress is delayed not a reflection on the child’s ability or potential.

What if… we understand that quality first teaching is what matters for exploiting potential and enabling accelerated progress of disadvantaged students? Indeed quality teaching has a disproportionate impact on disadvantaged children (and in contrast to summer holiday progress, above)…

Slide17

…underlining that disadvantaged students make greater progress than advantaged students when they receive quality teaching – perhaps highlighting the appetite of disadvantaged children to learn, again reflecting delayed progress not innate ability.

“The effects of high-quality teaching are especially significant for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds: over a school year, such pupils gain 1.5 years’ worth of learning with very effective teachers, compared with 0.5 years with poorly performing teachers … For poor pupils the difference between a good teacher and a bad teacher can result in a deficit of a whole year’s learning.” (Ofsted)

What if… we realised that where Academies only go as far as identifying disadvantaged students on seating plans (or similar) that this could be limiting potential of disadvantaged students; as teachers make unhelpful assumptions about the child’s potential and become content that this child is keeping pace (or slightly behind the progress of advantaged children!)? Quite the opposite is required; disadvantaged children need to outstrip the progress of advantaged children – targets need to reflect greater gains in progress.

What if… we enabled a continuous discussion and strategy-sharing between teachers and pastoral staff to identify strategies and approaches that specifically support disadvantaged children – and that these are made explicit and employed to support students to make accelerated progress.

What if… we recognised that it is the quality of feedback (built-in, not after the event – that is particularly important for disadvantaged children) and what is done with it as well as the quality of differentiation that has the strongest opportunity to accelerate the progress of disadvantaged students.

“To build a better world we need to replace the patchwork of lucky breaks and arbitrary advantages today that determine success–the fortunate birth dates and the happy accidents of history–with a society that provides opportunities for all.” (Malcolm Gladwell)

What if… we considered the language that we use in lessons and across the Academy when talking about children with low attainment or delayed progress? How often do we talk about ability as if it is fixed or imply that there are limits and ceilings for some children. How far do we employ a growth mindset approach and a language of effort and opportunity?

What if… we remember that effort and opportunity are the greatest determinant on success in almost every area of life? Dweck, Coyle and Gladwell provide compelling evidence that learning and progress is achieved through effort, deliberate practice and the development of myelin within the brain. Disadvantaged students are not wired differently or born less clever…all of which demonstrates that (almost) all gaps can be closed and rates of progress increased. (Accepting that extreme neglect in early childhood can create physical changes in the brain).

Perhaps all of this will help to disrupt the loop of unequal opportunity that hold disadvantaged children back; reversing the cycle of poverty.

“Children experiencing poverty face multiple disadvantages that often continue throughout their lives and all too often continue on to the next generation.” (Child Poverty Strategy 2014-17)


Maybe then…

  • There would be a deep and wide-held belief in the possibility of closing all gaps. That there is eye-watering ambition for all students.
  • We would not equate low attainment as low ability. Such that our targets should reflect an acknowledgement that this is delayed progress.
  • We would develop  a greater understanding of what it means to be disadvantaged.
  • We understand that the educational system actually reinforces and perpetuates gaps, because cultural capital and early advantage enables advantaged students flourish.
  • We use system leadership and connections to equalise access to early advantage when children are 0-4 and through Primary into Secondary.
  • We no longer set targets for disadvantaged that simply maintain or worse open gaps wider for disadvantaged students.
  • We would realise that we often put into place strategies and approaches (perhaps through pupil premium funding) that simply enable advantaged students to continue their “accumulated advantage.”
  • We continue to invest in quality first teaching (particularly feedback and differentiation) so that disadvantaged children are freed and supported to make progress.
  • We remind and promote that ability is not fixed and that through effort and deliberate practise everything is possible.

“Education and organisations should be judged by how well it supports its most vulnerable and disadvantaged to achieve and feel success.”

May 2015