I have been a teacher for 29 years, a Headteacher for 14 years and, at the age of 53, this much I know about how Manchester’s disadvantaged students beat York’s every time.

How much do we really prioritise provision for our disadvantaged students? This is a question which has been bugging me – and I mean really bugging me – since September, when we began reviewing our 2017 student outcomes. In a Local Authority which is one of the poorest funded in the country – one of the poorest funded because York is one of the richest cities in the country – with some of the lowest percentages of students attracting Pupil Premium funding, it is easy for the disadvantaged students to get lost amongst our secondary schools’ generally decent, well above the national average, KS4 outcomes. The fact is, in 2016 our disadvantaged students in York did less well than similar disadvantaged students in Manchester. Yes, you read that correctly. At every transition stage of their school careers, at the end of Early Years, at the end of KS2 and at the end of KS4, if you were a disadvantaged pupil in deepest Gorton, a particularly deprived neighbourhood in Manchester (where the TV series Shameless was loosely based), you had more chance of academic success than your disadvantaged peers in York. Here are the same figures for the 2017 outcomes for disadvantaged pupils in both Manchester and York:

  • The percentage of disadvantaged pupils who met at least the expected standard in all Early Learning Goals: 45% in York vs. 57% in Manchester;
  • The percentage of disadvantaged pupils who met at least the expected standard in Reading, Writing and Mathematics at the end of KS2: 40% in York vs. 53% in Manchester;
  • The Attainment 8 figure for disadvantaged students: 38 in Manchester vs. 35.9 in York.

The recent EEF report laid down with some clarity the challenge to improve the outcomes of disadvantaged for all of us working in the secondary sector:

The EEF report was equally clear about where we should begin if we are going to improve the academic progress of disadvantaged students:

What happens in the classroom makes the biggest difference: improving teaching quality generally leads to greater improvements at lower cost than structural changes. There is particularly good evidence around the potential impact of teacher professional development.

Over the next month I will be blogging about the work we have been doing at Huntington to improve the outcomes of our disadvantaged students. The first post will reveal what our disadvantaged students told us when we asked them the question: “What do teachers do in the classroom that really helps you learn?”

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  1. I understand that quality first teaching is crucial but surely we also need structural change to accelerate progress at KS3 for low and middle attaining students (stereotypically often disadvantaged) – especially in terms of literacy and numeracy skills?

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