We believe that the way we spend the extra allocation will be most effective if it is within a culture of high aspirations for all children and, crucially, as part of a culture of high regard for all children. This means that we have to maximise opportunities to get to know children very well individually, and to support them according to their specific educational needs. To this end, we commit a large proportion of our PPG to employing one extra full-time teaching assistant and one extra part-time teaching assistant, as well as funding extra teaching time. This means children can be better supported in the curriculum, particularly in the core subjects of English and Maths, as well as through nurture groups, social skills and individual emotional and social support. We also recognise the value of well-being in other areas of school life, such as the opportunity to join extra-curricular clubs, for their own benefit but also for the related benefit of academic development. For each child eligible for PPG, we look at what their particular areas of need are, and where their vulnerability lies, and then seek to address this through targeted use of the money, either by giving access to the extra adult support, or through the part of the funding we ring-fence for specific support, such as paying for trips and extra-curricular activities or the buying in of appropriate resources. We also set aside some of the grant for staff training in areas of particular need, such as phonics teaching or nurture group training. The following is a brief summary of how we are spending the PPG this year:
Our underlying philosophy is that, fundamental to the successful use of the PPG, is enabling long-term and enduring improvement in children's self-esteem and belief that they are worthy of good things happening to them. This is of course true of all children (and of all adults), but we recognise that, in many cases, children who suffer early disadvantage need more skilled and targeted work in this area. This is why the government continues to provide funding for 6 years even after children are no longer eligible for free school meals, in recognition of the fact that the impact of disadvantage can be long-lasting, and the measures to address it also need to take place in the longer term. In recognition of this, the way we challenge the barriers to learning faced by disadvantaged children at Willow Bank is designed to develop enduring benefits in their educational achievement and therefore in their quality of life and long-term prospects.
It is important here to reiterate that the negative impact of disadvantage is proven in general terms. On average, children from disadvantaged backgrounds have historically achieved less well than those from non-disadvantaged backgrounds, but this does not mean that all disadvantaged children perform less well than their peers. However, to give an idea of the scale of the challenge faced by schools across the country, in the 2016 national SATs 38% of disadvantaged children achieved the expected level in Reading, Writing and Maths combined, compared with 60% of non-disadvantaged children. Quite rightly, schools are being challenged to play their part in diminishing the difference, which has such a negative effect on the individual children concerned, but also on all of us as members of a society in which such inequality exists. We are extremely proud of the part we are playing here at Willow Bank Junior School to combat this social injustice.