Challenge the Gap

The programme

Challenge the Gap is a national whole school improvement programme developed by Challenge Partners. The programme aims to narrow the gap between pupil premium children and their peers, through a team of staff developing innovative projects to improve attainment for a targeted group of their pupils. The programme was funded by the DFE’s Strategic School Improvement Fund and ran from 2017-18.

Who is it for?

Challenge the Gap is a programme for schools who are looking to improve outcomes for disadvantaged pupils in their school by improving the effectiveness of their pupil premium spending. Secondary schools select 1 leader, 3 teachers and 2 para-professionals to take part in the programme. Primary schools select 1 leader, 1 teacher and 1 para-professional to take part.

A strategic, evidence-based model that works

Each team learns how to develop, trial and scale up effective, tailored strategies to benefit disadvantaged pupils in their context, using the latest research, best practice and emerging innovation.

Impact

What impact did the project have on pupils?

  • Following the interventions, just over three-fifths (64%, 109 of 170) of the students in the study exceeded the grade they were predicted without access to the CTG intervention and around half (49%) met the target grade assigned for them (based on what was expected should the intervention be successful). Improvements were also seen for some pupils in respect to attendance and wellbeing and engagement (as observed by their teachers).
  • Teachers also observed more confident or enthusiastic students with more positive attitudes and a willingness to learn. These changes were seen as substantive precursors to pupil’s ability to enhance and guide their own learning in the classroom and indeed, the basis for ultimately improving their academic performance.

What impact did it have on staff and schools?

  • Overall, participants scored their schools’ approach to disadvantaged students more positively following involvement with CTG.
  • Participants told us that the CTG project had brought about (amongst many other things) increased awareness of the impact of disadvantage on progress and an awareness of the importance of attitudes, learning behaviours and meta-cognitive strategies for bringing about change for this particular group. For some this meant a shift from academic to behavioural interventions.
  • Para-professionals involved in CTG were now involved with a wider range of interventions (extending beyond academic interventions to ones focusing around a student’s readiness to learn for example).

Which interventions were most effective?

  • The factors which appeared to be the biggest drivers of impact and were common to the most successful projects were:
    • The use of self-reflection and personalised targets which allow pupils to take more ownership of their learning
    • The opportunity to work with an adult one-to-one
    • Frequent and consistent ‘dosage’; those interventions enabling interactions with target pupils every day or several times a week had more impact than the majority of other projects which allowed for interaction once a week or fortnightly.
  • The intervention which saw the most progress in terms of student performance was delivered by St Peter’s Primary. Students in this school received this intervention IN the classroom using the capacity of the TA to provide ‘to-the-minute’ feedback and reflective discussion with target pupils. This was also acknowledged to be one of the most efficient uses of staff resource.

What did participants say about CTG?

  • Involvement in CTG was considered by participants to be an invaluable CPD opportunity and had given staff the chance to learn from other schools. Furthermore, involving a ‘triad’ of staff across the various levels of seniority had developed relationships between colleagues, broken down barriers and proved to be an effective way of implementing and sustaining change within their institutions. The monitoring and evaluation built into the project was also seen as a useful way of acknowledging small steps and any possible precursors to academic progress.
  • All schools said that they wanted to continue with their intervention in future years, with many expecting to cascade and widen the impact across the school.

Read the full impact evaluation and hear about the project from the participating schools.

Participating schools Alfred Salter Primary School, Bacon’s College, Brunswick Park Primary, Camelot Primary School, Charles Dickens Primary School, Dulwich Hamlet Junior School, Friars Primary School, Heber Primary School, Robert Browning Primary School, St John and St Clements Church of England Primary School, St Peter’s Church of England Primary School, The Belham Primary School.