St Petroc’s Church of England Primary School is part of Celtic Cross Education Trust. We are a larger Cornish Primary School with 607 children on roll and run from Nursery right through to Year 6. We have 116 children eligible for free school meals and 150 pupil premium children.
St Petroc’s serves a mixed catchment area in Bodmin with 37.9 per cent of pupils living in the most deprived 30 percent of small areas in England, compared to a local authority average of 27.4%.
Challenges during the lockdown period have included access to good quality housing, food poverty, access to digital devices, low levels of physical inactivity and increased levels of social isolation.
The school has supported families with weekly welfare calls and by providing food and welfare parcels.
One of the positives to come from the last year is that the schools in our Trust are all working much closer together. The network of primary schools across Cornwall is stronger with a lot of sharing of good practice.
In December 2020 we carried out some analysis to compare the percentage of children working at just the expected level and above across all year groups compared to March 2020 before the first lockdown. We identified a 19.4% decline in reading, 10.76% decrease in writing and 6.86% decrease in Maths which is why we focused our catch-up interventions on reading. 88% of children engaged in remote learning or learning at school during the spring lockdown.
The widened gap between children is challenging for the teachers to manage. However, some benefits have been seen with children, who were not achieving at the desired levels, making ‘huge’ progress due to the intensive support they received while attending school in reduced class sizes.
We felt that by taking part in a nationally recognised programme it would be very rigorous and have integrity. If we had to go through an inspection and be accountable for our use of catch-up funding, we would have reassurance that we were using the government-backed NTP.
We have also noticed a social impact with some children struggling to play and socialise with each other outside on the field at break times.
During the lockdowns a significant number of our families were unable to access remote learning as they did not have access to a suitable device. As a result, we prepared home learning packs that could be collected each week from school and be dropped back to school for marking. During the last week of lockdown, we issued 153 home learning packs.
An external monitoring visit of the school took place at the end of March and the report noted that the children were extremely well engaged in their learning and behaving well. There was a very calm, purposeful atmosphere in all the classrooms visited.
The school has never used external providers to deliver tutoring before. We have resisted this approach as we believe the best outcomes come from children being taught by teachers with the full range of classroom skills and pedagogies. However, we have used the EEF toolkit over time to inform our choices of intervention e.g., targeted 1:1 or small group support such as Get Writing/Project X delivered by our own staff. We were also mindful of the cost of employing external tutors.
Setting up the tutoring initially was a challenge. We were a little naïve in not appreciating how much we needed to prepare for the tutoring to be a success. The teachers identified the gaps in each child’s learning and the tutors planned their sessions around each child’s needs. They have developed bespoke tutoring.
The tutors delivering the programme are teachers. They have been high-quality and we have had the opportunity to change a tutor if we were not happy.
The communication between Teaching Personnel, the school and our teachers has been excellent throughout. We get excellent feedback on what is happening in each tutoring session via the online platform and in person.
The communication between the tutors and the teachers has been a real strength of this project.
Teaching Personnel tutors provide written updates after each session. They write about individual children and let the teachers know where the children have progressed and where they haven’t. When some of the children were coming into school during the latest lockdown, we were able to supervise a tutoring session. The session was high-quality. We were very impressed with the engagement of the children.
We actually allocated some of our government catch-up funding to release some teacher time so that they could liaise with the tutors, get feedback, and implement follow-up into their lesson plans. But we have not had to use that this time because Teaching Personnel have given us really good information online and via email. As a result, teachers have been able to use that time to undertake additional one-to-one work, which has proved enormously beneficial.
It’s too early to say what the impact of the tutoring has been on educational attainment as a data drop is due shortly. However, today we got an indicator of how well the tutoring is being received by the children when a session was postponed, and the children were disappointed.
We believe that the small-group, focused attention the children receive through tutoring has been beneficial. The benefits have been academic but also social and emotional.