Why I don’t like the notion of ‘significant groups’


In the past, as a teacher, I’ve been told to write an individual intervention for every significant child.  Children who could well have met expected levels and beyond in their work; I still had to write an intervention strategy.

This may be controversial and I’m very happy for people to challenge, to develop my thinking, but I think the notion of ‘significant groups’ is wrong and shouldn’t be used the way it currently is.

I think we should only single out individual children for intervention and support where there is evidence they are underachieving. We shouldn’t group them. The labels that we have created are so broad that we are in danger of stereotyping children and actually missing the point of education; EVERY child matters.

I propose we have two new ‘significant group’ labels, and ditch the rest.

1. Achieving/making progress

2. Not achieving/making progress.

We then look into individuals. We see what might be preventing them from achieving/making progress and do something about it. We should have as much information about the child as we can , which may be SEN, LAC etc but this should be used to inform NOT used to organise achievement/progression data. We should use systems in school to track and monitor students on an individual basis. Individual teachers should be responsible for progress in their class. I believe that teachers have the power to make a significant difference to a child’s life  during a lesson, regardless of life outside of the classroom. Don’t we all have to believe this to make a difference?

My least liked significant group is ‘Pupil Premium’ (PP or PPG)…


Let’s say in a class I teach I mark their books and notice that 4 students’ work isn’t developing at the right level. It turns at that these 4 students’ parents have claimed for free school meals in the past 6 years. How can I put in an intervention for those 4 students based on this? I can’t. I have to work individually with these students to help them. A graph or table telling me that my PP students are underachieving and expecting me to put in an intervention for them because of this is nonsense.

Please don’t tell me that my teaching was different for them because they ate a free school meal. I don’t buy it I’m afraid. I have high expectations of ALL students and I teach for ALL to make progress. It was my teaching, my lesson, my explanation, my resource that meant they didn’t progress. Not their lunch.

Mary Myatt blogged about Pupil Premium. She quotes the following statistics…

“We know that when they start school many children from poorer backgrounds can be up to 16 months behind their peers in vocabulary: they are less likely to have been read to, heard fewer words spoken and have had a less stimulating environment. By the end of Key Stage 2 68% of pupils eligible for the pupil premium achieved level 4+, compared to 84% of all other pupils. At  KS4 38% students on FSM achieved 5ACEM compared with 66% for all other students. Pupils eligible for FSM are five times more likely to be excluded from primary”

When put collectively like this I can see that there are issues nationally with these students however the data in itself should not be used to impose ‘blanket’ intervention. It’s how schools and leaders and responded to this data that I have issue with.

I had free school meals for a couple of years at high school. I would have been mortified if I’d known that that was the only reason why a teacher or the school show ‘extra’ interest in me. I would’ve hoped that it would have been because I, like any other peer, may have been underachieving, not because I got a free lunch.

Prevention better than cure?

I truly believe that high expectations, focussed planning, good marking and monitoring of progress is the way for ALL students to achieve. I will intervene with any student that underachieves, regardless what letters they have next to their name.

With all these significant groups I feel sorry for any student that is white, non-SEN, not AGT, not LAC, not PP and lives in a high IDACI area.

5 thoughts on “Why I don’t like the notion of ‘significant groups’

  1. It is definitely a thorny subject. How do we as practitioners counterbalance all of the things that act to disadvantage these vulnerable groups in the first place? It is not purely down to individual teaching in the classroom that can create the negative effects on these pupils progress, in my opinion. A whole school approach is what is required not just that in the classroom. Joined up thinking that combines interventions and support outside of the classroom as well as in is what is required. Do I have any answers? No. All I hope is that we as teachers can do our very best to care, give a damn, and do the best by these young people, as we should all our pupils.

  2. The question we need to ask ourselves is, as a teacher in the classroom what can I do to help these students?

    Be positive? – I am for ALL students
    Differentiate? – I differentiate for ALL students
    Listen? – I listen to ALL students
    Support literacy? – I support ALL students.

    As I have tweeted, good teaching IS the intervention.

    Unless someone can tell me otherwise, I don’t believe there is a specific intervention I can employ as a teacher for a PP student. So the only value in ‘grouping’ these students maybe as a whole school exercise.

  3. Pingback: Improving schools; its all about the teaching. | missdcoxblog

  4. Pingback: Why marking Pupil Premium books first is misguided | missdcoxblog

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