Intervention beyond English and Maths
Boosting Progress 8
English and Maths count double in the P8 accountability measure, but of course there are six other subjects taken by students that also count. Teachers of these subjects are already feeling a little left out in some schools. MFL is also an important subject for boosting P8 performance.
Let’s not forget what intervention is for – to help students learn more than they would otherwise. Those who are the focus of targeted intervention tend to be lower attainers, perhaps also attracting Pupil Premium funding, but teachers are quick to point out that there are many other groups in need.
‘The school already does a great deal of targeted intervention in English and Maths. The next priorities are Science and Modern Languages.’
Intervention within departments
Most schools use some form of assessment and monitoring system to identify needs of individual students and then use intervention at a range of levels: often small groups or individuals. It’s often difficult to use standardised assessments across different subject areas, but many schools are standardising frequency of assessment, style of questions, grades used, and so on. This means that each department is encouraged to do targeted intervention within their own subject as part of a whole-school strategy. However, it’s not always easy to address the needs of students within subjects: English and Maths tend to use up all the non-curriculum time and TA support, absorbing the majority of Pupil Premium funding. Hence support tends to be via small groups rather than addressing the needs of individuals.
‘We are targeting disadvantaged students and higher achieving students to increase our overall P8 score.’
Strategies for targeted intervention at subject level
‘We have recently set up “Intervention Champions”. We are a big department and, as part of their Performance Management, one member of MFL staff is in charge of one year group (7 to 11). They are in charge of monitoring and intervening. At the moment it’s more about monitoring – we need to work on the intervening. Some things we’ve done are just a bit bland – sending home letters, giving out free revision guides – nothing that really makes a difference.’
Some departments are being creative about intervention: assigning the responsibility to a member of the team is often the first step and making sure the assessment and monitoring system can be used to inform the intervention strategy is often the next.
Literacy and numeracy interventions are often focused on the development, or simply practice, of skills, but in other subjects there is more of a need for support with understanding and the acquisition of knowledge. Languages often adopt more targeted interventions, partly because they’re skills-heavy and tend to be difficult for students with weak literacy skills.
‘MFL intervention is important for two reasons: 1. MFL is very often the subject that lets down the P8 score. Maths, English and Science get a lot of timetable time and lots of funding, etc. MFL, less so, plus it’s been proven to be one of the hardest subjects. Without targeted intervention, schools will start to drop MFL. 2. Our intervention currently isn’t good enough. As previously mentioned, we’re good at monitoring it, but not as good at doing something about it.’
Funding for intervention
Subject departments have to be creative in the means of providing subject-level targeted interventions: they don’t often have the same level of funding as Maths and English departments do, and may have to fund it within their departmental capitation. However, many schools support this kind of activity via bids to a central fund. They may also support by providing facilities out of school hours or providing a means of communicating more effectively with parents, for example.
• Extra classes after school or in the holidays
• Breakfast or homework clubs
• Withdrawal from lessons for targeted students
• Extra staffing e.g. for HLTAs or to fund smaller class sizes
• Mentoring by staff, older pupils or university students
• Specialist, external tutors
• Additional assessments or homework
• Parental engagement to support pupils
• Frequent reporting of assessment and progress data
The main issue with subject-level intervention is having effective means of delivery. Teachers do all they can in the classroom to engage their students and support their learning, but often have little training in how to support the more specialist intervention.
‘Unfortunately when the intervention sessions run they are usually to underperforming students based only on KS2 data. The intervention sessions themselves are questionable in terms of their usefulness. They are little more than teachers stood at the front of the class going over the same ground in the same way or teachers throwing lots of past paper questions at students.’
About this research: SchoolZone consulted with 50 secondary schools in December 2016 to ask them what issues they faced in carrying out targeted intervention at subject level and ensuring students could be targeted effectively to achieve progress. Research was commissioned by SAM Learning, who provide a cost-effective framework for Targeted Intervention. Click HERE to find out more.