SPECIAL REPORT: How Islington’s Pakeman Primary School came to be announced pupil premium champions of London

Pakeman Primary School. Teaching assitant Laura Bamford with 10-year-old Serkan Gokce

Pakeman Primary School. Teaching assitant Laura Bamford with 10-year-old Serkan Gokce - Credit: Archant

With nearly three quarters (70 per cent) of all pupils qualifying for free school meals under Government rules, Pakeman Primary is an inner London school with more than its fair share of disadvantaged children to support.

Teaching assitant Laura Bamford with 10-year-old Serkan Gokce

Teaching assitant Laura Bamford with 10-year-old Serkan Gokce - Credit: Archant

Support is something it has always done well, consistently scoring highly in Ofsted reports. But two years ago, something changed, with the school recording rocketing maths and English results taking it from below to above the national average.

Lynne Gavin, head teacher since 2008, said: "I am really delighted about what it has enabled us to do. We have such high ambitions for our children.

"There is no reason why children from this school can't go on and do anything. But the Pupil Premium has enabled us to get a bit closer to that. And the more we can do of that, the better."

The results speak for themselves. In a school where 73 per cent of pupils' first language is not English, 94 per cent of children now pass the subject at the required Level 4 or better in SATS before they leave. This compares with just 66 per cent in 2010 - the year the Pupil Premium was announced.

Pakeman Primary School, parent Kathy Loader

Pakeman Primary School, parent Kathy Loader - Credit: Archant

It's the same story for maths, with 94 per cent now passing at the same level, compared with 68 per cent in 2010 - taking the school from below to above average nationally in the space of three years.

In 2010, 88 per cent of pupils made two levels' progress in both subjects, as opposed to 100 per cent now.

Most Read

Miss Gavin has no reservations about how much the Pupil Premium - which now accounts for 13 per cent (£220,000) of the school's budget - has boosted performance.

She added: "We work in a school which has lots of disadvantaged children and so we work on that all the time, but what the Pupil Premium has allowed us to do is reach more of them and provide that individualised support to more than we were ever able to do before. It has stopped a lot of children from slipping through the net.

"It allows you to be very thoughtful about where you feel the need is and tailor that support to that need, in whatever way you feel is most appropriate. It allows you to build capacity. We knew what was working well, but we've been able to spread it more."

With the Pupil Premium - which has now more than doubled from £90,000 in 2011/12 - Pakeman runs after-school booster classes twice a week, times table club every morning, after-school homework club once a week and, crucially according to teachers, drastically expanded the number of one-to-one teacher/student sessions by employing more teaching assistants.

It has also been able to open weekly on Saturdays, for three days during Easter holidays, introduce team leaders and pay for more children who cannot afford to go on school trips. Special needs provision has also been boosted so the majority of children at the the 330-pupil school get hours more tuition a week.

But it is not just attainment which has acted as a barometer of the extra cash's impact. The bond between families, children and teachers has strengthened in an environment where integration is key with pupils speaking more than 40 different languages.

Miss Gavin said: "We have built stronger relationships with the parents, who realise we're in it together, it's been very much about partnership. Everyone has come together and it's helped everyone flourish."

Kathy Loader, 49, told how her daughter Alyss' marked improvement not only meant being streamed into much higher sets for secondary school, but that she was also able to form stronger relationships.

She said: "If children don't understand things, they tend not to participate and withdraw themselves and I was always really worried she was going to be one of those children that was just going to be in that safe zone and just get along.

"But the one-to-ones, the extra tuition, it changed her, changed her for the better and her confidence was good which transferred into friendships and relationships.

"When they told me Alyss needed the extra support, I hadn't realised how bad it was until I saw the improvement and the change in her.

"Her dad was very proud of her when she was suddenly able to do these complicated maths methods and apply it. It meant she could concentrate on the social side of things because she was safe academically.

"I couldn't believe it when my daughter came home and said she was having this one-to-one maths tuition, it was like music to my ears.

"It was amazing, she is quite a shy child naturally and not one to put her hand up, but her confidence grew, and with it the self-esteem. She was so worried she would be a slow learner and struggle."

Pakeman was judged among the top 10 primary schools in the country for how it spends the Pupil Premium Awards, with one winner for each of the 10 regions. It will now compete for the national crown at a ceremony hosted by Mr Clegg in July.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg led tributes to Pakeman Primary School ahead of the Pupil Premium Awards national final.

Mr Clegg, who announced the £2.5 billion initiative in 2010, paid tribute to the Finsbury Park school for spending the cash injection in such a "creative" way to "change the lives" of its past and present 330 pupils.

He said: "The money from the Pupil Premium goes directly to schools, and head teachers have complete freedom to spend it to support their pupils in ways they think will have the most impact.

"This is exactly what Pakeman Primary has done - used the money in a variety of creative ways to make a real difference and change the lives of their pupils."

The Pupil Premium is additional funding introduced for schools to tackle inequality and help children who qualify for free school meals in reaching their potential.

It is calculated by a complex formula based on how many children in a school qualify for free school meals. For most schools, this has meant approximately between £300 to £600 extra per pupil. However, the formula has now changed from using the number of pupils who currently receive free meals, to the total number who have ever received the meals. This means the total for each student could increase to as much as £900 as the Government's cash in the scheme increases to £2.5 billion by 2014/15. In Islington all primary school children, despite income, receive free school meals, but the pupil premium amount is decided under Government free school meal rules.

Head teacher Lynne Gavin and her assitant Karen Kerr praised the Pupil Premium and told of the "significant impact" it has had on the Hornsey Road school and the crucial academic level students must achieve or risk never catching up at secondary school.

Miss Gavin said: "We targeted parents of the children we identified as needing help. We then pulled parents in and talked about their aspiration for the children.

"Because they have to have left primary school reaching a certain level, all the research says if they don't do that they're not going to achieve in secondary school so we have to get it right now. If you can make the difference now the odds are they will go on to secondary school and achieve.

"The amount of children who come into nursery behind where they should already be, for whatever reason - because they come in and speak no English or because they've had little experience of education proper - they are behind at that stage and so for some children we have to play catch-up. We have been enabled to give the quality to more people and to get students to catch-up."

Miss Kerr, who also acts as a teaching assistant, said: "I think it has empowered the children to know what they can succeed in and know that they can build their confidence."

Teaching assistant Laura Bamford told how without confidence children can feel "worthless", meaning one-to-ones and extra sessions afforded by the Pupil Premium can be the "make or break" for giving pupils the foundations they need to succeed.

The 55-year-old assistant who has been working one-to-one with 10-year-old Serkan Gokce for the past two years, said: "Reading is one thing, but being able to communicate is also important, if you can't do that nobody takes any notice of you and then youngsters go to other extremes to get attention.

"I think children are very afraid of being wrong and they try very hard to be right, and in a classroom situation there aren't 25 different ways of being right, whereas when there is just two of you, you can see the person is trying their best and you can help them to get it right.

"And as soon as they think they stand a chance of being right, then they become more confident about making guesses, and it's really about feeling capable and I hadn't realised just how crucial self-confidence is.

"That extra money in the pupil premiums can be the make or break. I don't know what would have happened to children like Serkan if they didn't have the extra help."

Pupils of Pakeman Primary School spoke of how extra one-to-ones, Saturday classes, before and after-school sessions and Easter holiday lectures helped "boost", "change" and "transform" their lives.

Here, David Churchill speaks to a handful of those who now feel they have the confidence they need to go on and succeed at secondary school and beyond after seeing their grades jump at least two levels:

Arsham Golmaghani, 10, who has ambitions to become a scientist, said: "I think the Easter school really helped, especially for maths, because firstly when I came to the school, at mental maths on the first day, I got nine marks out of 20, which is quite embarrassing.But by the end of the week it really changed my life, because from nine I just jumped to 18 and I think that is a really big jump for me.

"I also had one on one work. Now it has made me a lot more confident than I was, because before I was not very confident and I couldn't even say anything in class."

Khalid Jaamac, 11, who would like to be Prime Minister one day, said: "I came in for Easter school and Saturday school every week.It really boosted my confidence towards learning.

"Before I thought I didn't really need any help and that I would do anything on my own, but when I came to Saturday school it changed me. It really helps our weaknesses towards what we need help with. We want to do well in these things so that we will get a better future."

Jade Audain, 11, who told of wanting to be a doctor, said: "I used to go to the Saturday schools too. I thought I wasn't going to do well in my SATS, but now I have been able to get the marks I want.

"I didn't really understand the maths and the literacy. Before it was just all puzzled in my head and I didn't understand anything. When we do one-to-one I seem to learn more because you get more attention, but when it's a whole class you get less attention, it's more difficult when the other children are there in the class. Getting the extra attention really makes the difference."

Kliona Cupi, 11, who wants to be famous, said: "I used to come in on Saturdays. Some days we were doing extra stuff on Thursday and Tuesday and Saturday, and every morning before school starts there is times tables club. I went to booster and Easter school too.

"I think the one-to-one is better, because with the class, if she's teaching something you already know, she has to teach everyone and everyone has their own weak spots. Before I would feel shy and embarrassed in front of the class, but with the one-to-one it's like we don't have to be afraid to ask.

"It's really important because we're going to secondary school soon and if you're in a low group you might feel shy, but if you're in the top sets you will feel more clever."

Serkan Gokce, 10, who would like to be a footballer, said: "When I was younger I thought I would grow up not able to read, because no one was really helping me, and then just suddenly I started seeing a volunteer reader and I was really exicted.

"Now we read the newspapers. I feel confident now. It's so important to be good at reading. If I didn't have the one-to-one, I would be below my score right now. I did used to feel upset, but now I feel so confident to read."

"When I was in Year 3 I was really scared I couldn't say anything when they asked me to read something, but when they ask now I can read good, good, good.

If I didn't have the one-to-one, I would be below my score right now. I did used to feel upset, but now I don't have to feel upset because I feel so confident to read now."

£90,000 - the amount of Pupil Premium Pakeman received in 2011/12

£220,000 - what Pakeman will receive in Pupil Premium this year

70 per cent - proportion of Pakeman students who receive school meals

73 per cent - numbers of students who do not have English as their first language

330 - total number of pupils at the school

94 per cent - proportion of pupils who pass SATS English and maths at the required level

66 and 68 per cent - proportion who passed SATS English and maths at the required level before the Pupil Premium

13 per cent - the proportion of Pakeman's budget made up of the Pupil Premium