Inspiring disadvantaged and LAC pupils with the breakfast club

Linda Oliffe

Linda Oliffe is business manager at Felmore Primary School and project leader of The LEGO Project, an ongoing initiative that aims to improve the attainment and academic achievements of disadvantaged pupils across 27 schools in Essex, such as those in social care, using LEGO® Education resources, including StoryStarter, BuildToExpress and MoreToMaths.

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For schools, getting children to engage with learning is the first step. However, some pupils struggle with this, including disadvantaged and looked-after children (LAC) pupils, with the Department for Education (DfE) finding the attainment of LAC in KS1 and KS2 is lower than it is for non-looked after children; only 63% of LAC at KS1 achieved a level 2 or above in writing in 2015 compared to 88% of non-looked after children. Although this isn’t the case for every LAC, many can become disengaged and their attendance at school may not be as good as their peers, so as a result, they fall behind during lessons.

At Felmore Primary School in Basildon, Essex, we’ve been developing a breakfast club aimed at boosting the attainment and engagement of disadvantaged pupils, in particular LAC. The school has over 420 pupils, ranging from Early Years to Year 6, and was rated “Good” by Ofsted in 2014.

Exploring emotions

The breakfast club is aimed at boosting literacy, Maths and Science skills for these pupils and, more importantly, encouraging them to explore their emotions and develop communication skills. When they’re able to do this, they can become self-resilient, which is a crucial "We used a mentoring intervention to encourage pupils to build representations of their emotions."trait for enabling children to become learners for life.
We use certain educational resources and strategies to engage the children which, in turn, fosters an enjoyment of learning, boosts their self-esteem and confidence and improves their attainment.

These children had poor emotional literacy skills beforehand, and weren’t ready or willing to articulate, and if children can’t talk about things then they’re never going to be able to write about them. Therefore, we used a mentoring intervention to encourage pupils to build representations of their emotions or situations they’ve encountered and found difficult to process. This really helps with conflict resolution and counselling, especially for those with challenging behaviour, as it allows pupils to express their thoughts and open up, and then overcome problems. One pupil told me, “I love working in a small group and having the chance to talk about how I am feeling.”

Promising outcomes

The results of the project were monitored for two terms, and the findings so far have been really encouraging and positive. At the start of the project, only 9.1 per cent of children were assessed as working at the Age Related Expectations (ARE) for literacy, yet by the end of term, this had increased to 31.8 per cent. Furthermore, in Maths, this figure rose from 13.6 per cent to 27.2 per cent. These statistics show a"A pupil with moderate learning difficulties is now able to verbalise ideas." remarkable increase in the attainment of the children, however it’s their engagement that it’s had the biggest impact on.

The pupils are motivated beyond the club, and now arrive in classes prepared and eager to learn. They are also far more confident, engaging and sharing ideas with their peers. One carer said he couldn’t get the pupil to attend school before, but now he doesn’t stop talking about the breakfast club and wants to attend school every day.

We’ve also seen significant progress being made by pupils who have behavioural or learning difficulties. For example, a pupil who at the start of the term stuttered, is now able to tell his stories without any hesitation, and another pupil with moderate learning difficulties is now able to verbalise ideas because of the project. This goes to show how successful it has been giving these pupils the opportunity to engage with learning first and foremost, and then encouraging them to recognise their academic potential.

Moving forward

Although the schools involved in the project only had to commit for two terms, they are all continuing with the project in one way or another, which is a testament to how successful it has been.

At Felmore, we’re exploring ways of interweaving the methods used in the project into everyday teaching and, after seeing how successful the project was, we have now incorporated it into the school’s extra-curricular provision and have two breakfast clubs running, with around 80 pupils attending in total.

The project has far surpassed our expectations and has hugely benefitted the pupils that attended the clubs. Our aims for the project were to close the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and the rest of the school cohort and, most importantly, inspire them to learn. The project has achieved both of these objectives and, despite only running for a short period of time, has had a positive impact on all pupils, changing their outlook towards education and nurturing their social development.

Have you undertaken any similar projects? Let us know!

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