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Ashcroft Technology Academy

Ashcroft Technology Academy

Evaluation of usage in 2020 to 2021

For the 2020/21 financial year, ATA received a marginally lower level of funding from that available in 2019/2020, brought about through a small reduction in the number of students eligible for PPG. This has been the picture for the past six years as fewer students have become eligible for this.

The Academy actually received approximately £345,000 by way of pupil premium to support the education provision of those most disadvantaged. Aside from the provision of Free School Meals (FSM), for which support funding is provided separately in the main grant allocation for those entitled, ATA also continued to support qualifying students with financial assistance when purchasing ATA uniform at the start of Year 7 and Year 9 (£55 per relevant year); with a contribution towards the cost of a residential trip once in their time at ATA ( £95 contribution) and in subsidising the cost of music lessons by 50% from which 3 students again benefited in 2020/21.  

Much of this funding continued to be devoted to staff who are focused on disadvantaged students - in particular Learning Mentors (3.8 full time equivalent staff) and Assistant Learning Mentors (5.6 full time equivalent staff) - as well as funding a proportion of the time spent by senior staff and pastoral heads in specific monitoring of these students and of LAC students. Mentoring benefits not only those who are removed from whole class situations for individualised study but also those remaining within the class setting, allowing them to work more effectively as a group of students without disruption. Those who have individualised study are appropriately reintegrated into mainstream settings, while those absent from ATA are provided with catch-up opportunities, again run by dedicated staff support.

The funding supports the progress of the most vulnerable students in ATA through raising their literacy and numeracy and by enabling a conducive learning environment through study hall; departmental power hours; catch-up sessions in the Learning Resources Centre (LRC), which are overseen by a Learning Mentor and a member of the LRC staff, and the extended use of both the Easter and May term breaks for exam revision sessions. The LRC is also available from 7.30 each morning to students who lack study space and the correct environment at home to complete work. This is overseen by the Academy’s Librarian. The Academy undertook refurbishment of this facility in readiness for 2019/20 so that it is even better equipped to host these extended opportunities and to provide a dedicated, supported and focused space for completing homework and catch-up activities, particularly benefiting to our disadvantaged students who are less likely to have the availability of this level of resourcing and support at home.

Attendance and punctuality are key to progress and attainment. The employment of a full-time Education Welfare Officer is fundamental to maximising these essential requirements, which can be a particular concern amongst those from disadvantaged backgrounds and checking absences is rigorously carried out. ATA provided a number of incentives to reward excellent attendance and used a detailed, internally developed attendance tracker across all Years from 7 to 11. Students, form tutors, year heads and senior staff make significant use of this with a robust emphasis on the need for students (and staff) to be present at all times. This focus continued in 2020/21 with an updated Attendance & Punctuality Policy and Procedures to underpin this. With a target for attendance again set at 97.3% (well above the 95% achieved for a school with similar levels of disadvantaged students in 2018/19).  ATA also employed the services of two Counsellors who each worked a day per week with a number of vulnerable students. 

Academic support is extensive, particularly within English and Maths.  In Maths, small class sizes operate at the very bottom end, offering more one-to-one support for those who need it most: (up to eight students in bottom KS3 sets and up to seven students in bottom KS4 sets). The subject also offered a homework support club on Wednesday lunchtimes – the club works on a voluntary basis and there was a consistent turnout in the year. Year 12 Maths mentoring to underperforming Year 11 students took place on Monday lunchtimes – some 65 students have been involved in this and the numbers are set to grow, in response to interventions in place after October mocks. Maths Power Hour – runs as an exam support club for Year 11s on Fridays after school by working through a bank of over 400 questions on the student shared drive. Former student and PGCE student mentoring of key Year 11 students continued to take place, providing additional support taught in small groups during form time. The students were also taken out of lessons during revision weeks to benefit from one-to-one help.   

In English, all students are provided the same challenge throughout Year 7, whilst remaining cognisant of their Key Stage 2 baseline data. Setting is in place from Year 8, the timetable is blocked as far as possible to allow for movement up and down. The lowest four sets are smaller in number so that the students can have more teacher focus. A number of clubs operate at Key Stage 3, albeit more limited in 2019/20 due to lockdown and some students are encouraged to take up roles supporting in the library to develop a whole range of personal skills. These students are often those from disadvantaged backgrounds. KS4 students are provided with revision guides which are funded by English department and the department also looks to offset the cost of trips.

Supervised morning fitness was introduced four years ago and is now a popular feature at the start of the Academy day.  Students are able to access the weights’ room, the cardio room and the three gyms to exercise or to play team sports before school.  This is particularly important to GCSE PE Students who are unable to pay for club memberships and who need to practise technique and improve fitness levels.  The PE department provides PE kit to students who are unable to purchase new kit when the old kits are too small or worn.  FSM students are also entitled to have their Duke of Edinburgh enrolment fees paid and the PE department will also provide food and materials for the expeditions. The Academy has also provided funding to support pupil premium students to compete, travel and provide kit for elite level participation in their chosen sports.

One-to-one support in our SEN department for students who are at risk of academic failure and who lack the confidence and support to self-manage has improved the academic achievement of our FSM Students.  The support offered includes academic coaching, support with college applications and interviews, study support and working with parents to support good study habits at home. 

With the arrival of COVID-19 and the requirement for schools to enter an extended period of lockdown save for those from vulnerable backgrounds and those with key worker parents, the Academy was required to look to maximise home learning for students whilst ensuring its full accessibility. This was undertaken using the homework platform already in place (Show My Homework) and initially used in exactly the same format as used for issuing homework in the two-weeks of lockdown that preceded the Easter break. Thereafter, teaching and associate staff looked to make lessons more interactive and varied through a combination of resources and approaches including the use of Microsoft Teams and Zoom.

To further ensure accessibility, the Academy issued almost 70 of its laptops on loan to students identified as being in greatest need by pastoral staff as well as issuing around half this number to teaching staff in similar needs so that work could be appropriately set.  Loan arrangements were put into place by the Academy’s network staff to prepare and enable the equipment for loan and to then ensure its safe return.

Throughout the lockdown period, the Academy was able to continue to provide its catering provision to provide meals for those students and staff remaining on site during the lockdown phase and also made food parcels available for those students entitled to free school meals. The Academy did enable the provision of free school meal vouchers over the course of the summer as part of the national scheme.