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With the announcement of this year’s Pupil Premium Awards finalists this week, it’s been wonderful to see all the different ways this funding can have a real impact on a student’s life. We’d like to say a big well done to all the schools who have been shortlisted! You can see the list here.

Inspired by the creativity of teachers, we wanted to share with you how some schools have put Pupil Premium to work:

  • Buying PE kit and a pair of trainers for a student to enable her to take part in after-school sports clubs
  • Free breakfast club to make sure children would start the day with healthy, full stomachs
  • Lending a bike to a student who was always late to enable him to get into school on time




We’d love to hear your stories and ideas on how Pupil Premium can be used to make a difference in a pupil’s life in the comments below!

P.S. Did you know that Pupil Premium funding can be used to buy DoodleMaths licenses for your school?

We’re almost three weeks into the school year – does anybody else feel like time is flying? We sure do! Hopefully by now the children have eased into learning mode, new knowledge is being effectively built up, and all is well in the world.

Until the time comes for a parents’ evening.

On paper, it should be easy – after all, both you and your child’s teacher have the same goal in mind, which is helping your child to succeed. But sometimes misunderstandings happen, and it can sometimes be the case that the teacher has a different plan on getting to that goal than you might. (And if your action plans happen to coincide, GREAT! You’re in for an amazing year.)

Whatever the case, it’s important to establish a good dialogue with teachers, so, as parents as well as educators, here are our Dos and Don’ts for those first face-to-face meetings:

DO ask the teacher questions. Sometimes (especially for new teachers) it can be difficult to articulate everything they wanted to say. In cases such as these, having a few concrete queries can help the conversation flow.

DO talk about things that concern you. If you read an article in the Daily Mail about how the curriculum is getting more demanding and you worry about your children being overloaded, tell the teacher. It’s likely that they’ve considered this already in depth with their colleagues and will be able to allay your concerns.

DON’T make assumptions that last year’s action plan is still on. Teachers change schools. Budgets get revised. The Ofsted report said the school was a couple of points short of being “Outstanding” so now everyone must Work Harder! and restore honour. None of this means that your kids will get worse tutoring, or that the teachers won’t try to make that very neat idea from last year happen in some shape or form. Keep an open mind to change – after all, the end goal remains the same.

DO ask about the best way to help your kids from home. We all want what’s best for our children, and the teachers come only second to you in knowing their individual strengths and weaknesses. Maybe your daughter needs to work more on her spelling. Maybe she’s on top of her class and doesn’t need to do anything in that area. It’s always a question work asking.

DON’T ask the same question again and again. If the teacher already gave an answer you didn’t like, repeating the enquiry won’t change it. If they don’t have an answer immediately, assume it’s because they’re working on a solution and they want to be sure on it on their end before they bring it up with you. Again, keep the end goal in mind.

DO arrange for a follow-up, if there is no time to discuss everything. In business, a major factor contributing to goal-keeping is having regular check-ins between team members. The same logic applies to school. If the teacher can’t discuss everything with you at the moment, exchange numbers and arrange for a good time to call. (And call exactly when agreed upon. And set up an agenda beforehand. If you say you need five minutes to discuss your son’s latest test, then make sure the conversation lasts four and a half. This allows you to cut the frills and see the point of the matter.)

DON’T demand a point-by-point discussion of the school budget. Even if you’re on the governing committee and the teacher in question is in charge of finance, a parent-teacher conference is not the place to have this talk. If the teacher brings up the plans for buying iPads, then by all means, ask them about details – they have likely anticipated the questions and prepared in advance. (Or, alternatively, if you think it’s a neat idea to buy the children iPads, and if there’s time, you may bring it up on the condition you and the teacher agree on a follow-up conversation. They would likely need to do their research first.) But don’t put anyone on the spot – it hardly sets the grounds for a happy relationship.

And finally…

DO celebrate the children’s (all of the children’s) successes. While we’re all anxious to solve any issues that may arise, focusing on the negative can take away from the joy of the positives. Take the time to congratulate the teacher on a school project they supervised, or to say how much your kids enjoyed their summer learning project. If the teacher brings up plans to innovate at the school which you like, say so, and if you can spare it, volunteer to help out. (Even if they don’t need extra hands. The gesture counts.)


What are your dos and don’ts about communicating? Are there any tips you’d like to share?

Children learn best through doing – this is one of the cornerstones of our philosophy. We’re also firm believers in the idea that learning and fun are not only compatible, they are mutually supportive.

Let’s make students’ assignments even more interesting this summer, and beat the learning slump by having them find answers to the most common question they pose.

“What am I going to use maths for in real life?”

This summer, your students are researchers, and you will be their captive audience. Have them find at least five areas where maths is working in real life, then make a project to present come September. (For example, how many grains of sand are there on the beach? How much money does the campsite make every summer? How long does it take to drive to Granny’s house? How many people watched the World Cup? Count the petals on a flower – why is it that it is frequently 3, 5, 8, 13, 21… i.e. the Fibonacci sequence?)

This project could take any form the student likes:

  • It could be a poster with pictures and drawings. (Or a comic strip – superhero themes are popular with boys and girls alike.)
  • It could be a slideshow. (Bonus points: Best one gets to be your in-class screensaver for September.)
  • It could be invisible (but the student has to present it and explain to the class what it is and why it is invisible.)
  • It could be in 3-D, if they decide to build models from paper or play-dough to bring to class. (The parents would love helping out with that, trust us. Your students might actually have to tell their Mum and Dad to leave them to work on their own.)
  • It could be a story, or a demonstration – maybe a few students would like to get together as a group and act out their project in front of the class? (Teamwork is not a skill you only learn at University, after all.)(Extra-super bonus points if the children put it in rhyme – it can be your new class song!)

Bring it a step further – maybe you can make it a joint project and have your students start both maths and English with a bang in September. And the more interactive the challenge is, the better! (There is a lot of scientific evidence to support the idea – this article on “embodied cognition” from The Fuse is a must-read.)

Emphasise the FUN! This isn’t a competition (although, of course, gold stars and chocolate don’t go out of style,) and hopefully your students would love an assignment that gives them freedom of expression and the ability to create something from scratch.

(BTW, for those of you who are parents as well, or want to give advice for fun learning activities to Mums and Dads, check out our complementary post with summer learning ideas.)